For his most recent supper club, James Ramsden returned to comforting food from western Europe. Dessert was a glorious rice pudding made with risotto rice and finished with chestnut jam.
Last night found us in the relatively more familiar realm of Italian food. January had consisted of Scandinavian menus that included toasted hay ice cream and coffee-roast celeriac
, and a couple of vaguely Korean nights involving sous-vide octopus
and an almost inhumane amount of sake
. It was fun, but as someone who grew up with pasta, it was rather comforting to return to western Europe.
Not that we settled for bruschetta, bolognese and tiramisu. The starter, or primo,
was baccala mantecato with pickled celery on sourdough toast. You soak salt cod to desalinate, poach it in milk, then mash the bejeezus out of it with the milk and garlic oil. We used Florence Knight’s
recipe. It’s glorious. The pickled celery made a good foil.
Sam made several generations of nonne
turn like flour mills in their graves by using gyoza wrappers for ravioli. He stuffed them (the ravioli, not the grannies) with ‘nduja
– a spreadable, spicy sausage – squash, and goat cheese, and finished the slippery pillows with toasted pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, brown butter and, um, seaweed. The best kind of inauthentic dish.
The main course was neck of lamb with salsa verde and other bits and pieces, more of which next week, and then risotto for pudding. Or rather, rice pudding but made with risotto rice, and finished with chestnut jam, which I made but which you can buy, some chocolate pieces that vaguely looked like truffle, and frozen fennel shortbread crumbs. Simplify or tweak at will – the rice pudding is the main thing.
Risotto pudding with chestnut jam, chocolate ‘truffles’ and fennel crumbs
100g dark chocolate
For the rice pudding
25g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
200g arborio rice
1 litre of whole milk, warmed
Blend the shortbread with fennel seeds and a pinch of salt until crumby. Freeze.
Gently melt the chocolate, agitating the pan, until about 52C. Helps if you have a thermometer. We didn’t and it wasn’t perfect and glossy, which didn’t matter hugely but just so you know. When at this temp, or thereabouts, take off the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Smash up some ice roughy. Pour over the chocolate and leave to set, then take off the ice and store in the fridge.
Melt the butter and add the sugar and vanilla. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then add the rice and stir for a minute or so. You could add some white wine, I didn’t. As with risotto, add the milk a glug at a time, stirring nearly constantly. Continue until all the milk is incorporated and the rice is cooked – about 20 minutes. Take off the heat and rest for a few minutes.
Serve with the chestnut jam, chocolate, and fennel shortbread crumbs.