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Ottolenghi’s Lemon and Aubergine Risotto

This lemon and aubergine risotto from Ottolenghi is an impressive dinner party dish, topped with crisp fried aubergine and plenty of Parmesan.

From the book

Yotam Ottolenghi

Introduction

The crucial component in this dish is the stock, which will make or break it. You can quickly make one by covering some aromatic vegetables and herbs (carrot, celery, onion, bay leaf, parsley, garlic, lemongrass, fennel, thyme, etc.) with water and simmering for half an hour. Look at the Parsnip dumplings in broth on page 28 of Plenty for a lengthier version. Unlike some other risotti, this one feels light as a feather – or almost.

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Ingredients

2 medium aubergines
130ml olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g good-quality risotto rice
120ml white wine
750ml hot vegetable stock
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
20g butter
50g Parmesan (or another mature hard cheese), grated
10g basil leaves, shredded
coarse sea salt and black pepper

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Method

Start by burning one of the aubergines.

To cook the aubergines on a gas hob, which is the most effective way, start by lining the area around the hob heads with foil to protect them. Put the aubergines directly on two moderate flames and roast for 12–15 minutes, turning frequently with metal tongs, until the flesh is soft and smoky and the skin is burnt all over. Keep an eye on them the whole time so they don’t catch fire. For an electric cooker, pierce the aubergines with a sharp knife in a few places. Put them on a foil-lined tray and place directly under a hot grill for 1 hour, turning them a few times. The aubergines need to deflate completely and their skin should burn and break.

Once ready, remove from the heat and make a long cut through the aubergine. Scoop out the soft flesh while avoiding the skin. Discard the skin. Chop the flesh roughly and set aside.

Cut the other aubergine into 1.5cm dice. Heat up 80ml of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergine dice in batches until golden and crisp. Transfer to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave to cool.

To make the risotto, put the onion and remaining oil in a heavy-based pan and fry slowly until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the rice, stirring to coat it in the oil. Fry for 2–3 minutes. Add the wine (it should hiss) and cook for 2–3 minutes, or until nearly evaporated. Turn the heat down to medium.

Now start adding the hot stock to the rice, a ladleful at a time, waiting until each addition has been fully absorbed before adding the next and stirring all the time. When all the stock has been added remove the pan from the heat. Add half the lemon zest, the lemon juice, grilled aubergine flesh, butter, most of the Parmesan and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir well, then cover and leave aside for 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if you like, plus some black pepper.

To serve, spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and sprinkle with the diced aubergine, the remaining Parmesan, the basil and the rest of the lemon zest.

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