One rainy Sunday morning last month, my family and I headed to the Growers’ Green Farmers’ Market in South Fremantle. I was on the promise of some smoked cod roe from Donsmoke Smokehouse but unfortunately the market was pretty much a wash-out as the rain got progressively heavier. No roe. Oh roe is me!
Determined to bring something home that morning, I left the family waiting in the car and trudged across the marsh-like grassed area with umbrella aloft to see what the remaining stalls held. Through generosity and no doubt a dire need to offload stock quickly, a vegetable stallholder offered up freebies. I scored some broccoli, spring onion and iceberg lettuce.
There was a time in Australia when iceberg lettuce was all you got. Today of course, we have rocket, mizuna, baby spinach, cos and other vartieties of lettuce that all come under the blanket term of salad greens. We’re so spolit for choice now that iceberg is just relegated as default lettuce at Subway or for Mexican Night. Admittedly my freebie iceberg was mainly used for sandwiches later that week.
I must say that it’s quite a challenge getting through one whole head of iceberg lettuce before it starts wilting. A good portion still remained after a week of sandwiches so I decided to try something different. I recalled coming across Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for lettuce risotto and decided to give that a try.
Most people would no doubt baulk at the idea of cooking with iceberg lettuce but given it holds its crispness surprisingly well during cooking, it makes for a rather pleasant alternative to using spinach which tends to just blend into the risotto. I very much enjoyed the crunch with every spoonful.
For Thermomix users, I also took the opportunity with this risotto to adjust the measurements of the basic risotto recipe in the Everyday Cooking book to suit a solo or duo. I find that even the smaller version (using 350g of rice to 900g of stock) yielded way too much risotto for two adults. Leftover risotto isn’t horrible but it’s not great either :| This will give you at least 4 regular servings or 3 hearty ones.
Lettuce Risotto (please refer to original recipe if not using a Thermomix)
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2 shallots, peeled
30g olive oil
250g Arborio rice
50g white wine
750g chicken stock (or equivalent water + stock concentrate)
1 cup of chopped lettuce (you can use TMX on Speed 3 for a few seconds but I prefer to use a knife)
60g frozen peas
2 spring onions, chopped finely
10g knob of butter (if desired)
30g Parmesan cheese
salt/pepper to taste
To Make: Chop up garlic and shallots on Speed 4 for a few seconds. Add olive oil and sautee for 2 minutes on 100C, Speed 1. Insert Butterfly and add rice and white wine. Cook on 100C for 2 minutes on Soft/Reverse. Add chicken stock and continue cooking on 100C for 15 minutes on Soft/Reverse. If risotto has reached desired consistency* at the end of 15 minutes, add lettuce, peas and spring onion and cook for another minute on the same setting. Pour risotto into server or dish and stir in butter and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste.
* Risotto is a tricky thing as we all know. After the recommended time, the risotto should appear watery still but the rice itself should be largely cooked through with a touch of resistance on the teeth. The rice will continue to absorb moisture so even if watery, risotto should be served up fairly soon after it’s cooked. I recommend keeping an eye on things towards the 13/14 minute mark. Not all rice behave the same after all.