Maria Elia is a chef, author, broadcaster and teacher. Her cooking is inspired by her travels and she loves looking for new combinations of ingredients that surprise and delight. Her Griddled Radicchio and Strawberry Risotto is one of her signature dishes. The bitterness of the radicchio and the sweetness of the strawberries is an inspired combination and shows how a fusion of flavours and cuisines can work beautifully.
For the radicchio:
1 head radicchio, approximately 350g
olive oil, for drizzling
balsamic vinegar (approximately 2 tablespoons)
For the risotto:
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 shallots, finely diced
375g risotto rice (such as Arborio or Carnaroli)
300ml white wine
900ml hot vegetable stock
juice of half a lemon
4 tablespoons mascarpone
sea salt and pepper
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
8 strawberries, quartered
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives (optional)
1. Preheat a griddle pan over a medium heat. Cut the radicchio into quarters lengthways, keeping some of the stem attached to each quarter (trim off any dark parts of the stem). Open the leaves a little, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Place the oiled radicchio on the hot griddle and cook for 2-3 minutes on either side. When it begins to brown, remove to a plate and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar. Leave to cool before shredding into thin strips.
2. To make the risotto, heat the olive oil and butter in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat, add the shallots and cook till translucent. Add the rice and fry for 1 minute, stirring to prevent it from sticking. Reduce the heat a little and add the wine. Allow the wine to be absorbed before adding a ladle of hot stock (that’s approximately 200ml, depending on the size of your ladle). Stir and allow the rice to absorb the stock before adding the next 200ml. Continue to add stock in this way, stirring frequently, until it has all been absorbed and the rice is ‘al dente’ (with just a bite to it). This will take about 20 minutes.
3. Stir through the lemon juice, radicchio, mascarpone and salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat, stir in the Parmesan and half the strawberries. Serve, garnished with the remaining strawberries, chives, a drizzle of olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar (below) or an aged balsamic (which is optional). Note: Pour a bottle of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan and warm over a low heat (don't use an expensive balsamic for this). Continue to heat until the balsamic has reduced and coats the back of a spoon.
4. Turn off the heat and pour into a container. Leave to cool before covering; there is no need to refrigerate. If it thickens too much, gently warm in a microwave or in a bowl of boiling water for 5 seconds. This is great served over risotto, salads and fresh figs with honey. Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar is also delicious reduced.