With some nice Cavolo Nero available in the garden at present, we have been looking for interesting ways to use it. Jane came up with this idea. It's similar to one many of you will be familiar with, made with Spinach rather than Cavolo Nero, but I think that the Cavolo Nero is better than Spinach in this case, because it holds its texture better. Spinach often disintegrates completely and just makes your risotto green.
Though the inclusion of Cavolo Nero was Jane's idea, I was in charge of its execution. In the photo above you see the ingredients - Arborio rice, onion, stock, mushrooms, butter, Parmesan cheese, garlic, thyme and Cavolo Nero. For completeness we should add vegetable oil and salt and pepper.
I cooked the mushrooms slowly, in a tiny bit of oil along with the thyme and garlic and a generous knob of butter. Meanwhile I made a plain risotto in the normal way in another pan. This involves cooking the finely-diced onion in some vegetable oil, then adding the rice and cooking it for a minute or two until it is beginning to swell, and incorporating the hot stock in small quantities until it has all been absorbed. Remember - add the stock slowly so that the rice is never very wet, and make sure it is hot. Adding cold stock will keep reducing the temperature and stop the rice cooking evenly.
When the rice has absorbed all the stock it will be cooked but not soft - it needs to have a certain amount of "bite" left in it. You know the term "al dente"? Well, like that. If you use the right sort of rice, it will have taken on a sort of creamy texture. Now is the time to add the cooked mushrooms (see photo above).
Once the mushrooms are fully mixed in, cover the dish and let it stand for a few minutes to let the ingredients "get to know each other". Now is the time to prepare the Cavolo Nero. You need to strip the soft green bits away from the tough central veins of the leaf.
Finally, about five minutes before serving, add in the Cavolo Nero. It cooks quickly in the residual heat. Just let it wilt. It certainly won't appreciate any fierce heat. This is also the time to stir in a generous quantity of finely grated Parmesan to enhance the flavour and the creamy texture of the risotto.
After a few minutes in the hot risotto, the Cavolo Nero will have softened, but not gone sloppy. Make any final adjustments to seasoning, if necessary, and serve.
This is the finished product. We had ours with a green salad and some toasted granary bread (maybe a Ciabatta would have been more appropriate?). A nice glass of Frascati would probably also be welcome!
Here's a closer look, in which you can really see the creamy texture of the rice:
As many of you probably know, Jane and I have been making a conscious effort to reduce our meat consumption, so this dish fits perfectly with our current dining regime. It is healthy, flavourful and sustaining. It just doesn't contain meat. Oh, and by the way, it can be cooked in 30 minutes and involves very little in the way of specialised skills!