Recently I attended the launch of Golden Axe Cider. I love supporting local producers and these guys fit the bill perfectly: Victorian apples, handcrafted, bit geeky, focused on quality and a fantastic tasting cider with just the right amount of sweetness. I was asked if I would come up with a recipe featuring this fabulous brew. I have thought of a few so consider this the first instalment. Please try the recipe – it might sound like a slightly strange combination at first but it tastes amazing (yes, modest aren’t I – trust me its the ingredients) and by all means drop me a line to let me know how it goes. This recipe serves 2.
about 4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup Carnaroli rice
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup Golden Axe cider (for risotto)
3/4 cup Golden Axe cider (for braising)
medium bulb fennel
1 pork sausage. I used a Robert Marchetti Berkshire sausage. It is a classic coarse sausage. You want the filling of the sausage to be chunky not fine – it helps with the crumble. Whatever you use try and make sure they were happy pigs. Remove the sausage from its casing and break into small pieces.
1 cup small cauliflower florets
2 tblsp finely grated parmesan
1 tblsp hot paprika
salt and pepper
Trim a little off the bottom of the fennel and chop off the top stalks but keep the feathery leaves for garnish. Slice the fennel in half vertically so that it still stays together. Continue cutting each half until you have eight “wedges” of fennel. In a small frypan or saucepan heat a tablespoon of olive oil and about a teaspoon of butter. carefully add your fennel to the pan cut side down and cook over a medium heat until it just begins to caramelise. Turn each wedge (carefully so they don’t fall apart) so that the browning and caramelisation is even. The aim is not a lot of colour just a hint as in the below photo.
Next add the cider. I’ve said 3/4 cup but that it really depends on the size and depth of your pan. The liquid should almost cover the fennel pieces.
Reduce the heat and cook the fennel until it is soft but not mushy. It will take about 15 minutes. Turn the pieces to ensure even cooking and when the liquid has reduced by half cover the pan – either with the lid if you are using a saucepan or a piece of foil over the top if you have a frypan. When you are happy with the texture of the fennel remove from the heat but leave them in the pan.
Now, on to the risotto. Heat the remaining olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. add to this the shallots and garlic and when just turning translucent (this should take a minute) add the rice and cook for about two minutes. Pour the Golden Axe into the rice and bring to the boil. When the liquid has all but evaporated it’s time to start adding the stock. Many recipes suggest that you heat the stock before adding it, and there are excellent reasons to do so, but if you cannot be bothered, its not the end of the world! I add the stock a little at the time and agitate the pan for a little while each time then basically let it sit and absorb. For this risotto it leaves me free to make the “crumble”.
Turn your grill on high. Line a baking tray with baking paper (not necessary but makes washing SO much easier) and spread an even layer of the cauliflower and sausage. Sprinkle this with the hot paprika and pop under the grill – not on the top shelf but one down if you can. Having it under the grill does mean you need to keep a closer eye on it, but I found I got better results with the grill than using the oven. If grilling isn’t possible the oven is perfectly fine.
For the next 15-20 minutes you will need to alternate between adding more stock to the risotto and moving around your “crumble”. I used tongs to move it around. It helps it cook evenly.
When you have added half the chicken stock to the risotto carefully add the fennel along with whatever liquid is left in your pan. Stir through gently and resume the adding of stock as before. I keep tasting my rice grains to work out when the risotto is done – and I am sure the time is different every time I make one. Hard to write a recipe for that but it just means that you need to practice. The rice should not be super soft. Nor should the mixture be dry. After you have added your last bit of stock it’s time to add the parmesan and season to taste with salt and pepper. When you are happy remove it from the heat.
The crumble should be done by now too if not a little earlier. Ladle your risotto into shallow bowls, place the crumble on top and garnish with some of the reserved fennel leaves. The only thing left to do is eat and enjoy.
If you are wondering what you should drink with this, the answer is easy – a Golden Axe cider!