Guido told me there is something very relaxing and therapeutic about stirring round a risotto but it’s only now I think I may have got the point of it. Last night in our kitchen he initially tried to draw the analogy that cooking Italian Arborio rice is the equivalent of culinary transcendental meditation. Only rather than completely emptying your mind and having a eureka moment you get to transform a handful of simple ingredients into a quick and satisfying supper. Now that’s what I’d call enlightenment.
“Why do all of your recipes start with melting a very large slice of unsalted butter?” I asked Guido.
“Because,” he said, “everything tastes better that way.”
“Okay, but should I stir anti-clockwise or clockwise?”
I asked that awkwardly holding a wooden spoon and staring hopefully into the bottom of the pan. Guido looked at me strangely. I suppose it must have been a bit like being the driver of a bus who suddenly asks the passengers if any of them know which is the brake pedal. When I cook, everybody around me needs nerves of steel.
“It really doesn’t matter as long as you’re consistently rotating,” he told me with a reassuring pat on the back.
Consistently rotating? I nodded enthusiastically. I tried to look like I knew what he was talking about so I slowly ran a finger down the opened page of his battered and stain splashed recipe notebook. I could see words like chopping, frying and simmering but there was definitely nothing in there about rotating. I sucked the end of the spoon.
“That means stirring, you big dummy,” said Guido.
What can I tell you? That particular part turned out to be the easiest. Despite being under watchful instruction it was when Guido started telling me what else to throw into the pot that I started having nagging doubts about my cooking ability.
“Relax. Why don’t you just think about this in another way. Pretend you aren’t cooking. Imagine you’re making love with the ingredients,” said Guido in a way that only he could. This is the same guy who once seduced me with a zucchini.
I thought about Tuesday night when we’d both last had sex and, whilst there was definitely butter involved, I couldn’t remember Guido sticking an onion anywhere.
Go with the flow, I thought. I closed my eyes and started to rotate whilst thinking as lasciviously as I could about anything hot and steamy. Something started to work.
Passionately chop one onion. Caress 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a thick seductive slice of unsalted butter until hot. Add the chopped onion and fry tantalisingly until light golden (about 7 minutes). Add a pack of voluptuous lardons. Fry until crisp. Add 300g of joyous risotto rice and spurt in 1 litre of hot vegetable or chicken stock. Rotate in an anti-clock wise or clock wise direction (whichever floats your boat people) for 5 minutes then reduce heat and simmer covered for about 15-20 minutes until the rice is lovingly tender and you are hot under the collar. Drop in 100g of frozen peas for added excitement with a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer for 3 minutes – if you can hang out that long. Serve romantically in warm bowls with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
Honestly, I’d say this risotto was actually better than making out.