beetroot risotto with caramelised fennel
In Canada they’re beets, in New Zealand, beetroot. Its a staple in any kiwi burger – slices of (normally canned) bright red beetroot, dripping from your fish & chip shop burger, just waiting to stain that shirt.
Our wedding anniversary is approaching and in anticipation for me baking a red velvet (beetroot) cake, Jesse snatched up some beetroot on his last flight to the city (where he has about 20 minutes to dash like mad around the supermarket). Unfortunately, the beetroot were at least a week old before arriving at the supermarket, meaning they certainly were not going to wait another week for our day.
Ah well, beetroot risotto it will be. Fortunately we have red wine on hand, which will have to do for the cake.
Beetroot Risotto with Caramelised Fennel
Recipe by myself, with inspiration from RADish
I’m always at a loss of how to use fresh fennel bulb, other than slicing and roasting. A little research and I found a wonderful alternative – sauteing in a pan with a dash of brown sugar until deep brown and caramelised. It brings such depth, a licorice flavour and, along with the beetroot, makes for a beautifully sweet dish.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar (the sugar is not vital, it just helps speed up the caramelisation)
1 large fennel bulb
1 clove garlic
1 cup arborio rice
1.5 litres (or so) stock of choice*
1/2 cup wine of choice (white is recommended but we used red and it was great)
1 large beetroot
2 tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Clean beetroot, remove and reserve the greens (if you are so lucky to buy/pick a freshly picked beetroot with greens still intact). Place on roasting dish and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake until cooked through, 30 – 45 minutes.
Clean and slice fennel thinly, reserving green stalks and leafy ends. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat and add fennel and brown sugar. Saute until just starting to brown, stirring continuously. Lower heat and leave to saute until deep brown and caramelised, stirring every so often, about 30 minutes.
Remove beetroot from oven and allow to cool before peeling off the skin (it should come off easily if cooked through). Cut into cubes and set aside.
Bring stock to the boil in a small saucepan. In another, larger saucepan, heat remaining oil. Add chopped onion and stir fry. Add garlic and arborio rice, stirring until coated and toasted. Using a ladle, add a large scoop of stock to saucepan with the rice, and stir constantly until fully absorbed. Add another large ladle and again, massage the liquid into the rice grains. After the third ladle, add the fennel and beetroot to the rice, and add the wine to the remaining stock, heating until it has resumed boiling. Continue stirring in spoonfuls of the stock and wine until rice is cooked (al dente) and has a desirable fluidity – not too solid, not too watery. This normally takes around 20 minutes of continual stirring. Right before the final few stirs, add the butter, a good grating of Parmesan and some of the chopped fennel greens.
Spoon into bowls, top with Parmesan shavings and fresh fennel snippings.
*When it comes to stock we have recently moved away from the Knorr (or Maggi) bouillon powders, the main ingredient being salt followed by a list of MSGs and other such undesirables, and certainly no sign of real meat or vegetables. Sadly, we’ve been ruined from firstly, learning about these ingredients, and secondly, from making our own fresh vegetable and chicken stocks, with neither salt nor unpronouncable undesirables. If you can’t make your own (it is a little time consuming but a great way to use up accumulated vege ‘scraps’), there are some good, unsalty, uncontroversial stocks available at your supermarket. Just keep your wits about you and remember, good quality will (pretty well) always cost more.