In the book this recipe is written as a variation of a risotto bianco on a previous page so you have to keep flipping back and forth, carefully adorning the pages with parmesan goop as you go. I’ve combined them here, hopefully without erasing something vital.
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
Extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
2 bulbs fennel, finely sliced, herby tops preserved
Freshly ground black pepper
1.1 litres (2 pints) organic vegetable stock
1 knob of butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 or 5 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
400 g risotto rice
2 wineglasses of dry white vermouth or dry white wine
70 g butter
115 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 small dried chillies
4 tablespoons good crumbly ricotta
1 lemon, zest and juice of
Put your fennel seeds into a pestle and mortar and bash up to a powder. Get a wide, hot saucepan, add a couple of splashes of olive oil and fry 2 cloves of garlic until softened, then add the bashed fennel seeds and sliced fennel. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and turn down to a medium-low heat. Place a lid on the pan and cook nice and slowly for around 20 minutes, until the fennel’s soft and sweet.
Heat the stock. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil and a knob of butter into a separate pan, add the onion, remaining garlic and celery, and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. This is called a soffrito. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the vermouth or wine and keep stirring – it will smell fantastic. Any harsh alcohol flavours will evaporate and leave the rice with a tasty essence.
Once the vermouth or wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.
Bash up the dried chillies in the pestle and mortar until you have a fine powder.
Remove the risotto from the heat and add the butter, Parmesan, crumbled ricotta and lemon zest. Check the seasoning carefully and balance the flavour with as much lemon juice as you feel it needs to work with the fennel. Stir well. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This is the most important part of making the perfect risotto, as this is when it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy like it should be.
Divide between your plates, sprinkle over your fennel tops and dust with the ground chilli. Grate over some fresh Parmesan at the table.
Image found here