Less than two weeks to Christmas! Or as we’re counting at no 41, less than two weeks to our annual Christmas gathering. We take our parties seriously here – food, drinks, lighting, where to put the coat rack – all are discussed in minute detail, agreeing what has worked well in the past and what we’d like to try this time round.
At Christmas we stick to canapés. With anywhere from thirty to seventy people feasting, its the easiest way to feed a crowd. However canapés need a lot of preparation. This week its all about lists: what to serve, what to make and when, what to buy. Its also about freezing ahead. Next week I’ll stack up on sleep before spending three days frantically chopping and mixing, rolling and filling, salting and seasoning. All three fridges will be stacked to the rafters.
All this preparation means weekday feasts need to be simple – its about digging in the fridge and creating a meal from what I can find. I often turn to risotto at times like these: all you need is an onion, some stock and arborio or carnaroli rice. Tonight I used six rashers of bacon and the end of a carton of double cream along with garlic, eggs and parmesan to make a carbonara risotto. Simple, comforting and filling.
- 1 litre stock (preferably homemade, I used chicken)
- 100ml double cream
- 3 egg yolks
- 60g freshly grated parmesan, plus more to serve
- splash olive oil
- 6 rashers bacon, fat removed, cut into reasonably sized pieces
- ½ large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (less if you're not a garlic fiend)
- a decent knob of butter (I think about 10g)
- 1 cup risotto rice (see notes)
- 1 small glass white wine or dry vermouth if you have some
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat your stock gently over a low heat.
- Mix together the double cream, egg yolks and parmesan and set aside.
- In a medium sized saute pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry your bacon pieces until crispy over a highish heat (see notes).
- To keep the crispiness, remove the bacon at this stage and set aside until the risotto is cooked - although I don't always bother.
- Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. At this point I like to add a knob of butter.
- Add the rice and swirl around in the melted butter. Add the glass of wine/vermouth and stir as it is absorbed by the rice.
- Turn the heat down to low and slowly add your stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring pretty constantly, waiting until the previous ladleful is absorbed before adding the next.
- It'll take about twenty minutes for the rice to absorb enough stock so it is soft with a touch of crunch (think al dente pasta) - you may not need all the stock.
- Taste and season with salt if necessary (depending on your choice of bacon and stock).
- Turn the heat off, add the parmesan, egg and cream mix and stir to combine.
- Serve topped with lots of black pepper, some freshly grated parmesan, and the crispy bacon (if you were stylistic enough to remove it at the beginning)