“At the very least have an onion frying in a pan and put some fresh lipstick on”

This was some advice I was once given on how to greet a spouse at the end of a day.

A veneer of gloss and a scent that could be marketed under  most good things start with this” will hide a multitude of sins. A disheveled house being chief one of them.

Necessary Disclaimer: I don’t always greet my husband that way.

But when it comes to entertaining, I see the logic and raise it one.

The house may be chaos and the day fit for the bin. But it’s hard for guests to clock any  of that if greeted by the sweet smell of roasting onions. Add  the spicy notes of garlic, chorizo tomatoes and hazelnuts and it’s a holiday for the senses; made even more soothing by the fact that nobody has to forage for the correct travel adapters.

This risotto has quickly become my go-to dish for lunches and dinners for a crowd (let’s be honest, risotto is cheaper than a leg of lamb and less fuss than a lasagne). I like to tumble the rag tag flavourings into one fat roasting tin.  They can then get to get to know each other while I make plain blonde risotto as a base.

The making of it means the wine is already open (one for the risotto, one for me). And the flat smells good.

The real heroes are the hazelnuts, which bring some bite to a dish that could easily slip into the domain of childish squish. 

I usually serve it family style in one big bowl, livened up with some flat leaf parsley, with a couple of salads flanking either side. A big leafy green salad sits to the left with some shaved fennel for fun.  To the right there’s often a luridly pink beetroot salad with feta, red onion and mint.

I may not remember to put on lipstick. But dinner? That I can do.

Entertaining Risotto (with chorizo, onions, tomato and hazelnuts)

Serves 4-6
 
Equipment:
1 saucepan (for the stock). 1 ladle. 1 heavy bottomed casserole dish or frypan to make the risotto. 1 roasting tin. 1 spatula or wooden spoon.

Shopping/foraging

For the risotto topping/flavouring
175 grams of spicy chorizo
100 grams of hazelnuts
400 grams of eschallots
500 grams of cherry tomatoes
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 head of garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil
100 grams of goat’s cheese or feta (optional)

For the risotto
500 grams of aborio rice
50 grams of eschallots (or one brown onion)
50 grams of parmesan cheese, grated
1.25 litres of stock (chicken or vegetable)
175 ml of white wine
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 knob of butter
Salt and pepper to taste


Here’s how we roll


Flavourings for the risotto

1. Preheat the oven to 150 C. In a large roasting tray add the cherry tomatoes, 400 grams of halved and peeled eschallots and the head of garlic (which has had the top lopped off).

2. Drizzle these three tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle it all with a generous pinch of salt. Roast the onions and tomatoes for two hours, until the onions are soft and the tomatoes are wrinkled.

3. Pull out of the oven. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the top.


4. Dice the chorizo into nuggets no larger than the hazelnuts.

5. Tumble that on top of the vegetables and nuts.

6. Return the tray to the oven for 25 minutes while you make the risotto. The chorizo should be crispy and have leached some delicious oils. The hazelnuts should be shirking out of their papery shells. The onions and tomatoes should be squishy and compliant.



Making the risotto

1. Heat the stock in a saucepan. (Nb If it’s a stock that you haven’t lovingly slaved over then you can always punch up the flavour by adding to the pot while it warms the parsley stems, half an onion and a stray carrot that’s been hanging in the bottom of the fridge).

2. In a separate pan/ casserole dish head a tablespoon of olive oil. Dice the remaining eschallots and gently sauté for around 7 minutes without colouring.

3. When the onion has softened, add the aborio rice. Stir the rice for two minutes until it becomes slightly glossy and translucent.

4. Add the glass of white wine and stir the rice or shake the pan. Let the wine absorb into the rice.

5.Add the hot stock, one ladle at a time. Don’t stir the rice too much as it cooks. You don’t want it to catch on the bottom, but you don’t want to pulverise it either. When one ladle has absorbed, add another.

6.Continue adding stock until the rice is creamy and still has a little bit of bite in the centre. This should take around 15 minutes.


7.Remove the risotto from the heat. Add the butter and the parmesan cheese and clamp on a lid. Leave to sit for 2 minutes.

8.Check the seasoning and the texture. Add a little salt if you think it needs it. Add a little bit more hot stock if you think it’s too stodgy.  You don’t want it to be to plain or too sticky- you want the risotto to still have some wiggle. 

Assembling

1. Put the risotto in a large salad bowl and create a little well in the centre.
2. Tumble the squishy tomatoes, eschallots, hazelnuts and chorizo chunks and all the good oil that goes with them into the well. Squeeze out the garlic cloves from their little caves. And dot them around.
3. Sprinkle the top with chopped flat leaf parsley and black pepper.
4. Serve, family style, passing the bowl around. People can choose how much topping and how much blonde rice they want.
5. Serve with extra parmesan or goat’s cheese or feta on the side. A big green salad with shaved fennel, or a roast beetroot and feta salad with some red onion slivers and mint leaves wouldn’t be out of place on the table either.