3 years, 9 months ago
This Italian recipe is fast, simple way to cook Risotto with porcini mushrooms and pancetta.
Secret Family Recipes are a bit of a tradition. There’s always one ingredient that can’t be named or a sacred ritual to be performed at the waning of the harvest moon in the hour of wolves. Nobody can just share. Generation upon generation must guard the mystery lest a curse comes upon their house and strikes them to stone. Until of course, it turns out that Granny’s Secret Cookie Recipe came off the back of packet oatmeal sometime in the early 60s – not so ancient and secret at all, really.
And it’s not just families. Entire countries get up to this mythical, magic of cooking nonsense. Ever been told how simple it is to make a soufflé? No? Thought not. Because the French would have you believe it’s easer to steal the Mona Lisa than make their arcane cheesy egg. The Spanish are just as discouraging about Paëlla (basically rice with stuff). Apparently it can’t be cooked successfully anywhere but Spain and only in the company of sixteen matadors and a flamenco guitarist. And even Italy gets in on the act. As if it wasn’t enough to have more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than anywhere else, to be able to lay claim to the one and only real Renaissance and to own Venice, the Italians would like you to think risotto is impossible to cook unless you’re Milanese and related directly to Leonardo da Vinci, by blood.
So how delighted were we when we tried the latest Lavender & Lovage recipe? Not only is it traditional risotto with pancetta and porcini, you bake it in the oven. Which means it’s perfectly aligned to the holiday spirit of ‘effortless’, removes all the ‘translucent grains and broth reducing’ reverence and completely debunks the difficulty myth.
At this point it would be nice to reel off a long list of other traditions the rest of the world stole from Italy and improved. But unfortunately we have to bow to the originals still being the best in many ways. Here are a few we love to try at home and just never manage to quite pull off.
This one’s the curse of northern types. We want to be all Mediterranean with our vine strewn arbours, lightly tanned skin and understated heirloom clothes but we just don’t have the weather for it. Accept the rain, learn to embrace charred sausages. And be ready to move fast at the first hint of a cloud-break with a fridge full of olives, San Marzano tomatoes and a vintage sun dress.
Anyone confusing ‘6 for the price of 1’ nights down the local pub with aperitivo should get themselves a ticket to Italy today. Drink may be included, but aperitivo is really all about food and friends and moving day to night. The two hours between work and home are sacred in Italy. You spend them hanging out in a bar or cafe, snacking on everything from antipasto to crostata, you chat, you drink and then you’re just about ready for dinner. There are endless variations on aperitivo depending on where you are in Italy or even what city quarter. Rome’s new generation of artisan aperitivo restaurants are incredible, mix them up with traditional rustic trattoria and call yourself initiated.
You can’t take five steps anywhere in an Italian city without coming across gelato. It’s everywhere and the Italians adore the stuff nearly as much as they love being more ancient and civilised than anywhere else. So how to choose? This is not ice cream as you know it, so be adventurous. Young Turk gelatier are making inroads into traditional tastes all over the country and their sometimes very strange combos work surprisingly well. And remember, true Gelato is 100% natural with no additives or artificial flavouring. Your gelatiera should be delighted to tell you what’s in yours. If they won’t, go elsewhere.
This is not the ignoble art of a sandwich on the hoof. In Italy, walking and eating is intrinsically linked with after-dinner gelato, strolling and never getting stuff down your shirt or needing a wet-wipe. It’s a summer specific activity and you should never try it at home. Somehow it only looks insouciant and admirable when it’s happening in the likes of Trastevere. And, we don’t know for sure, but we think there may be some sort of underground school of etiquette where they teach this kind of activity to Italians as soon as they can stand because we’ve never mastered it.
But now we’ve taken their risotto, it’s only a question of time before we come after the rest.
by Karen Burns-Booth
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
We’re back in France next for another Lavender & Lovage original. This time it’s Pan Fried Lemon and Garlic Chicken. Try the risotto while you’re waiting, it’s easy – whatever Italy would have you believe.