I am (slowly) writing a new book about cooking with vegetables and finding new ways to use old favourites is leading me in some interesting directions. If you only ever serve the humble cauliflower baked with a cheese sauce, you’ll find using it to make this creamy risotto a revelation. The Italians routinely use cauliflower (and broccoli) in pasta sauces to great effect but using it in a classic white risotto not only adds an extra dimension of creaminess, but it also makes a little rice go a long way making it a perfect budget dish for serving a lot of people. The real star of this risotto though is the addition of the crisp anchovy and chilli breadcrumb topping – it adds a savoury crunch and cuts through the richness of the risotto. I made extra and sprinkled it over pasta dishes and a delicious dinner party starter of mozzarella and charred peppers because it’s so yummy.
This recipe serves four
- 1 small cauliflower
- 1 litre of hot chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons of light olive oil
- 80g butter
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or grated
- 2 sticks of celery, strings removed and finely chopped
- 250g risotto rice
- 100ml Noilly Prat or dry white wine
- A handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 100g freshly grated Parmesan
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Crumb topping: 2 small slices of stale white bread (sourdough for preference), 1 small tin of anchovies, 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (it keeps well in an airtight container)
- Make the crumb topping. Tear up the stale bread and whiz it up to coarse crumbs in a food processor. Add the chilli flakes, the anchovies and all the oil. Whizz again until thoroughly combined. Heat up a little olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry for a few minutes until crisp being careful not to burn them. Remove from the heat, set aside and allow to cool – any you don’t use here will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.
- Break the cauliflower into florets and reserve the core.
- Heat the stock and add the cauliflower florets to cook through for about 6 minutes.
- Finely chop the cauliflower core, onion and celery and grate the garlic.
- Add about 20g of the butter and the olive oil to a large pan, heat gently and add the cauliflower core, onion, celery and garlic. Stir for about 15 minutes until soft but not coloured. Once the vegetables are soft, pour in the rice, stir and turn up the heat.
- Cook for about a minute, add the Noilly Prat or wine and keep stirring to burn off the alcohol.
- Now add a pinch of salt and then a ladle of the hot stock. Keep stirring and gradually adding ladles of stock until it is absorbed. The stirring makes the risotto creamy and should usually take about 15 minutes for the rice to be cooked. You are aiming for it to be soft with a slight bite – like cooking pasta ‘al dente’.
- Add the cauliflower florets and crush it down into the rice. Add a little more stock or hot water to loosen it up again if it looks too stodgy.
- Remove your pan from the heat, stir in the remaining butter and the Parmesan and adjust the seasoning with the black pepper, you shouldn’t need to add much in the way of salt because of the salt in the stock and the cheese. Cover and allow to sit few a couple of minutes so it becomes even creamier.
- Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley.
- Serve it immediately in warmed bowls and top with the crisp anchovy crumbs. Delicious!