I think I mentioned this before: I am a big Jamie Oliver fan. OK, his last books have left much to desire for but the man is great. I have to give him credit. Look at the empire he created (of course with a huge team of helpers): tens of restaurants, shops, magazines, iphone apps, numerous TV shows, Tefal pans and Philips food processors…Uff! I’m sure there’s more… The guy is everywhere and just keeps getting stronger and stronger. He really instilled in me an even greater desire to cook more varied and healthier food. When I came to the UK in 2008 I was all over him, buying all his books and watching all his shows and I even receiving a wedding proposal in one of his restaurants!
Then came Nigel. Nigel….There’s no comparison with Jamie Oliver. Their styles are completely different. Nigel…He’s just phenomenal, he is a magician: he can transform the simplest ingredients most people already have in their fridges, into no fuss but delicious and sophisticated dishes. I just love him. And his kitchen. And his Le Creuset cream pans.Oh damn it why did I not think of this when people asked us if we had a wedding list? (Oh did I just say this? That I had prefered Le Creuset pans to going to Sicily? Nooo it’s not true, Sicily, you will always be in my heart).
When I first saw him on TV, I wasn’t much into him. But what at first I thought was his weak point (simple, not always very good looking food, very slow paced) is what I most admire: the capacity of transformation, the imagination he has, how he sees food as a precious stone…
So by now you can probably guess that all I have to say about him is good stuff. His book is really an inspiration to me. You can tell from reading the stories that accompany the recipes that it’s all genuine. It’s all a product of love (as opposed to Jamie, now too much commercial for my taste). He makes poetry with food, Jamie makes a circus.
The Kitchen Diaries II was released in September last year, and I finally gave in and bought it in February (how can you resist a 500 page book for £12 instead of £30?).
The “chapters” are the months of the year and for almost every day of the month, there’s a recipe. Each recipe was created with what was in season at the time and has a story to it. Or because friends were over, or because it was too cold to go out to buy anything, or because he just had that food in a restaurant in Oslo and wants to make it when he’s home.
This was the excuse for his cod risotto. A cod risotto cooked with milk.
Now, as Nigels says, “he’s no kitchen pedant” but if you call a risotto something that does not resemble a “warm, slowly oozing short grain rice that has been continuously stirred with stock and enriched with butter and Parmesan till the grains are swollen and creamy”, just call it anything, except risotto.
But then, he makes a fish (!) risotto, and he does not use just stock but ….drum roll…..milk! So, for me, he makes more like a savoury rice pudding and not a risotto, yet, he calls it a risotto. But Nigel, you are forgiven. Maybe the Italians actually use milk in risottos. Maybe not.
You are forgiven because, of course, the whole thing just works. I don’t want to sound pedantic here but I think one of my specialties is risotto so I had to try this milky version.
It goes like this: the fish (any smoked fish, I’ve used haddock) is simmered in milk, peppercorns and bay leaves. Meanwhile the risotto is cooked as you do in a typical risotto. when you’re done with the stock, start using the milk used for the fish. In the end, add spinach and the fish and it’s ready. Nothing else. The full recipe can actually be found in The Guardian . By the way, I have also tried that other recipe of smoked fish and potatoes and oohhh….deadly good. Too much fat (Nigel uses a lot of butter in many of his recipes), but that’s why it is so good.
So go and cook this risotto. It does not matter if it is only because you want to buy a bottle of white. It will be worth it.