I am temporarily part of a family at the moment. I’ve fled my home to endure the festive season elsewhere. One of my chores for the past two days was to do the cooking. This turned out to be quite a job as the daughter of the house is both wheat and (bovine) dairy intolerant and the eldest son cannot eat fish.
Usually for special circumstances like this, I have a fail safe recipe: green risotto. It’s vegetarian, kosher and halal and -last but not least- it’s about the only thing my girlfriend wanted me to cook when it was my turn.
Unfortunately it contains pesto, which contains cheese (usually Parmigiano, Pardano or Pecorino), so it’s not suited for vegans or people who are intolerant to anything made from cow’s milk.
To make things worse it’s winter and the local stores are out of fresh basil. I had to improvise. Luckily I knew the recipe for pesto, and I knew a trick for making pesto when out of fresh basil. So here we go.
- olive oil (1 or 2 tablespoons)
- risotto rice (1,5 cups)
- white wine (1 cup)
- water (4 cups)
- red pepper (1, diced)
- green peas (1 bag)
- pesto (1 cup)
- grated cheese (goats cheese in this case)
- scallions (sliced)
Fry 1,5 cups of risotto rice in olive oil until golden brown or at most for 3 minutes, whatever happens first. Add white wine and water (in that order, you don’t want to miss the smell of the boiling wine) don’t forget to add salt (this dish can deal with quite some salt, it’s hard to overdo it), half-cover the pan with a lid and leave to cook over a slow fire for about 20 minutes or until all the water has gone. Stir once or twice while simmering. Add diced pepper and peas, mix until pepper and peas are hot. Add pesto. Serve with generous amounts of ground pepper (freshly ground tastes best and again: this dish can deal with a lot of pepper), grated cheese and sliced scallions (in that order).
Normally I use ready-made pesto, but this time I had to improvise on account of the cheese and the shortage of fresh basil.
- some dried basil and/or fresh basil leaves
- loads of fresh parsley (but preferably fresh basil if available);
- olive oil (enough to keep things smooth)
- grated cheese (normally Parmigiano, Pardano or Pecorino, but this time ordinary Dutch goat’s cheese)
- pine nuts
Use a hand blender to shred the parsley and basil to bits. This works best when some olive oil is added to turn it into a smooth mixture. It’s important not to put too much olive oil in as this will lead to ever-increasing amounts of pesto. Better start with a little and add extra olive oil when necessary. After mixing the parsley/basil and olive oil, stepwise grate some cheese into it and blend on. The general idea is to add olive oil when the mixture becomes too thick and grated cheese or pine nuts when it becomes too thin. When added in small quantities, the hand blender can deal with whole pine nuts.
I used a trial-and-error method, which worked fine, but didn’t give me exact quantities. I estimate that I used 8 to 10 cups of parsley, a handful of fresh basil, two teaspoons of dried basil, half a cup of both olive oil and pine nuts and roughly the amount of a whole cup of cheese, ungrated that is.
Keep adding the required ingredients until the stuff you are making looks and tastes roughly like pesto…