Green pepper + pistachio risotto
This is my all-time favourite risotto. This is unusual, vibrant and full of the deep, but somehow lively, flavours of Sicily, which I adore. If you can get them, the small pale Turkish green peppers work best here. This recipe was kindly passed on to me by Emily, my cooking other half and one of the best cooks I know.
1–1.5 litres vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
400g arborio or carnaroli rice
200ml white wine
50g butter or vegan butter
FOR THE PESTO
4 green peppers or 6 smaller Turkish green peppers
75g shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled
the juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
100ml extra virgin olive oil
a large bunch of basil leaves (50g), plus a small handful for the top
30g freshly grated vegetarian Pecorino or vegan Parmesan- style cheese
Start with the pesto. Char the peppers over an open flame on your stove or under your grill until the skin is black all over. Remove and place in a bowl with a plate or lid on top and allow to cool.
Put your vegetable stock in a pan and place over a low heat to warm.
Heat a saucepan over a medium heat, add the olive oil and the onion and fry for about 10 minutes or until soft and sweet. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Turn the heat up to high, add the rice and a little more oil if needed and toast the grains on all sides for about 5 minutes or until they turn a little translucent. Pour in the white wine and allow to evaporate, stirring as it does. Add a ladleful of the hot stock and stir until it evaporates, then continue this process until all the stock is used. This should take about 15–20 minutes. Turn the risotto down to low while you get on with the pesto.
The peppers should be cool enough to handle now. Use your hands to peel off and discard the charred skin, then tear the peppers into pieces and remove the seeds. Put them into a food processor, add the toasted pistachios (reserving a small amount to top the risotto at the end), garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, basil leaves, and half the grated cheese and blend until you have a smooth, vivid green pesto. Add a little water if it looks too thick.
The risotto is perfectly cooked when the rice is al dente: break a grain of rice with your finger and you should be able to see a tiny fleck of white in the middle. Add the butter and half the remaining cheese, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir through most of the pesto, then put a lid on the risotto and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
If the risotto looks a little thick, add a little more hot stock or boiling water. Divide into 4 portions, top with the rest of the pesto and the remaining cheese, the reserved basil leaves and chopped pistachios. Eat straight away.