Sunday, 12 July 2009

Smoked Haddock Risotto

I think I have been cooking up a storm because I am kind a sad to leave Pete. Here we go starting the long distance again- that is the feeling I had when I woke up this morning knowing that tomorrow I will boarding a plane out of the crazy Heathrow. Urgg all this packing to do - my stuff is all over his house - and all the organizing to do when I get back to NY. For now I am reading Molly's new book like some one was going to test me on it and avoiding a bit of reality. Speaking of avoiding reality, here is the cook-to-not-deal risotto I made for Pete the other night, its proper name: Smoked Haddock Risotto.

Like I mentioned before our families went on a wee (translates to small in English) trip together and the Cullen Skink (an amazing Scottish soup) we had at most places we could find never dissappointed. I think if it was on the menu we ordered it. It is made with smoked haddock which I love, and if you get it from a certain region of Scotland it is called Arbroath Smokie. IF, and if, the haddock is not smoked in Arbroath you can never call it Arbroath Smokie- I just love that. Scotland is a small country and I love how the Scottish protect what is theirs through legal measures ;) So I bought the haddock in mind to use it for some Skink, but then I remembered one night on the trip when my pops ordered smoked haddock risotto (I guess not Arbroath). So I put the soup on hold and made the risotto. NB: It is really important when you make this recipe to buy un-dyed smoked haddock.

p.s pictures of risotto never do the risotto justice, plus my camera is broken so I am borrowing my moms. Trust me the risotto was goooood.

* Also this is one of those recipes that IS really important to read through all the way before you start. I am teaching you the foundations of risotto here, so listen up ;)

Smoked Haddock Risotto

Serves 4 (depending on who is eating ;)
Cooking time 45-50 minutes

300 grams of Arborio (Italian Risotto Rice)
350 grams of un-dyed smoked haddock, or two filets.
1 white onion
medium sized pot of broth (always homemade or gourmet, never cubes, this time I threw in a carrot, 3 dried bay leaves, the fish skins, celery and salt)
2 -4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 knobs of butter
around 1 cup of dry white wine
freshly ground pepper and sea salt
a generous handful of Parmesan

The funny part is I love making risotto and make it a lot. It was the first thing my mother taught me how to make properly and in our family there are two classics - saffron and spinach - so I am surprised this is the first one I am putting up. Hey at least now you will know I will be coming back to blog about more risotto- did I mention I love risotto, oh who doesn't? The trick to good risotto is it takes time and attention and....drum roll please....the ultimate trick: you always stir in one direction (clockwise) from the onions to the raw rice, to the finished product- never switch directions.

Heat a frying pan or risotto pan with generous glugs of oil (at least 2-4 tablespoons). When the oil is hot (not boiling) add the diced onion and saute for ten minutes until translucent. Then add the first knob of butter, turn up the heat and throw in the rice. You are braising the rice at this point, so the next couple minutes the high heat will brown the rice and lock in that butter-onion flavor. Make sure not to burn the rice just make it a bit golden around the edges. When you feel like it is done then pour in the wine (keeping the temperature up) this will make everything sizzle a bit. Stir clockwise. Allow the wine to burn off and then bring the temperature back down to medium low flame, start to add in some of the broth.

I think it is important to note a couple things here. One, I am not sure a fish broth would be good for thise risotto because smoked haddock has a strong enough flavor, two I mean it when I say don't buy cheap broth. It you have a gourmet store around you I'm sure their broth would be good, but taste it first! And gauge how much salt you had in relation to the salti-ness of the broth. Thirdly, I had grilled my haddock in the oven and then realized I probably should have poached it in the broth water to make the broth stronger. Nevertheless, grilling worked fine and then I removed the skins and added that to the broth.
More important things about the broth: the broth should always be on low heat on another burner, you need to have the broth hot when adding it to the risotto. Start the broth before the risotto so the flavors have had time to merge and mingle. Also when adding the broth to the rice add only around 1/2 cup at a time and make sure you do not add more until the 1/2 cup before has been almost burned off. Don't let the risotto get dry enough that the rice could burn, but do NOT saturate the rice either. If you saturate it even for part of the time it could ruin the rice and make it soggy.

Another trick my Italian nona taught my mom is that if you have any rinds of the Parmesan cheese lying arond then throw them in at the beginning to flavor the rice even more. You of course take them out at the end before serving. Actually my brother and I love them so much sometimes we make our mom keep them in so we can chew on the melty cheese rind that has been coated in rice.
When the rice if half way cooked (around 15-20 minutes) add the torn up pieces of the haddock. You should have cooked the haddock before you started the rice (by either poaching or oven grilling). After it has cooled, you can remove the skins and gently rip the haddock into small pieces. Yet, not too small, you still want pieces you can really taste when you bite into the risotto.Also watch out for bones!

Keep adding the broth slowly for about another 15-20 minutes. The rice, like pasta should be soft yet hard. It should NOT be crunchy but it should have substances, i.e not feel like rice pudding in your mouth. When you suspect it is about 5 minutes away from being done add the handful of Parmesan. When it is ready turn the heat off, add the last knob of butter and give it one last stir. Plate, garnish with parsley you if wish, and enjoy what is probably one of the plates of food I would request if I had one dying wish- Riiisottto (said like my father).

Bon Appetit,


  1. I'm making this tonight for my mum - perfect for a rainy Scottish evening. I'll let you know how it goes! xxxx

  2. Ahhh, just made it...all I can say is YUMMMMM!