All the poetry about autumn talks of rust coloured leaves crunching underfoot, rosy skies, fallen apples and the scent of cinnamon. It’s a nice thought but as it’s now been raining for approximately 37 days straight, Keats and his mellow fruitfulness can, with the greatest respect, jog on. Keep your seasons of mists, I’d settle for not being quite so consistently damp.
I’m finding I am hungry for glimpses of natural light and reminders of summer in amongst the unending drizzle, and the kitchen is often the best place to manufacture a little sunshine. The dreariest evening can seem brighter when you have a bowl of something colourful and warming in front of you, so I turn to bold flavours and wrangle as many fresh herbs as I can into dishes.
The tomato and basil plants on my little terrace have seen better days now, but the sage and thyme are doing well, and there’s still a bit of parsley hanging in there. They all ensure this risotto – made with sweet tinned tomatoes and pepped up with feta, chilli and fennel – is fresh and sunny. Finish with dollops of the salsa verde(ish) sauce for added savoury tang.
Prep time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 30 minutes
For the marinated feta
- 200g block of feta
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
For the green sauce
- 1 small bunch parsley
- 2 tbsp sage
- 4 anchovy fillets
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the risotto
- Olive oil, for frying
- 1 ½ tbsp butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- 300g risotto rice
- 1 glass red wine
- 1x400g tin plum tomatoes
- 750ml hot chicken stock (the best you can get)
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- Start with the feta. Place in a shallow dish, pour over the olive oil and spices. Leave while you cook.
- Then make the green sauce. Blitz all the ingredients along with plenty of black pepper in a food processor. Taste and add a little more salt if you think it needs it.
- Now for the risotto. In a large pan, warm half the butter and a splash of oil over a low-medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for five minutes, then add the garlic and fry for another two minutes.
- Turn up the heat and pour in the chilli and rice. Stir and cook until the grains have become translucent. Pour in the wine and let it bubble up, stirring slowly.
- Add the tomatoes and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed, breaking up whole tomatoes with your wooden spoon. Then begin adding the stock a ladle at a time, stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed. It’s ready when the rice is tender and creamy.
- Remove from the heat, add the remaining butter, sherry vinegar and a little salt and black pepper. To serve, scatter crumbled feta and dollop green sauce over bowls of steaming risotto.
Tonight’s dinner is published every week day on telegraph.co.uk at 6am. For more recipe ideas click here.