If you’ve invited the object of your affection over for dinner (once we’re allowed to mix households, of course), we take our proverbial hats off to you. A home-cooked dinner date can be a wonderful thing — you can chat and and swap jokes together over ample glasses of wine, as you make the simmering, sauteing and stirring look blissfully effortless. When you sit down to eat, your date is suitably impressed by your culinary expertise, and the whole evening has an air of relaxation and general ‘unhurriedness’ that busy restaurants can’t always provide.
At least: that’s the best case scenario. What can also happen is an evening of disastrous proportions in the form of burnt food, over-boiling pans, a kitchen that looks like it’s been turned inside out and a meal that eventually takes place at 11:30pm and consists of scrambled eggs, after numerous failed attempts at the three-course extravaganza you had envisaged.
Nothing kills chemistry quicker than a bad dinner date: and that’s why we’re here to get you up to speed on the best simple dish to cook on just such an occasion. The dish in question? Risotto.
“Risotto is an enduring classic for dates, because it’s not a dish that is going to stress you out on the big night,” says Freddie Sheen: one of the duo behind pop-up restaurants and product delivery service Rogues London. “It’s really easy to prep the ingredients in advance and just takes a good bit of stirring to pull together, which you can do while chatting away.”
Risotto certainly sounds like your best culinary port of call if you’ve invited the object of your affection round for a home-cooked dinner. And, luckily, we’ve got the perfect recipe…
Our first recipe comes to us courtesy of Harry’s Bar. It’s simple, delicious and packed full of greens; so as you chat away to your date, raking in the compliments as she raves about the delicious meal you’ve oh-so-casually prepared, you can rest assured that you’re both getting your daily vegetable intake as well as enjoying en exquisite risotto, and a relaxed date. Who could possibly ask for more?
Serves 1 (double the ingredients for 2)
- 160g risotto rice
- 20g peas
- 20g broad beans
- 20g asparagus slices
- 20g green courgette
- 20g Mascarpone
- 20g Parmesan
- 20g butter
- 70g vegetable stock
- 20g sliced breakfast radish
- 5g extra virgin olive oil
- 1g Fennel Pollen
- Edible flowers – garnish
- Green Basil – garnish
- Add the risotto rice into a pan, and then add the warm stock and bring to a boil
- When cooked add the butter, the Mascarpone and the Parmesan
- Fold through and gently mix everything together
- Add the cooked risotto on a warm dish
- Gently glaze the greens and radish in extra virgin olive oil and add around the risotto
- Gently sprinkle the fennel pollen over the top of the risotto
- Add the edible flowers and basil to garnish your risotto
- Top with Parmesan to taste before drizzling extra virgin olive oil over and around the dish before serving
Saffron Risotto, Wild Mushroom, Baby Courgette and Cheese Foam
This recipe comes to us courtesy of Sean Burbidge, Executive Chef at Brasserie of Light: one of many establishments looking forward to a triumphant reopening on 17th May. It’s an exquisite dish, and one that’s guaranteed to have your date telling all her friends what an incredible date she had the other night (the Cheese Foam is a guaranteed talking point in and of itself).
- 600g vegetable stock
- 200g Arborio risotto rice
- 120g butter
- 80g Mascarpone cheese
- 80g Parmesan, freshly grated
- 80g shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 40g Parmesan shavings
- 20g garlic, finely chopped
- 2g saffron, infused in 1 tbsp boiling water
- 2g Greek cress
- 4g fine sea salt
- 1g ground black pepper
For the sautéed wild mushroom and baby courgette:
- 300g mixed seasonal wild mushrooms
- 60g sliced baby courgette
- 40g rapeseed oil
- 40g butter
- 8g parsley, finely chopped
- 2g fine sea salt
- 0.5g ground black pepper
For the Parmesan cheese foam:
- 200g milk
- 75g double cream
- 50g Parmesan, freshly grated
- 10g Soy Lecithin
- 2.5g fine sea salt
- In a heavy bottomed pan, fry the shallots and garlic in the half of the butter until soft, but not browned.
- With the pan still on the heat, add the rice, stirring constantly, until the grains are well coated in butter. Add the saffron water.
- Add the vegetable stock a little at a time with a ladle, stirring with a Maryse spatula until all the liquid is absorbed.
- While the rice is cooking, heat a little oil in a frying pan and lightly sauté the wild mushrooms, add sliced courgette to the pan and finish with butter, chopped parsley, salt, pepper and set aside.
- For the Parmesan cheese foam, in a sauce pan bring milk, double cream and salt to 80 degrees.
- Add grated Parmesan cheese to the pan, stir well and remove from heat. Add soy lecithin to the mix and blend using a stick blender.
- The rice should be cooked and slightly sloppy in texture. If it’s too thick, add a little more stock.
- Finally, stir in the grated Parmesan, Mascarpone cheese, half of the remaining butter, salt and pepper, spoon into individual serving dish, top with the sautéed wild mushrooms and baby courgette, followed by Parmesan shavings, cheese foam and Greek cress.
Pheasant, Porcini and Cavalo Nero Risotto Soup
Or perhaps you’d like to wow your date with a dish that’s a little different from the norm? For a risotto with a difference, this Pheasant, Porcini and Cavalo Nero Risotto Soup is delicious, manageable and jaw-droppingly impressive in equal measure.
From the team at Belgravia restaurant Wild by Tart, the recipe utilises a large terracotta pot called a ‘chicken brick’: this acts as a traditional clay oven, sealing in the air and moisture. If you aren’t able to get your hands on a chicken brick, then a lidded casserole dish will be just fine. Similarly, if you’re not able to find any pheasant for this particular dish, then chicken will do just as well.
- a knob of butter
- 1 leek, trimmed and chopped into rounds
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- a few sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 200g risotto rice
- Handful of dried porcini (soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes)
- 1 large glass (250 ml) white wine
- 1 litre stock (topping up the reserved poaching liquid)
- 1 tbsp jarred porcini mushroom paste (optional)
- a squeeze of honey
- 4-5 cavolo nero leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped
- a bunch of tarragon, leaves chopped
- 25g grated Parmesan
- salt and pepper
For the poached pheasant:
- 2 pheasants (or use a small chicken)
- 1 leek, roughly chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, halved
- Bunch of thyme
- 1 glass (175 ml) white wine
- 1 glass (175 ml) water
- Put the pheasant (or chicken) into the chicken brick (or casserole dish) with all the other poaching ingredients.
- Place in a cold oven, turn the temperature to 180°C/gas 4 and cook for 1 hour. Don’t worry if it’s slightly underdone: you’re going to cook it again, and you don’t want it to be overcooked.
- Leave to cool in the liquid, then pull the meat from the bones and shred (if you’re in a rush, use washing-up gloves to protect your hands from the heat).
- Strain the liquid, discarding the solids, and top up with water or chicken stock to make 1 litre; set aside.
- Heat the butter in a pan over a medium heat and add the leek, garlic, thyme and bay leaves.
- Sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the rice and stir to coat in the leek mixture.
- Add the porcini mushrooms and their soaking liquid, the wine and stock and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked.
- Add the porcini mushroom paste (if using), honey, cavolo nero and shredded pheasant (or chicken) and season with salt and pepper.
- Just before serving, stir through the tarragon and Parmesan. We also like to add a drizzle of truffle oil sometimes; it’s very good.