Regular readers will know I have a bit of an addiction to risottos. Well, there are worse addictions! I love risottos for their taste of Italy and for their versatility, for you can make them with pretty much anything – vegetables, fish, meat – and they can be comforting winter dishes, like my Mushroom and Chestnut risotto or fresh and bright like my spring risotto.
I have a bit of an addiction to fennel too. It’s one of those ‘Marmite’ tastes and people tend to love it or hate it. I like it cooked and also sliced raw into salads. You’ll find my fennel Dauphinoise on this blog; fennel as a salad or in a Moroccan chicken stew. So when I was looking through Jamie Oliver’s Veg book and saw a fennel risotto – with roasted tomato – I just had to make it. I made it slightly differently as Jamie’s recipe is for six and I was cooking just for myself. Here it is:
Fennel Risotto with Roasted Tomato
- 1 large tomato
- 1 clove garlic
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- extra virgin olive oil
- about 200ml stock (vegetable or light chicken)
- 2 shallots or 1 small onion
- ½ small bulb fennel
- 2 knobs butter
- about ½ cup (65g) risotto rice
- a good dash of white vermouth
- Parmesan cheese
- salt & black pepper
First of all cut the core out of the top of a large tomato then put cut-side down in a small ovenproof dish. Put the unpeeled garlic clove in the dish, scatter over the fresh thyme, drizzle with some oil and season with sea salt. Put in a 200C/180 Fan/Gas 6 oven for about 45 minutes until the tomato is starting to burst open.
Warm the stock. I always freeze my homemade stock in cubes so it’s easy to defrost exactly the amount I need. I used light chicken stock but if you want it to be a vegetarian dish, use vegetable stock.
Peel and finely slice the shallots or onion and the fennel. Keep any green herby tops for garnish at the end. Heat some more oil (about 1 tablespoon) and 1 knob of the butter in a pan. Add the shallots and fennel and cook until beginning to soften but not brown. Add the rice.
Stir to coat the rice in oil and cook for a minute or two. Add a good glug of vermouth, stir and let it be absorbed by the rice. Then add the hot stock a little at a time, stirring all the time. This is the bit that puts some people off cooking risotto, but it’s the bit I love: that comforting gentle stir that slows you down at the end of the day as you prepare your supper. Add the stock until it’s all used up and absorbed. Check a few rice grains to see if done. If it needs a bit more cooking add a little hot water. Check seasoning. Your stock will have some salt so you need to taste to get it right. Add more salt if necessary and some freshly ground black pepper.
Turn off the heat. Add the remaining knob of butter and grate over a good amount of Parmesan. Put a lid on and leave for a minute or two. Then beat well. This is the important mantecato stage which will give you that classic creamy texture to your risotto.
Take the roasted tomato from the oven – or where you’ve been keeping it warm if it was ready earlier.
Spoon the risotto into a serving dish and depress a spoon in the middle a little to make a little ‘cup’ to hold the tomato. Lay the tomato on top. Spoon over any of its cooking juices. Lay the garlic and thyme on top and sprinkle over the green fennel fronds after roughly chopping them. Drizzle over a little more olive oil. And there you have the most delicious risotto!
It looked absolutely fabulous and it tasted amazing. It was so good, even better than I’d hoped for. The cooking had softened that aniseed taste of the fennel that so many don’t like. I like it but it is better slightly less strong once cooked in a dish like this. The roast tomato on top was a revelation in how a simply roasted tomato can make so much difference. Open out the roasted garlic clove and spread its creamy deliciousness on the top. This risotto will definitely enter the Travel Gourmet list of favourite dishes!