For the past few weeks I have been on a ‘soft food diet’ which has consisted mostly of scrambled eggs, macaroni cheese, custard and ice-cream.
Now before you get excited at the prospect of eating lots of ice-cream, sadly this latest fad diet is the result of some extensive (and expensive) dental work and not a revolutionary new way to lose inches; daily desserts remain the enemy of the waistline.
While eating soft food is not the world’s greatest hardship – babies seem to exist OK – I have fallen off the wagon several times and even tried eating pizza which proved to be a crunch too far for the good side of my mouth.
So needing a break from scrambled eggs I decided to broaden my soft food remit and came up with basil, fennel and lemon risotto.
I am pleased to say this rich, creamy rice dish – to which the lemon juice adds a real zing – did not offend my mouth, although the ever tightening trousers might not say the same thing… it is with good reason that ‘soft foods’ do not feature regularly in conventional diet plans!
Basil, Fennel and Lemon Risotto
- 400 grams Arborio rice
- 1 litre of strong chicken stock
- 1 cup of dry white wine
- ½ onion (finely diced)
- 20 grams butter
- 10-15 crushed fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 50 grams of fresh Parmesan cheese
- 8-10 basil leaves (roughly chopped)
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon of freshly crushed black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Heat half of the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan with the fennel seeds, crushed black pepper and onion.
- When the onion has softened, stir in the rice making sure it is well coated with the butter and oil.
- Add the white wine and salt. Then let the rice simmer until it has absorbed almost all of the wine. Keep stirring to make sure it does not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Heat the chicken stock in a separate saucepan keeping it at simmering point – the next stage takes quite a bit of time and the stock should be hot.
- Pour a ladleful of the stock into the rice and stir until it has all absorbed, then add another ladleful and stir… and another and stir…and keep adding until the rice has softened and become creamy. When you have used all of the stock add some boiling water if required to finish cooking the rice.
- Now add the lemon zest, juice, basil and Parmesan and mix through. I used roughly 50 grams of Parmesan – personally I find the taste quite overpowering – so add more to suit your own tastes.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the remaining butter. Put the lid on the saucepan and let the butter melt through. Rest for a couple of minutes before serving.