Lovage, Fennel and Ricotta Risotto

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Last night, I had no celery to start off a risotto, and so swapped in lovage, as it is from the same family (Apiaceae — parsley, carrots, celery, fennel, caraway, parsnip, coriander etc…) and it was growing in the garden. 

Lovage has a powerful, aniseed-like flavour like a much amplified celery and is delicious with hard boiled eggs and potato salad with capers, and also in soup. If you have not tried it before, taste it before deciding how much to use, as it can overpower other flavours. 

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I cooked this for Sam and his brother Kenza at my parents’ house in Suffolk and they cleaned out the pan, so I thought I’d write it up.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

200g risotto rice

a small bunch of lovage leaves, around 3 heaped tablespoons when roughly chopped

2 bulbs fennel, very finely sliced (I used a mandolin)

2 small onions, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

800ml hot stock (vegetable or chicken or plain water is also fine)

200ml white wine

150g ricotta

100g (or thereabouts) parmesan, grated

1 lemon

unsalted butter

How to make:

Fry 2 cloves of garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil until lightly golden, in a lidded pan, then add the fennel and a pinch of salt. Cook with the lid on, on a low heat until very soft — around 10-15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a separate pan melt a generous knob of butter and add in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, stir and cook on a low heat. After a few minutes of cooking, when the onion is beginning to soften, add the garlic and the lovage. Cook until very soft. 

Add the rice to the onions and stir, covering the rice. Cook for a minute or two, until the rice begins to go translucent, always stirring. 

Add the wine and keep stirring. Let it bubble for a few minutes, until the alcohol has cooked off — always stirring. Then, start adding the stock or water, a ladle at a time. Wait until the previous ladle has absorbed before adding the next. When about two thirds through the stock, stir in the cooked fennel. Then keep adding stock until the rice is cooked al dente — that is to say, cooked but with a bit of bite left in the texture. 

Then, stir in another knob of butter, half of the grated parmesan and crumble in the ricotta and stir. Leave with the lid on to sit for a moment for it all to melt in. 

Season very well with salt — keep adding and tasting until you are happy with levels. Add a grind of pepper and then a good squeeze of lemon juice. 

Spoon onto plates and garnish with extra parmesan if you like, extra lemon, and a few chilli flakes.

Eaten with:

As a sort of starter we had roasted red pepper and anchovy on charred bread, rubbed with garlic and olive oil. 

A delicious green salad with a dressing made by Sam and red wine. 

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