I’ve always had a bit of an antagonistic relationship with Christmas. Throughout December, the festive season and I eye each other with suspicion, circling each other like hawks as I desperately scour the internet attempting to figure out what to buy my loved ones (not for me the anguished Christmas-Eve dash around my local shopping centre. I’m still scarred from the time I did that the world’s worst post-office-Christmas-party-hangover back in 2006.) Then, I finally relent and give into the glow of bad jumpers, unsatisfying mince pies and an unending chorus of ‘Wonderful Christmastime.’ This year, I know the exact time and date I will be filling myself full of Christmas cheer – 12.00pm on Friday when I finish work for two whole glorious weeks. During this period, I intend to do nothing apart from lie on my sofa watching the Darts, pickling myself in good wine and stuffing myself full of the finest pork products. Andy Williams was right – Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.
Until then, I am frantically trying to use up all the leftover odds and ends in my fridge so I can stuff it full of cheese and cheap Prosecco. Last night, I found two shrivelled looking parsnips huddling together at the bottom of my vegetable box, so decided to use them as part of a tasty risotto. Parsnip risotto may sound a bit odd, but I’ve seen Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall make a dish similar to this, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me. As it is, the parsnips are caramelised in a mixture of butter and olive oil until they turn brown, soft and sweet. Rice is toasted, wine is added, and chicken stock slowly ladled in until you’re left with a large bowl of soft melting comfort, flecked through with tiny green dashes of rosemary and thyme.
This risotto is the perfect thing to make if you’re looking to use up any leftover Christmas vegetables. Yes, it may look a bit pale and wan, but pale food can be interesting too. Besides, (wo)man can’t live on handfuls of Celebrations and turkey sandwiches alone this festive season. Merry Christmas.
HERBED PARSNIP RISOTTO (Serves Two)
You will need:
- Two medium sized parsnips, peeled and cut into rounds the thickness of a pound coin
- Two shallots (the small round ones, not the banana ones), peeled and diced
- Three cloves of garlic, diced
- 200g Arborio rice
- One glass of Italian white wine
- 1.5 pints of good quality chicken stock, heated
- 1 tsp Rosemary (preferably fresh, but don’t worry if you’ve only got the dried stuff)
- 1/2 tsp Thyme
- Salt and Pepper to season
- A healthy amount of parmesan, to serve
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Sauté the parsnips over a gentle heat for three minutes until they are beginning to brown at the edges.
- Add the chopped shallots and garlic, and cook for another two minutes. Once everything is soft, add the Arborio rice to the pan, and coat in the mixture. Allow the rice toast lightly for a minute until it begins to turn translucent.
- Pour in the glass of wine, and stir until fully incorporated. Then, add the hot stock, ladleful by ladleful, until it is all adsorbed and the rice is creamy and tender. Don’t be afraid to keep stirring the pan and tasting the mixture during this process, seasoning where appropriate.
- Stir in the rosemary, thyme and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately with the rest of the wine.