Saturday, 19 July 2008
It is high summer in Tuscany. The air is hot and still, and although we don’t yet have the washed out feel of August, already you can sense that people are trying to move around in the heat as little as possible. Town is quiet, right through until the sun goes down early in the evening, when all around there are the sounds of the place slowly coming to life once more…voices calling from balconies, the occasional noise from a passing Vespa, and the sound of RAI Uno on somebody’s distant TV…The perfect backdrop to a glass of chilled prosecco and a handful of roast hazelnuts, sitting beside the lily pond, and watching as the last rays of the sun catch the façade of the Palazzo Ruschi, just visible over the top of the garden wall.
At this time of year, the pots of Basil on the terrace are enormous, and in need of almost daily haircuts to keep them in order. A perfect time for this recipe, which calls for a generous cup or so of fresh Basil just before the final mantecare
Ingredients: 2oz Butter; 1 small Onion, peeled and chopped small; .one and a third cups of Carnaroli Rice; 2 pints of good Chicken Stock; 2 cups of fresh Basil leaves; 1 cup of grated Parmesan; Seasoning.
1. Heat the stock over medium heat, and add half a dozen Basil leaves to it; let steep for fifteen minutes or so, then remove the leaves.
2. Melt all but half an ounce of the Butter in a sauté pan and cook the chopped Onion over medium heat for five minutes or so until it is soft and translucent.
3. Add the Rice; stir to coat it thoroughly with melted Butter, and cook it over medium heat for a minute or so, then start to add the Stock, a ladleful at a time. Follow the general steps given in Risotto Techniques as you continue to add more Stock as each ladleful is absorbed by the Rice.
4. After twenty minutes or so, start to test the Rice for done-ness. It should certainly be ready by the time thirty minutes has gone by. As soon as you judge the Rice is about ready, quickly chop the remaining Basil leaves finely, then add them along with the grated Parmesan to the risotto and stir well.
5. Off the heat, add the remaining Butter and stir it in as it melts in the heat from the Rice. Add Salt and Pepper to taste, and serve.