Pear, gorgonzola & walnut crumble risotto

The cold wintery nights have well and truly drawn in, the children have almost broken up from school, ready to await their imminent visit from ‘Babbo Natale’. We are all exhausted after another hard (covid) year and yet we will always require food, warmth, and comfort with copious amounts of love thrown in for good measure, these four asks will never change.  My children have all become another year older, yet their joy and excitement for the festive period (even if sometimes muted) will continue to bring me and my heart joy. As a family this year, like many, our dynamics have changed and so for many reasons, we will leave a candle lit brightly throughout this festive season, marking, and remembering the friends and relatives that will no longer be sat at our Christmas table.

With celebration our thoughts turn to joy, family, and food. What shall we eat, when shall we eat and have, we bought enough food to last us Christmas day? So many questions but dare I say that Christmas day is simply a roast dinner on speed, its grander and has more sides of course but please remember it is just a meal, so to not stress over this meal that is intended to bring loved ones together. Our family festivities this year will be as they always are but as pressure less as possible. In all honesty I just can’t wait to have a piece of leftover turkey, dusted with Maldon salt, straight from the fridge, I am but a girl of simple needs, and I adore leftovers, especially if there is a side of pickles.

As an Italian our festive days are very much broken up into a little English and a little Italian food and drink. This pear, gorgonzola and walnut crumble risotto would suit any day leading up to Christmas Eve or after the big day itself. You could save your surplus blue cheese from your abundant cheese board especially for this delicious treat.  A perfect trio of ingredients paired into a decadent, rich and moreish risotto. Pear, gorgonzola, and walnut are classically well suited and with the added sweet warmth of the mostarda di pere (steeped fruit in a syrup with a little added heat), this risotto is exquisite, perfect for any dinner table. You can substitute the gorgonzola for dolcelatte which will give the risotto a sweeter back note. When it comes to risotto, I am truly a traditionalist in terms of standing by the hob and stirring the risotto methodically and with great precision, while nursing a wine glass in the other hand, this is clearly to maintain balance of course! I use a wooden spoon with a large hole in the centre of it and stir the risotto in a figure of eight until the most perfect dish has been made, while also remembering to rest the risotto well, before serving it. The stirring and resting will always ensure the creamiest of risotto.

A little trivia to finish on for you – Riso means rice and otto means eight.

Have a wonderful Christmas, stay safe and remember to always be kind to each other. Best wishes and Buon Natale, Carmela x

 

Serves: 4

Cooking time: 25 minutes

 

Ingredients:

2 small pears, peeled, cored, and cubed into 1cm pieces

1 small lemon, juice

1 litre vegetable stock

50g walnuts, shelled

2 tbsp or a good glug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 banana shallots, peeled, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed

300g Riso Gallo Traditional risotto rice

200ml white dry vermouth

Salt & pepper, season as required

25g butter

125g gorgonzola or dolcelatte

1 tsp, fresh thyme leaves

1 small tsp Mostarda di pere per plate (tangy pear mustard) optional

 

  • Place the cubed pears into a small bowl of water and add the juice of a small lemon. This will stop any discolouring.
  • Bring the vegetable stock up to a simmer.
  • Place the walnuts onto a baking tray and bake at 170C (fan-assisted) for 10 minutes. Cool and blitz or pound with a pestle and mortar, set aside.
  • Into a large, shallow sauté pan add the extra virgin olive oil and fry the banana shallots off until translucent. Add the garlic and stir.
  • Scatter in the rice and toast for one minute, stirring intermittently.
  • Pour in the vermouth and reduce.
  • Drain the cubed pears and pat them dry.
  • Place the pears into the risotto pan and stir.
  • Slowly, ladle by ladle add a little vegetable stock, once the rice has absorbed the stock, add another ladle until the risotto is delicious and aldente, yet cooked through. This may take 15-18 minutes or so.
  • Season well with pepper and only a pinch of salt as the gorgonzola is salty.
  • Remove the risotto from the heat.
  • Add the butter and crumble the gorgonzola into the risotto, stir well to incorporate.
  • Cover the risotto with a clean tea-towel and clamp on a lid. Allow the risotto to rest for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Spoon the risotto onto warmed plates, tap the base of each plate so that the risotto falls into a single layer. Scatter over a few thyme leaves and add a dusting of walnut powder.
  • The mostarda di pere offers a sweet yet punchy warmth, it’s totally optional but very much a welcomed addition when spooned through or on top of each plate or risotto.