Roasted red capsicum risotto

This risotto may seem sort of labour intensive. I’m not going to lie, there are two main steps here, and you’ll have to give each your full attention. But as with many things, more attention reaps a higher reward. Here your reward is a smoky, nutty, herbed risotto, which not only looks beautiful, but tastes incredible. An added bonus is the subtle crunch of pine nuts and walnuts. All in all, it’s not too time-consuming either. And if you buy your grilled capsicum, easy peasy.

I used to be scared of risotto, especially after a particular episode where a sweet potato risotto turned into concrete-like sludge. A spoon could stand straight up in it, and it was barely edible. You could have laid bricks with it. I’m not sure what went so terribly wrong there, but I didn’t cook risotto for at least two years as a result.

Then somehow risotto suddenly became easy! Don’t stop stirring, keep the heat low, add the stock slowly and only add more when it’s just about entirely evaporated from the rice, leaving just the slightest trail of stock across the base of the saucepan when stirred. Couldn’t be easier! Done with a glass of wine in hand, it’s actually pretty relaxing.

Of course you can serve this straight up (with a side of salad). Or, what I’m doing, is stuffing mushroom caps with it and grilling them. I just made the risotto tonight – first, to share with you, and second, to make my life easier on Friday when we’re having the stuffed mushrooms.

Roasted red capsicum risotto (serves 2-4, depending on the side salad)

First make your roasted capsicum mix. With risottos, anything that gets stirred in, be it mushrooms, red capsicum, peas or anything else, you should have it prepared and ready to go. Once the risotto is cooked, the sooner you stir through those other ingredients the better.

Roasted capsicums

  • 2 red capsicums (or 1/2 cup of jarred grilled capsicum – you can also get it from the deli section of your supermarket)
  • a handful of walnuts (1/4 cup when chopped)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp celery salt (or 1/4 tsp ordinary salt)
  1. If you’re grilling your capsicum, place the whole capsicums over a gas flame, turning occasionally until the skin is almost 100% blackened. Otherwise grill slices of capsicum in the oven until the skin is blackened. Place in a plastic bag, seal and set aside for at least 5 minutes. 
  2. Mix the chopped walnuts, basil, oil and salt in a bowl.
  3. When the capsicums have cooled, peel them (I use my hands – it’s easier but it’s sticky – have paper towel handy) and chop finely. Mix in with the other ingredients.
Risotto
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp chopped dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring stock, mushrooms and bay leaf to the boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to a low simmer and cover.
  2. Heat oil in another saucepan and saute shallots with pine nuts, until shallots have softened. Add rice and stir until coated.
  3. Add wine, bring to the boil, reduce to a low heat and stir until almost entirely evaporated.
  4. Stir 1/4 cup of simmering stock through rice. Keep stirring until almost entirely evaporated. Add another 1/4 cup of stock and keep stirring until that has evaporated – and so on until the stock is all gone and the rice is just cooked.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir the capsicum mix through the risotto, taste and add salt if needed.
  6. Serve with a decent crack of black pepper.

(Now stuff that in your pipe and smoke it. Or not. Or eat it.)

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