The list of things more enticing than forking into a huge bowl of creamy risotto is small, so why the cheese-grater am I taking most of the rice out of Risotto? For one thing, in summer there’s nothing less appealing than standing over a hot stove stirring ladle after ladle of hot stock while you get an onion-fume facial. Sometimes I want a hot, comforting meal in summer, but without the neediness of a Risotto. Here, you take a huge pile of chopped leeks and soften them in oil and butter, to which you add a little rice of the plump short-grain variety, then load up the pot with spinach. All this cooks down into a sweet, creamy mass of vegetables with bites of rice running through it. Stirring in a dash of cream and Parmesan cheese is optional, but I always do.
One of my all time favourite recipe books is The A.O.C Cookbook by Suzanne Goin. This recipe is loosely adapted from her’s for Soubise, a traditional French sauce of puréed onions, cream and rice which accompanies grilled salmon. She explains the concept of the sauce as a “reverse risotto” – a lot of onions and a little rice – and it is genius. I’ve taken this idea of “reverse risotto” to make a wholesome, veggie focussed dinner. You can make this a good few hours in advance of when you want to eat it, unlike risotto which goes stodgy if you let it sit around. We eat this on it’s own but it would be incredible as a side dish to roast chicken or grilled fish.
1kg leeks, or a combination of leeks and white onions. (about 8 or 9 leeks), washed and sliced as pictured.
3 tablespoons olive oil
25grams or two tablespoons butter
500grams fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup short grain rice such as arborio, carnaroli, or calasparra (risotto or paella rice varieties)
1/4 cup double cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt, or half as much table salt
1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF. Heat a large pot over medium heat, add the oil, butter, leeks and salt and stir well to coat all the leeks with the oil and butter. Put a lid on and cook until the leeks have become soft, sweet and translucent. You’ll have to lift the lid to stir occasionally and perhaps turn the heat down to prevent browning. About 15-20 minutes in total.
2. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add rice and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the rice, but retain a cup of the cooking water.
3. Add the rice, stir it around to incorporate it into the leeks, then add the spinach stirring well until it wilts, about 2 minutes. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the water you cooked the rice in, and the cream.
4. Cover the pot in foil, put a lid on and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan just before serving, and season with salt and pepper to your taste.