Can beetroot be enjoyed without butter and cheese? Try this risotto and then decide. The beetroot gives the dish a natural earthy sweet flavour, as well as a striking colour, which contrasts nicely with the mellow heat of the Rose Harissa Pesto. The pesto is packed with sun dried tomato as well as chilli, giving the risotto extra depth. For a quicker meal, forgo the roasted beetroots, and if it doesn’t have to be vegan, some sharp tangy cheese grated over the top would work perfectly.
3 or 4 golden or candy-striped beetroot (if not available, substitute with regular purple beetroot instead
2 medium purple beetroots, peeled and coarsely grated
2 leeks, outer tough skin removed, washed, then diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
6 tbsp Early Harvest Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
100ml red wine (white wine can be substituted)
1 litre vegetable stock
3 tbsp Rose Harissa Pesto
½ fresh lemon
1 small bunch on chives, finely chopped (optional)
Heat your oven to 180C. Make sure the golden or candy beetroots are clean, then wrap them up in foil and drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil over them, followed by a few pinches of salt. Wrap up tightly, place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 90 minutes, or until the point of a sharp knife can go all the way through to the middle. When cool enough to handle, peel the beetroots using your fingers and kitchen paper, then cut into small wedges or chunks, season with salt and pepper then place on back on the baking tray and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, so that the edges begin to crispen up.
Once the coloured beetroots are cooked or are near to being cooked, begin the risotto. Place a medium saucepan on a medium to high heat, add 5 tbsp olive oil, then add the leeks, garlic and a few pinches of salt. Stir to coat everything in oil and once cooking, turn the heat down to medium so that the leeks soften and sweeten but do not colour, around 10 minutes. Now add the grated beetroot and another good pinch of salt and continue to cook till softened and dry, around 10 minutes. Whilst the base is cooking, heat the vegetable stock up to a simmer in a small saucepan.
Add the rice to the leek and beetroot mix, season well with salt and turn up the heat to between medium and high. Stir to coat the rice and cook for 1 minute, to lightly toast the rice. Add the red wine and keep stirring till the pan is dry again. Now add about 200 ml of hot stock and continue to stir, turning the heat to around medium, so the rice is gently bubbling. Keep stirring till all the stock in the pan has been absorbed, then add another 150ml or so. The constant stirring causes the rice to release starch, which gives risotto its famous creamy texture.
Again, once the rice is dry, add another 150 ml of stock and keep stirring. Taste the rice and if it tastes a little bland, add a pinch salt. Seasoning the rice during the cooking will always give you a better flavour than only seasoning at the end. Once you have added around ¾ of the stock, the rice should nearly be cooked, so try it to check. It should have lost it chalky hardness, but still be a little firm. Once you are happy with how cooked it is, turn the heat to low, add the pesto and a squeeze of the lemon. Cover with a lid and leave for a minute or two then vigorously beat with your spoon for 30 seconds. The risotto is the right consistency when after you stir it, it still moves for around 2 seconds. Add a little more stock till it does this, then taste and add more salt if needed and a good dose of freshly ground black pepper.
Divide between warm plates or bowls then top with pieces of the roasted beetroot and chopped chives.