The gritters don’t come up the hill to us because they are too busy trying to keep the main roads clear. There’s no grit or salt left that we can scatter ourselves and what was ordered has been taken by Birmingham City Council as their need is greater than ours. Apparently.
Oh, and we don’t live in Birmingham.
Nothing for it then, than to rally to the cause and help.
If we don’t do it, we won’t get in or out…. not bad if it is before we set off to work, but not so great if we happen to be at work when more snow comes down.
We went out and helped clear the road and some paths so cars could get up the hill without sliding backwards which is always a good thing if you are driving up hill.
After a couple of hours we got back in and felt we deserved something really good for supper and I had my eyes on some black pudding.
When I met the Bear he said did not like black pudding…. when what he really meant was that he had not had black pudding cooked in a way that he liked. Now? After three years of marriage? He really is becoming omnivorous.
I have plans for most of the black pudding for tomorrow, but there will be enough left for something I have been thinking about… we love risotto and I have a fancy for black pudding risotto. I kept thinking about what would work well with it and realised that bacon and apple would be just the ticket. One thing to remember is that cooking apples wouldn’t be any good in this as I didn’t want the apple to dissolve into a mush, so I chose a bright, sweetly sharp Pink Lady. It was beginning to look like a pink theme was developing so I got some red onions out as well.
Let’s get everything ready –
– to feed four people well, you will need maybe 250g of risotto rice. I am using Fior di Riso, a vialone nano risotto rice which tends to be used more in the north of Italy. Other rices to look out for are carnoroli or arborio – just as long as you do get risotto rice.
2 red onions, 2 big slices of black pudding and 25o g of bacon bits , or lardons , some stock, some butter, a Pink Lady apple and some Parmesan cheese to shave over at the end.
To start with… get two pans out – in one you are going to have stock bubbling away ( you can make your own or use cubes or granules – just make sure they are good quality. I often use Knorr stock granules)
and in the other, melt a knob of butter…. while that is melting, quickly peel and chop the red onion and then add that to the pan with a pinch of salt
After softening the onion, add the rice and stir it round in the buttery juices. This forces flavour into the rice grains – or so I was told…. and then add half a glass of vermouth. You will hear a fantastic sizzle and a really aromatic smell will whoosh out of the pan.
All the alcohol evaporates and you are just left with an enigmatic hint … it’s quite safe, even for children to eat. If you haven’t got vermouth then a dry white wine or maybe some sherry would be good. Just stir it round until the liquid is absorbed by those greedy rice grains.
Once the vermouth, or wine, or whatever has been absorbed, add a ladleful of hot stock and stir it gently round so that can also be absorbed.
Oh and this IS important – I was taught to make risotto by a real Italian cook and it was stressed that when you stir the risotto, you stir in ONE direction only. This isn’t some mad superstition, there is a valid reason for doing it – if you just keep going in the same direction, the rice grains swirl around in the beautifully flavoured stock, absorbing as they whirl. If you go bashing them back and forth with a wooden spoon, they start to break and starch comes out into the stock, making it gloopy. The aim is just to get each rice grain swelling separately.
I love making risotto because I particularly love just standing there, quietly, ladelling in stock, stirring gently and relaxing. It doesn’t take long, you know – maybe twelve minutes or so, just until the rice has absorbed enough of the stock to be plump and delicious with just a hint of a bite to it.
Trust me – doing it this way makes the risotto really good.
While this is all going on,
put the lardons of bacon into a frying pan and cook gently – you need to get the pieces tender before you add them to the risotto. Once they are ready, add them and any of the juices to the rice, stirring gently as you go.
Start to cook the black pudding now – keep the heat gentle and cook both sides so it changes into rich and shiny, slightly crusted slices of spicy black pudding.
Roughly peel and cube the Pink Lady apple and then add that in – you aren’t wanting to cook it through, but it does want to be in there for a few minutes, so all the flavours can blend
The final thing to do is to add a knob of butter to the risotto… this enriches the stock, giving it a lovely rounded flavour…. stir it round gently…
Then, put your risotto into your bowls and break up the black pudding over the top….
A few shavings of Parmesan over the top finish it off
The result? Really good.
Each spoonful has the perfect combination of bacon bits giving a lovely savouriness and a gorgeous chewiness amongst the savoury rice… the little nuggets of Pink Lady apple gives a sweet and juicy almost-crunch, while the black pudding provides a deep and earthy richness, bringing it all together.
It didn’t take long at all and it certainly doesn’t involve costly ingredients but it added up to a truly delicious and warming supper – perfect for a freezing night, after an afternoon’s labour shovelling snow.