Delia Smith's Winter Collection
MARCH 14 2012

Risotto is hard, right? It shackles you to the stove for 25 - 30 minutes of continual stirring and brothing and stirring and brothing, right? Wrong! Turns out, after just a few minutes of sauteing, I can stick everything in the oven and ignore it for 35 minutes and suddenly have risotto! Well... kind of risotto. More like baked rice. Which is good, but lacks that all important sauciness and texture contrast of risotto. The rice was flavorful, ooey-gooey and I ate it up, but calling it risotto is a bit of a stretch. Maybe I'm splitting hairs here, but I can so I will.

One must really, really like tomatoes to enjoy this dish. It includes three varieties of tomato and basically slaps you in the face with it's tomatoey flavor. Historically, I haven't been a big fan of tomatoes, but my scorn is mostly directed towards raw tomatoes (except for luscious Mortgage Lifters fresh picked from my garden on a hot August afternoon, drizzled with olive oil, a dash of balsamic and a liberal sprinkle of sea salt). Thankfully, tonight's dish featured roasted tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and sun-dried tomato paste; none of which are raw and icky but are instead rich and packed with umami.

First step, roast 1-1/2 pounds tomatoes. I pulled a pound of frozen garden tomatoes from the freezer and cheated a little by supplementing this with a handful of tomatoes I had roasted at the height of tomato season when I was drowning in Romas then tossed into the freezer, hoping to find a use for them at some point.

reminds me of summer

poor, blackened tomatoes

 The ones I did roast today got the Delia treatment of salt, pepper, olive oil, a slice of garlic and a basil leaf, dutifully dredged in olive oil. I'm supposed to roast them until blackened around the edges, but I think I took it a little too far. Oh well, just added a few extra from my stockpile to make up for the poor, obliterated wedges. My blackened tomatoes are now pureed and set aside.

Next saute onion in butter (best. smell. ever.) until soft then stir in the rice and a few minutes later the saffron & wine. Now to take this rice into the tomato zone and stir in my tomato puree and both forms of sun-dried tomatoes. I don't have and have never seen sun-dried tomato paste, so I made my own by pureeing a scoop of the sun-dried tomatoes. Worked like a charm!

saffron and wine

onions, butter and wine... yummmm

in goes the tomato puree

Into the oven it goes and I head back into the living room to confirm that once again, the Blazers are sucking and it's time to watch something else while my rice risottoes itself. The lovely aroma of butter poached onions slowly transforms into rich tomato goodness and, "ding", it's ready. Paired with a crunchy kale salad, it's time for meatless Wednesday!

into the oven with you!

baked tomato rice... tastes like pizza!

Yum. Rich, roasty and the rice has retained a nice toothiness. Tastes like pizza! I do like this baked rice, but still cannot bring myself to call it risotto.


Serves 2 - 4

Oven-roasted tomatoes, which have been slightly blackened and become really concentrated in flavour, are the mainstay of this superb dish. Add to them some sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan, a hint of saffron and some creamy, nutty rice and you have one of the nicest risottos imaginable.

For the roasted tomatoes:
1½ lb tomatoes
1 dessertspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 fat clove garlic, chopped

½ oz basil leaves
Salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the risotto: 
2 level teaspoons sun-dried tomato paste
4 oz sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 oz butter
1 red onion, finely chopped
8 oz Italian carnaroli rice
¼ level teaspoon saffron stamens
10 fl oz dry white wine
2 oz Parmesan, freshly grated, plus 1 oz extra shaved into flakes

1 tablespoon double cream
Salt and freshly milled black pepper.


Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.

First of all, skin the tomatoes by pouring boiling water over them, then leave them for 1 minute exactly before draining them and slipping the skins off (if they're too hot protect your hands with a cloth). Now slice each tomato in half and arrange the halves on the roasting tray, cut side uppermost, then season with salt and pepper, sprinkle a few droplets of olive oil on each one, followed by the chopped garlic, then finally top each one with half a basil leaf dipped in oil first to get a good coating. Now pop the whole lot into the oven and roast the tomatoes for 50-60 minutes or until the edges of the tomatoes are slightly blackened.

After that, remove them from the oven and then put the dish in the oven to pre-heat it, reducing the temperature to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) first. Now put the tomatoes and all their juices into a processor and blend.

Next, melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan and fry the onion for about 7 minutes until it is just tinged brown at the edges. After that, add the rice and stir to coat all the grains with the buttery juices. Now crush the saffron stamens to a powder with a pestle and mortar, then add this to the rice, together with the wine. Bring it up to boiling point, let it bubble for a minute then add the tomato paste and 12 fl oz (330 ml) boiling water. Give it all a good stir, season with salt and pepper and then add all the processed tomato mixture plus the sun-dried tomatoes. Stir again and bring it just up to simmering point, then transfer the whole lot to the warm dish, return the dish to the oven and, using a timer, give it 35 minutes. After that stir in the grated Parmesan and give it another 5-10 minutes – what you'll have to do here is to bite a grain of rice to check when it's ready. It should be tender but still retain some bite. Just before serving, stir in the cream and top each portion with shavings of Parmesan and any leftover basil leaves.

This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection.

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