Weekends are for rituals.
When I open the cafe on Saturday mornings I set up the coffee machine, put out the signs and unwrap the cakes. And I wait for my first customers, a wonderfully generous old couple who always order two triple shot extra hot flat whites and always leave a tip. They sit at the table in front of the fire, eat breakfast, and chat. They still chat, even after so many years, so many breakfasts, together. I think that may be my favourite thing about them.
Then the butcher rings in an order for an extra large flat white, an extra large chai latte and two small strong lattes. While I wait for his croissant to toast (because delivery is also part of the ritual), I make a large takeaway latte for another regular who reads the paper while I make his coffee and who is becoming more and more chatty with every passing Saturday.
These movements are part of each of our weekend rituals, and important each in their own way. Perhaps a small way, a large coffee to get through the early morning meat orders. A brisk walk to get the paper, punctuated by caffeine and general comments on the weather. Or a larger way, a social occasion. And eggs benedict.
And my ritual. Stretching milk and tamping coffee. The quick dash to the butcher shop, coffees and croissant balancing on a black tray. My own coffee, and bites of breakfast taken in between greetings and customer orders.
When I have a Saturday off, my ritual is a little different. I wake up later. I am slower, breakfast is an ‘outside in the sun’ affair. The local farmer’s market often features in my Saturdays off. Will and I collect the week’s vegetables and drink really good coffee from a man in a caravan. Bella collects friendly noises from other market regulars and we chat with our neighbour, who is there selling organic home-raised seedlings.
There is ritual in risotto as well. The slicing of onion, the smell of steaming white wine, the gentle stirring of ever thickening rice. It’s slow and methodic, calming. It fills the kitchen with smells of comfort; the perfect winter’s Sunday supper.
This risotto is all about the winter garden. There isn’t much growing at the moment, just some silverbeet and kale and broccoli. A bit of rocket and a lot of parsley. To celebrate the garden’s efforts throughout the coldest part of the year, I made this risotto with everything I could find there. And some almonds. Because, why not?
This recipe is entirely up to how generous your garden (or shopping basket) is. And, of course, your favourite green vegetables.
winter feast risotto with almond gremolata- serves three people for one dinner and one slightly smaller next day lunch
1 white onion
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
1 cup of white wine
1 litre chicken/veg stock (plus a little extra water)
a large bowl of green vegies (I use silverbeet, kale, broccolini, rocket)
about 1 cup of grated parmesan, plus extra
juice of one large lemon
for the almond gremolata:
zest of one large lemon
about 1 cup of parsley
3/4 cup of almonds
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep warm over a low heat (you may need to boil some water in the kettle to add to the stock later).
Chop your greens into smallish, evenly sized pieces- you want them to be able to cook in a couple of minutes.
Finely chop your lemon zest, parsley and almonds. Crush your garlic cloves. Set this all aside for now.
Finely chop the onion. Heat a fairly generous glug of olive oil in a large pan. When the oil is hot, turn the heat to medium low and gently saute the onion til it is soft and translucent.
Add the rice and stir for about a minute, until the grains of rice look like they have little white dots in their centres. Pour over the wine and gently stir til it is absorbed. Now start adding the stock by the ladleful, making sure each addition is absorbed before adding the next. Stir occasionally to evenly mix and prevent sticking.
Once the rice is almost ready (you’re looking for a thick creamy risotto with just al dente rice), add any greens that will take a few minutes to cook, then stir in the leafy greens and the parmesan.
About five minutes before your rice is ready, make the almond gremolata. Heat a little olive oil in a small frypan. Add the garlic, lemon zest, parsley, almonds, chilli flakes and a little salt. Cook over a medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and crispy (careful not to burn the garlic).
Serve your risotto in generous bowls, topped with some almond gremolata, extra cheese and parsley, salt and pepper and a drizzle of lemon juice.
Look forward to leftovers for lunch the next day.