Smoked Hadddock, Leek and Pea Risotto

Aka: Cuddle in a bowl.

It feels like autumn here. Which is just fine, because who needs summer anyway? I might miss the cloudless skies, breakfast in the garden, sun on my face, ice creams on the way home from work and sleeping with my windows open, yes, I might miss that. But creamy, carby food in the heat is just not on, and for carb addicts like me, the crappy weather is a perfect excuse to crack open the arborio.

This risotto is even creamier than normal, due to the milk in the stock, which might sound a bit weird, but it’s not like rice pudding or anything like that; just more rounded and suits the smoky haddock and fresh-tasting peas. This risotto went down extremely well with my greedy guest and although there was a fair bit of standing around, stirring, it was really no trouble over a glass of wine with my guest in the kitchen with me. Cook the fish and the peas separately, as far ahead as you want (or at least in the preceding 24 hours). To serve 2 very generously.

  • 300g smoked haddock or smoked cod
  • 250g arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 large leek, trimmed, washed and then very finely chopped
  • enough milk to cover fish in small pan
  • 1 litre fish or vegetable stock
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 good sprig of thyme
  • 100g frozen peas
  • parmesan cheese, grated, to taste
  • butter
  • salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, put your smoked fish, garlic cloves (smashed with the back of a knife but not chopped), thyme and peppercorns and cover with milk. Over a low heat, bring the milk up to the boil and then immediately remove from the heat and take the fish out of the milk. Leave the other ingredients in the milk as it cools down, to allow the flavours to infuse. This will ensure that there will be a hint of thyme and garlic in the finished dish, without an overbearing flavour. Cook the peas in boiling water as per the packet instructions and drain. If doing these far in advance, then please cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge.

To make the risotto, put milk through a sieve or strainer to remove the aromatics and mix the milk with the stock in a saucepan. You may not need all the liquid, but this is about the right proportion. Heat the stock/milk gently but don’t boil. In another pan, slowly sweat off the leeks in some butter and when soft, add the risotto rice and stir for 2 or 3 minutes over a medium heat. Ladle by ladleful, add the milk/stock, stirring all the time, allowing the rice to absorb each ladle of stock before you add the next. It should take roughly 30-40 minutes to cook the rice. The risotto is cooked when all the rice has swollen and is al dente – al dente to soft, depending on your preference and has stopped absorbing stock. Add the peas, and the fish (flaking it with your fingers from the skin as you go) and give a quick, but gentle stir. Remove from the heat and add the parmesan cheese. Gentle stir again and then serve up, with more parmeasan on top if you like – as we surely do.

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