Up until last year, I would have waited anxiously for March to come around, the first of the glorious months for me, the spring revival. I would have chosen, without even thinking, lighter clothes, defying the cold mornings still covered in mist, just for the satisfaction of wearing something frilly and more in-tune with the new season, which was more often than not late to bloom. I would have perused the market stalls in search of the first peas, broad beans and asparagus, already tired of winter vegetables.
This year, on the other hand, I’m trying to stop time from running away from me, but it’s a hopeless battle, as if I wanted to stop a mountain stream from flowing using my bare hands. I wistfully look at my woollen sweaters which I bought at the beginning of the season: I wore them once, winter was far too mild for them. At the market, I was taken aback by the explosion of soft greens, so I look for the bright colours of the citrus fruits, alongside the reassuring sight of cabbages and pumpkins.
If spring has arrived, that means I am already dangerously behind on the schedule I set out for myself at the beginning of the year. I had promised myself that I would have the whole of winter to rest and to organize my work, given that busy season was upcoming, and instead spring is already on the horizon and I’m still stuck in Christmas mode.
In March, the cooking classes have gained momentum once again, boosted by Easter which falls at the end of the month. The tourists are already around, the Tuscan towns are awakening from their winter slumber, people open the shutters, the first vases are appearing on window ledges. An air of peace still reigns, but you can feel the agitation which will inevitably increase until the high season explodes into action.
The Juls’ Kitchen Studio is proceeding well and we would like to be able to finish everything by April: at the end of the month we have, in fact, scheduled the next Fettunta Party, the best way to inaugurate our new space for courses and workshops. The new studio will take us down to ground level and this will lead me to enjoy greater contact with the garden, the vegetable garden and everything that happens round about. I shudder with excitement, but also fear the time of the move.
We are now entering the final stages of the book which ought to be finished soon and I wish I could have another few months to be able to finish it off calmly. On the other hand, I can’t wait for the moment when I’ll take the last photo, write the last recipe and can then finally think about the introduction and thank yous.
I’m in denial about the evidence, ignoring the arrival of spring and instead I’m still concentrating on the recipes which have the ability to warm your soul, to reassure your fears and which make me feel grounded in my world, in control of events.
Prawn risotto with prawn bisque
Here’s the second recipe inspired by the Campofiorin wine from Masi. It’s a recipe which is well suited to my search for reassurance and comfort in the kitchen. This prawn risotto has two special ingredients which raise it up to a higher level compared to other fish risottos: for one, there’s the choice of brown rice, and secondly there’s the use of a prawn bisque in the cooking.
The brown rice has been my choice in the past few months when I’ve made risotto. I feel it has more body and provides a more enterprising touch. The bisque, or fish stock, is cooked slowly allowing you to extract all the flavour from the prawn heads and tails. A small number of ingredients can therefore create an elegant, full-bodied dish, suitable for a fancy dinner.
Ingredients for the bisque
- 400 g of whole prawns
- 3 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil
- ½ white onion
- 2 to matoes
- 1 sprig of parsley
- ½ glass of white wine
- 500 ml of water
Ingredients for the risotto
- 200 g of brown rice suitable for risotto
- ½ white onion
- 3 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of one blood orange
- 1 l of hot water, slightly salted
- 50 g of butter
- Black pepper
- Start by preparing the prawn bisque. Clean the prawns and rinse them under running water. Put the cleaned prawns to one side, the heads and tails to another.
- In a saucepan, heat a few spoonfuls of oil with the chopped onion, tomatoes cut into quarters and the parsley. When the onion is golden, add the prawn heads and tails and toast them over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon and crushing them well to release all the flavour. Add the white wine and, when this has been soaked up, add the water. Let it cook on a medium-to-low heat for around an hour.
- Half way through the cooking time for the bisque, start to prepare the risotto: using brown rice, you’ll need around 50 minutes for cooking time.
- Finely chop the onion. Let it fry in a few spoonfuls of oil. When it’s soft, add the brown rice to the pan and toast it over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. When the rice has been well toasted, add the orange juice and let it absorb.
- Start cooking the rice by adding, bit by bit, a ladle of hot water and briskly mixing the rice until it becomes creamy in consistency. When the rice has absorbed the water, add another little bit.
- When the bisque is ready, sieve it to collect the shells and heads, pushing it through the sieve in order to collect all the liquid.
- Finish off cooking the rice using the prawn bisque, which will give it an intense flavour.
- When the rice is al dente, take it off the heat, add the chopped prawns, leaving some aside to decorate the dish. The prawns will cook quickly with the heat of the rice and will remain soft and tender.
- Stir the butter into the risotto off the heat and in the meantime, cook the prawns you left aside in a pan, with a knob of butter until they are golden.
- Dish up the risotto, decorating it with the prawns cooked in butter and finish with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Now I want to share some interesting articles I read recently, some good reading for the weekend that I will spend, once again, working and cooking to try to catch up with deadlines.
- From The Washington Post, How to purge 30 years of cookbooks? Yet another cleansing of cookbooks is approaching, there are several books that do not interest me anymore or that simply have been replaced in my heart by newcomers. I will bring just a selection of them in the new studio, it is the time to do a new spring cleaning. This is a good article that’ll gives some advice.
- From The Guardian, a very interesting article that sheds a light on the new trend of clean eating. Purity, cleanliness, guilt and modern diets. To class something as clean is to imply something else is dirty. To talk about health foods is to incriminate other foods as unhealthy.
- If you are looking for some inspiration, this article about Amanda Hesser, founder of Food52, is perfect for you: How This Entrepreneur’s Food Obsession Became a $6 Million Business.
- Speaking of Food52, this is a quick article to find out who matters now in the world of food, who are the thirteen people you should know, including scientists, chefs, producers and activists. 13 People to Know in the Food World Right Now.