This is a recipe that I made with my older sister for a bunch of our friends when I was down in Melbourne a couple weeks ago. As I mentioned in a previous post, my older sister is an amazing cook, photographer and food blogger. Prior to moving to Melbourne a couple months ago, she was living in Tuscany for the past 5 years with her Italian husband (who is a sommelier and an amazing cook), so she knows a thing or two about Italian cooking.
We used a risotto rice from Verona called “Vialone Nano” (as opposed to the more commonly known rices arborio and carnaroli). Vialone Nano is one of the best rices to use for risotto – it’s smaller and absorbs liquids faster but it can tend to be easy to overcook so make sure you taste as you go. It comes from Verona in the Veneto region of Italy (where Venice also is) – and according to my sister is the place for rice-growing and the place to eat risotto.
My sister pulled the recipe from Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, which was the first book that put together the varied cuisines of each region of Italy into one and called it “Italian”. He calls this dish “Black risotto with squid, Florentine style” because the original recipe is supposed to have silverbeet in it (apparently Florentines like silverbeet!). We took out the silverbeet and served it as a side dish instead, sauteed with soaked raisins and toasted pinenuts. Yum.
- 2 whole squid, cleaned (your fishmonger can do this), and shopped into rings or bite-sized pieces
- 8 grams of squid ink (find it in Italian delis)
- 1 small brown onion, chopped finely
- 1/2 a stalk of celery, chopped finely
- a few parsley stalks, chopped, plus parsley leaves, chopped for garnish
- 500 grams of Vialone Nano (or Carnaroli) rice
- a glass of dry white wine
- a knob of butter
- a drizzle of olive oil
Saute the onion, celery and parsley stalks in the butter and olive oil over a gentle heat. You don’t want the onion to brown but to become slowly transparent. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the oil and butter for a minute or so. When this also becomes transparent, add the wine, the squid ink and and stir. The rice will take about 17 minutes to cook – maybe even slightly less with Vialone Nano – so when the liquid begins to evaporate, add some more water, about 1/2 a cup full at a time, so that there is always liquid in the pan (but not too much). Remember to shake the pan as every now and then so the rice is tossed.
About 5 minutes before you estimate the rice should be done, add the squid and continue cooking. You want the risotto to still have enough liquid it in so that when you shake the saucepan, it moves easily. Dish up and garnish with parsley.
As a side note, if anyone wants to use the silverbeet in the recipe, the proportions are 600 grams of rice, 600 grams of squid and 600 grams of silverbeet. Consider that 400 grams of uncooked rice is enough for 6 people when you’re using these proportions.
JAM: Tony Esposito – Pagaia
The track I’ve chosen is an 80s Italian record from Tony Esposito, and was a favourite of Italian DJ Danielle Baldelli. Baldelli made his name in the 80s playing at the Verona based club Cosmic and developed a loyal following playing an eclectic mix of slow but percussive African, Brazilian, funk, disco and synth music. Often playing records at wrong speeds (at 33 instead of 45 and vice versa), Baldelli and his ‘cosmic’ sound is cherished in certain underground circles and the records on his playlists remain sought after items by collectors and DJs. Baldelli played in Sydney for Vivid festival last year and still proved to be on his game with his records sounding more relevant than ever.
The track that I am showcasing is off Tony Esposito’s excellent 1982 album Tamburo and also hides other Cosmic classics like Je-Na. It’s funky, psychedelic, a little weird, but makes fantastic dance music, which is exactly what the cosmic sound is all about. Listen below: