Sunday, 20 January 2013

Smoked haddock and spring onion risotto

I'm back on the comfort food now the snow has arrived. Great steaming-hot piles of carbs help keep the cold out. My slow cooker has been hauled out of the cupboard to braise lamb shanks and oxtails to be accompanied by heaps of mash, a baked potato or chunks of crusty bread to mop up the gravy.

I also want rice and in this weather that means risotto. And I want fish too - the smoked haddock here produces a sunny yellow that lifts the spirits as the snowflakes drift past my windows.

What you need:
1 fillet smoked haddock
1/2 mug of risotto rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
Vegetable oil
Knob of butter
1/2 litre (1 pint) vegetable stock
2 spring onions, sliced diagonally into 1/2cm pieces
Chopped fresh dill
A little grated Gruyère or Emmenthal

What to do:
Heat the oil and butter in a sauteuse over a medium heat and fry the onion until it's soft and translucent. Add the rice and stir it through so every grain gets coated in the fat. Pour in a little stock and stir well, turning up the heat so it stays on a simmer.

Simmer the fish in a little water until it's just cooked, around 4-5 minutes. Lift it out, break it into large flakes with a fork and set it aside. Add the water to the rice, then keep ladling the stock into the rice and stirring until almost all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just turning from al dente. Add the smoked haddock and spring onion and grind in a little black pepper. As soon as the stock is absorbed stir in the cheese and dill and dish up.

Cook's tips:
I've discussed the difference between dyed and undyed smoked haddock before. You won't get the lovely bright yellow colour if you use undyed fish - the colour leaches into the cooking water and the rice takes on the yellow when you add the water to it. Tastewise there is no difference.

I don't bother to add salt as smoked haddock can be salty and there will also be salt in the stock. But, as always, check the seasoning before you dish up and add it if you need it.

Don't use parmesan, the traditional risotto cheese, for this, as the fish will overpower its flavour. I like the Swiss cheese as it adds a nice stringy texture as it melts and it's just strong enough to balance the fish. A medium strong cheddar also works well.