I discovered two new things last week: Risotto, and deseeding tomatoes.
The Risotto I will cover in detail just below. The concept of removing most of what makes the tomato a tomato struck me as strange, even slightly blasphemous, but I gave it a go anyway. I have resolved to try it in other things in the future, as it worked quite well in this particular instance. For the risotto, it added some flavour, colour and body to the dish without introducing a sudden excess of moisture that then would have had to be cooked off, and the acidity may have thoroughly altered the dynamic of the meal. For the record, I tried it in my stuffed sausages tonight, and it left them too dry, so its not for every meal. On the matter of "why-would-you-waste-so-much-of-the-tomato?", I figure the seeds just go into the compost, which goes into the garden eventually, and then up pop lovely wild tomatoes. Its like a storage vault, much like the flash one they just built in Norway, only closer and warmer.
It must be easy to make risotto if I can manage a reasonably passable one on my first try. I was surprised. When we were growing up, the only risottos I knew were those weird packet microwave ones, that are all dry and tasted like numbers. I couldn't fathom why anyone would want to willingly cook up something like that.
Then as time went by I kept seeing cooking shows where cooks were whipping up moist, delicious looking risottos that didn't take long and, it seems, were as flexible as your imagination. And I wondered, maybe there was something in it. Like rice, for example.
More time went by.
Then it happened. By the magic of the preplanned menu, we decided to make a risotto. Here's the trick: I used a recipe (!!) There's a prize for anyone who can identify the origin of this recipe, which I have modified slightly so as not to infringe any copyrights. I'll give you one clue: it's a New Zealand Chef.
Ham & Tomato Risotto
Heat 2T of olive oil in a large pan, preferably a cast iron one. Chop up an onion and a few cloves of garlic and soften this in the oil. Chop up 250g Ham and add this to the pan. Brown this lightly, before adding 1C of Arborio rice.
Cook this all together for about 3 minutes. Pour in 1/2C of Vegetable stock and simmer until absorbed. Add another 1/2C and repeat, until you have added 2 - 2 1/2C of stock to the pan. If you have homemade vege stock on hand, use this. If not, you can get some quite good real stocks from the supermarket, which is what we used this time.
Deseed and dice 3 tomatoes and grate 1/4C of Parmesan.
When the liquid has reduced down and the rice is cooked, add the tomatoes, parmesan, 1/4C of sour cream, and 1/4C of chopped fresh herbs (basil or similar - use less for stronger herbs like sage). Combine and season with freshly ground salt and pepper. Heat through and serve with freshly grated parmesan and a little drizzle of EV Olive Oil, plus freshly ground pepper if you like.
Just like that.
BTW, there's not really a prize, but have a guess anyway.