The first domestic crop of rice was thought to have been planted more than 10,000 years ago and its influence on the food we eat has never wavered. It is a staple food the world over.
Rice has not only influenced iconic dishes, it has been the foundation for many a nation’s entire diet. It is hard to fathom life without sushi, fried rice, risotto and, when done well, rice pudding. The huge cross-section of cultures that depend on rice is a further example of how the cultivation of rice has no barriers. Italy mastered the cultivation of the shorter, starchier grains of rice such as arborio, carnaroli and vialone nano and the main production happens in the Lombardy and Piedmont region, also dubbed the ‘rice bowl’ of Europe. For the perfect risotto rice, look no further than carnaroli, its perfectly creamy exterior and yet still al dente interior provide the signature characteristics of a great risotto. The fragrant scent of Jasmine rice caught the attention of Thailand and is now an integral part of their cuisine. Its delicious Pandang aroma captures the flavours of Thailand and is exported globally. Its not just the economic attributes that make it special to the Thai people, rice is entrenched in Thai culture. Rice is the only crop that has a religious ceremony at each stage of its production and features heavily in cultural celebrations and ceremonies. Rice represents so much more than just a crop or grain that millions of people eat daily; it has become a vehicle for cultural identity, expression and, in some parts of the world, worship.
Baked Saffron Risotto with salsa verde
Serves 4 We love risotto in our house but it isn’t always the most practical on weeknight. Baking the rice has a slightly different result than the traditional method on the stove but it is just as delicious and couldn’t be simpler. The risotto and salsa verde are perfect on their own but made even better with the addition of a pan-fried fillet of salmon. Ingredients 3 cups of good quality chicken or vegetable stock 1 pinch of saffron Extra virgin olive oil 1 brown onion – diced finely 1 garlic clove 2 cups carnaroli rice ½ cup white wine or verjus 70g grated Parmesan cheese Method
- Bring the stock to a simmer and add the saffron to infuse.
- In an ovenproof dish, heat a large glug of olive oil.
- Sauté the onions until translucent and soft, add the garlic and cook for a further three minutes.
- Add the rice and toast for three minutes, stirring constantly to ensure that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.
- Add the wine or verjus and reduce by half before adding the hot stock.
- Bring to a boil, cover and bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is just cooked.
- Remove from the oven and stir through the Parmesan cheese and adjust seasoning to taste.
- Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving with a generous drizzle of salsa verde.
Salsa verde Ingredients 1 large handful of curly leaf parsley and basil 1 clove of garlic 3 anchovy fillets 1 tablespoon capers ½ lemon zest 100mL extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper Method
- Finely chop the herbs, garlic, capers and anchovies.
- Combine with the lemon zest and olive oil.
- Adjust the seasoning and ingredients to taste.