The simplicity of vegetables. Chef’s diary continued…

Journal & Recipes

With my mind wandering around some ideas for my upcoming vegetarian cooking class, I couldn’t help but be inspired anew by the gorgeous array of fresh, autumn produce. Beautiful, earthy portobellini mushrooms pan fried in butter and a little garlic. Freshly grated horseradish root with steamed Brussels sprouts and sea salt roasted beetroot with olive oil.

Who says going vegetarian is boring?! I cannot wait to try my idea for a caramelised sweet corn and fresh pea Risotto with deep fried paneer cheese and sunflower sprouts. Or a smoked aubergine and butter bean lasagne with a garlic and roasted cherry tomato ragout dressed with the best local olive oil and my favourite local parmesan from Gay’s dairy…and don’t forget the fresh Basil!

It must be the simplicity of vegetables that lure me towards these gastronomic emotions. A vegetable, any vegetable, must be celebrated for what it is. Always stay true to the individual vegetable as far as you can. When you do a mixed veggie roast, try to roast the vegetables separately first before mixing them together and dressing them with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and olive oil. First ignite each vegetable’s unique and delicious flavour, then let them ‘marry’… makes the world of difference. Always stay seasonal and don’t over complicate things. Don’t cook them for too long, whichever cooking method you use and you can’t go wrong. Here’s my idea for a tasty, soul warming Risotto. ….chef Jaco Fourie.

Caramelised sweet corn and fresh pea Risotto

Basic risotto. Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 litres light vegetable stock

100ml olive oil

40g butter

100g chopped white onion

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

500g Arborio rice

1/2 cup sherry

Salt and black pepper

100g sweetcorn (removed from cob and caramelised)

100g fresh peas

Chef’s tip No. 1.  Stock is the most important ingredient in risotto.  One of the secrets of good risotto is to add the stock bit by bit, but to keep the risotto simmering on a medium heat so that the stock is absorbed fairly quickly. If you keep the mixture bubbling away fairly rapidly (without letting it stick to the bottom) you will save your arm as well as your risotto. If you allow the risotto to lie in warm stock for too long, it will overcook and be stodgy.

Chef’s tip No. 2. You can caramelise the sweetcorn directly on the cob. Skin and rinse the cob and lightly brush with olive oil. In a pan, or with tongs over an open flame. Corn caramelises quite quickly on an open flame, so be careful. Otherwise you can remove the corn kernels from the cob with a knife slicing downwards. Fry the kernels in a pan on medium heat with salt, pepper and oil.

Directions: Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and reduce to half its original volume. Keep hot.

Heat the olive oil and half the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until onion is translucent, but not brown.

Add the rice to the pan, stir and cook over medium heat for two minutes. Add the sherry and cook until the liquid has all evaporated.

Add the boiling stock to the rice mixture, one ladle at a time. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, then add another ladle of stock. Continue until the rice is just cooked, then add the remaining butter, Parmesan and seasoning.

Remove from the heat and stir until butter and Parmesan are well incorporated into the risotto. Add the caramelised sweet corn (see Chef’s Tip No. 2 above) and fresh peas. Deep fry your paneer cheese and use as garnish for your Risotto.

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