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What’s cooking today: Courgette and bacon risotto

Tony Jackman’s courgette and bacon risotto. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Courgette, baby marrow, zucchini; whatever language you use for it, it’s one of my favourite vegetables. And I love all vegetables.

It’s seldom that a courgette is the hero of a dish, which surprises me. I usually cut them diagonally, about 0.5 cm thick, and stir-fry them with garlic, seasoning them with salt, pepper and lemon juice. They need little more than that. They’re best if you let them get a bit of caramelisation. The very last thing you want to do to a courgette is boil or steam it. That’s the kind of baby marrow that people turn their noses up at, for good reason; they become sodden and mushy, horrible. But give it heat and fat and it’s a fabulous green.

But courgettes are also great in a risotto. And so is bacon. So why not use them both…

Ingredients

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 large courgettes, grated

200 g diced bacon, diced small

500 g Arborio rice

Olive oil as needed

250 ml dry white wine

500 ml chicken stock

150 ml cream, perhaps more

Parmesan cheese

Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

Have to hand a jug containing the stock, another holding the wine, and the cream. Have the olive oil bottle handy too, you’ll be using a fair deal of it.

First, heat a little olive oil in a large pan (I use a Le Creuset buffet) and add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook gently, stirring, until the onions colour a little and develop a bit of flavour.

Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until the bacon is a little bit crisp. Stir in all the grated courgettes. Season with salt and black pepper. Transfer the contents of the pan to a container and put the pan on a moderate heat. Don’t wash or wipe out the pan; you want the flavours that have developed at the bottom, they’re going to enhance your risotto.

Add olive oil to coat the base well, then all the rice. Move the oil-coated rice around slowly this way and that with a flat-edged wooden spoon. Add more olive oil if it seems dry. Now add the other ingredients you moved to a container, and stir until well combined, but gently.

Add more olive oil, which gives the rice sheen and coalesces the whole dish. There’s no measuring needed; just watch and taste and decide when you’re happy with it.

Add a little of the wine at a time, while stirring gently. With risotto you should not stir vigorously as the art is for every grain of rice to be intact while al dente. And never a mush. This is not difficult to achieve if you work slowly and watchfully.

Do the same with the stock, a little at a time while moving the contents about slowly with the wooden spoon, until it is used up.

Finally, add the cream in the same manner until it’s all incorporated.

The process, the experts say, should take only about 18 minutes. I do find that it takes a little longer if you work very slowly and carefully; I suspect that professional chefs need to get the job done more quickly, understandably. I’d rather take a few minutes longer and be sure not to overwork it and end up with a mush. 

Grate liberal amounts of Parmesan or Grana Padano over the top once served. Buon appetito. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is the Galliova Food Champion of the Year 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is now available in the DM Shop. Buy it here.

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