Monday, September 10, 2012

Roasted Red Capsicum Risotto with Feta and Pancetta

Isn't the power of smell crazy!? Today when I was roasting the capsicums for this recipe, I was bombarded with the most amazing feelings - a combination of Christmas dinner at my friend Pauline's house with some special lady-friends, the moment I bought these gorgeous shoes, and cruisey Summer nights spent with the front door open and the sea breeze sweeping through our home. One of my favourite things to cook in the Summer is roasted capsicum bruschetta, and to me, the scent of roasting capsicum is laced with these amazing memories. Smell is a powerful thing!

Speaking of roasting capsicums, for this recipe you need to roast and peel your own capsicums! Which might sound like a huge extra step, but it's not. Here's how simple:

Step 1: Put halved raw capsicums under your grill/broiler:

Step 2: Grill until the skin is blackened:

You'll know they're roasted enough when you can pinch the skin and it starts to lift off. Then you just refrigerate them in a snap lock bag/bowl with plastic wrap, and once they're cool you can just pull that skin right off! I roasted and refrigerated them when I had a free 10 minutes this afternoon, so they were nice and cool by the time I got around to peeling them. Now we've got that little cooking how-to covered...

Roasted Red Capsicum Risotto with Feta and Pancetta

1 litre salt-reduced chicken stock (I make my own, but you don't have to, obviously!!)
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
3x red capsicums, halved, roasted and peeled
1/4 cup pine nuts, roasted
150g pancetta, thinly sliced
1.5 cups arborio rice
100g baby spinach
100g soft feta, crumbled (my fave is Danish, which you can purchase by weight at the Woolworths Deli!)
1/3 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
Extra feta and baby basil leaves, to garnish

1. Place stock, garlic and 2 cups cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a simmer, then reduce heat to low.
2. Meanwhile, place one third of the roasted capsicum (two halves) in a food processor with pine nuts. Process until it resembles a chunky paste. Thinly slice remaining capsicum.
3. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook until slightly crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.
4. Heat remaining oil in pan. Add rice. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until coated. Add 1/3 cup stock mixture. Cook, stirring, until mixture has absorbed. Repeat with remaining stock mixture (1/3 cup at a time) until rice is tender. Stir in pancetta, sliced capsicum, capsicum paste and baby spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute or until heated through. Remove from heat, stir in crumbled feta and chopped basil. Serve garnished with extra feta and baby basil leaves.

Note: the feta brings a lot of salt to this meal, so always opt for salt-reduced stock if using store-bought.


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