A couple of years later I started going out with an Italian. His family lived in a town outside Milan and owned a Deli. I literally had the contents of an entire Italian Deli at my disposal but because I was a devout veggie I didn't touch any of the lovely cured meats, homemade ravioli and the like. Now I must tell you that I wasn't a veggie because I disliked meat. Oh no, I bloody loved the stuff - in fact salami is in my top ten foods. I was the only veggie I know who loves meat and spent 12 years denying myself the pleasure of it.
Each time I visited Italy it was an exercise in deprivation and frustration. His family thought I was odd anyway. I had very short hair - think Dolores O'Riordan from the Cranberries - and my shoe choice of the time was Vegan Doc Martens. This did not sit well with the fur-wearing, stilleto teetering, long "blonde" haired clones. Anyway I digress...........
The next time I tasted risotto my "father-in-law", who was a wonderful cook, make me a totally plain risotto topped with shavings of truffle. Oh my god - it was sensational! Truffle is in my food top five. So my love affair with risotto began and it's never ended. The recipe below is one of my favourites.
As to my rather long foray into vegetarianism........
Eventually it all got too much for me and I had to give in. Nowadays I eat meat with gay abandon and make up for all those years of ordering crappy vegetarian options in swish restaurants. Nowadays I buy organic and am still concerned about animal welfare. To all those real life-long veggies I'm a heretic but what can I say ...... I'm weak.
Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic
Put into heavy bottom pot with first knob of butter and add a small splash of olive oil
Saute until transparent over a very low heat – approx 10 minutes – stirring very few minutes
Grill bacon until well done and the fat is quite brown. Cut off fat using scissors and chop or cut into small-ish bit size pieces – set aside
Saute the sliced leek with the second knob of butter - for now more than a few minutes, they should still be a little crunchy as they will continue to cook once added to the risotto
If using a stock cube make up stock with boiling water , if using fresh stock bring to boil, either in microwave or in a separate pot on the stove
Add rice to onion and garlic mixture and turn up heat from low to medium – stir rice for 2 minutes until well coated with butter and rice is just starting to turn transparent
Set a timer for 15 minutes – then immediately
Add wine and stir rice continuously until the wine has been absorbed by the rice – heat should be medium, so that the rice bubbles nicely but not vigorously
Add a generous splash of stock [about a soup ladle full] and stir until almost completely absorbed by the rice
Continue in this way until the timer goes off – stirring all the time
Now do the bite test – the rice should have a little bit of bite in the middle and also remember the rice will continue to cook once it comes off the heat and you stir in the bacon and leeks
Stir in the bacon and leeks and once combined add the grated parmesan cheese
Add a generous grinding of black pepper
Stir a few times to combine and then add the final knob of butter
Stir a few times and leave to rest for two minutes
I don't add extra salt because the stock cube and parmesan cheese make it salty enough for my taste
If you've ordered risotto in a number of restaurants you'll know that everyone seems to have their own interpretation of how dry or wet a risotto should be. Personally I like mine not to be stodgy. Kind of like if you stood a teaspoon up in a pile of it, it would fall over slowly as opposed to standing up straight.