Remember cheese cubes? They were all the rage in the eighties – little creamy rectangles neatly encased in shiny foil wrapping. Growing up in India meant that there were only two or three brands of cheese available in markets. The most popular brand was of Amul – a processed cheese whose taste is an unforgettable part of my childhood memories (in soft focus!). Only later in life, when I sampled other cheeses did I realise how one dimensional Amul was and yet like baked beans; we love to dis it but secretly love it. The other cheese I ate was Kraft, which was ‘special’ because it was imported and therefore expensive. Kraft was bought from special stores stocking imported (read smuggled) goodies like KitKat and Toblerone since the Indian economy shut its doors to capitalist brands such as Coke, Nestle, Craft etc. See how a narrative on cheese can double up as a history lesson?
Anyway, all this meant that I ate copious amounts of cubed Amul cheese, and discovered a sense of comfort in them that I continued to return to even when I went off to boarding school at age ten.
So on a rainy, low-energy kinda day last week, I turned to food to make the blues disappear ( as I do from time to time). Standing before my open fridge , I spotted a tub of creamy goat cheese and the floodgates of cheese-wrapped memories were flung open. A goat cheese risotto was my first thought. Cooking a risotto is a slow, deliberate and patient exercise at the end of which you get a bowl of pure love – a union of ingredients that lose themselves in each other to become something elevated. Goes without saying that hurrying this process, a slapdash attitude and a fidgety state of mind will only result in a less-than-sublime embrace of ingredients and you will not get that ‘melting into each other’ texture. So before you begin, get all the things you need together weighed and measured, pour yourself a glass of wine, relax, put on your favourite music if you like and gently step into the zone.
While goat cheese is the hero of this dish, I did add some roasted red peppers to lend colour and sweetness. A dash of chilly flakes did their bit to round off the flavour balance. And my health-conscious friends will appreciate the fact that goat cheese has less fat than cow milk cheese and offers a denser nutrient combination. So no reason not to give it a go. I treated myself to a glass of crisp Chardonnay with the risotto in front of the TV, watching a rerun of Argo….and slowly, with every spoonful, the clouds floated away.
Roasted Red Peppers and Goat Cheese Risotto
- 2-3 red roasted bell peppers chopped either from a jar or roasted in the oven at 180 degrees C with olive oil and peeled
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 tsps minced garlic
- 200 g soft goat cheese
- 1/2 tsp red chilly flakes
- 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 11/2 cups arborio rice
- 1 tsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 3/4 cup white wine
- Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat and keep on a very slow simmer.
- Heat the butter in a pan on medium heat and and gently fry the onions and garlic till softened; about 3-4 minutes.
- Now add the chilly flakes, thyme and the rice followed by the wine.Cook for a minute more so that the alcohol in the wine is cooked off.
- Add 2 cups of stock and cook on low heat, stirring and adding more broth as it gets absorbed by the rice. Continue doing this till the rice is cooked, creamy and slightly al dente.
- Now mix in the peppers and the cheese, stirring for a minute till well combined. Check the seasoning, add salt if required and serve immediately.