I think learning to make my first risotto was one of the steps that launched me into the world of real cooking. I’d seen so many TV chefs making fancy looking dishes and thought they sounded so involved and elaborate as to be out of reach to the common home cook. So when I first decided to throw caution to the wind and have a go myself, It was with great delight and virtual high fives that I managed to make something actually come out the way it looked in the books.
These days though, I’m almost reaching risotto overkill. It’s still my goto dish when I can’t think of anything else to cook, but it doesn’t hold the same interest as it used to, to the point where it’s almost getting a little passe. I whip out my usual set of ingredients, follow the standard mantra of onions, garlic, leek, butter, rice, wine, and stock, and away we go. Add a bit of this, a bit of that… more stock, and it’s all done.
So I won’t bore you with the details of how I made this dish, other than to say check out any of my other risotto recipes for a more indepth explanation of the process. I think the name says it all really…
Fennel, Lime & Tatsoi Risotto with Rare Spiced Backstrap of Lamb
Points of interest are that I used backstrap of lamb, which is one of the tenderest, juiciest, most deliciousousest (I just wrote that you make you all sound like freaks while you’re reading this) cuts of lamb you will find. It’s not cheap mind… It comes in long thin pieces and was $35/kg from Mondo’s in Inglewood… I have yet to find a cheap Chinese butcher equivalent because apparently they aren’t so keen on lamb.
I basically seasoned the lamb strips with my normal quasi-middle eastern spice profile of olive oil, cumin, fennel, coriander seeds, and lots of salt and pepper. Then seared it quickly in a hot pan with a little butter on both sides… Not for too long as it’s quite a lean piece of meat, and should be served towards rare (in my carnivorous opinion).
Other notes were the lime and fennel in the risotto. I added quite a bit of lime zest and then the juice of a whole lime to lighten the risotto up. I didn’t want it to be too heavy as the lamb would be there for that. The fennel was added later on so it didn’t break down entirely, just got quite soft, and then some Tatsoi was stirred through right at the last minute. You might be familiar with Tatsoi as a salad ingredient. It’s a leafy asian green related to bok choy somehow (I think she married his uncles second cousin)… and it has a real peppery kick to it. Something a bit different anyway.
It all turned out so nicely that I made it twice in the same week :) When food tastes this nice, you can call me passe anyday…