To our pleasant surprise, our son announced a couple of weeks ago that he wanted to cook dinner for all of us.
Although they have followed some kid’s cooking classes over the past years, there was no interest in another run this winter. Although they had a fun time, one of the issues they raised was that they were not cooking an entire dish themselves. Everybody was just contributing by looking after certain elements of the dish. That is why he wanted to pick a recipe and cook it all by himself.
Nope, no complaints here! We got a few cookbooks out and to our surprise, he decided on this recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More Cookbook (previously published in The Guardian). The risotto part was a no brainer, but a vegetarian one with Brussels sprouts and Dolcelatte cheese was definitely not what we expected from our 11-year-old.
Chef jr. made it clear that he would be the master in the kitchen and that he would boss me around and assign me all the tedious chores (of course followed with a big MWHAHAHAHA when announcing that). However, he indeed did all the measuring, most of the prepping and all of the cooking (with the exception of shallow frying the Brussels sprouts as they spat quite a bit). He also really appreciated the effort you have to put into a good risotto as well as the rewarding feeling when the dish worked out well. Quite a feat and needless to say that we were pretty proud!
What worked and what didn’t:
We used these beautiful purple-ish flowers sprouts, which are a hybrid between Brussels sprouts and curly kale. Their rough edges resulted in an awesome crispness and they tasted a bit nuttier compared to regular Brussels sprouts when shallow fried.
About 400g / 14oz of the flower sprouts were finely chopped (as shredding just was not an option) and went into the risotto first and 200g / 7oz were quartered and shallow fried. They were so good, it was difficult for everybody to stop snacking.
His little brother was not enthusiastic when hearing what was going to be cooked, but after some snacking of the fried flower sprouts, he literally devoured the risotto and asked for seconds. And rightfully so, it was an absolutely cracking dish and great new ways to use Brussels sprouts. Both cooked and crispy fried, they added delicious – yet completely different – flavors and textures to the risotto.
Unfortunately, there was no fresh tarragon in it as we didn’t find any when shopping and our thyme plant only yielded 1 full tablespoon of leaves. The risotto had still plenty of flavors. The Dolcelatte was just enough to give a little kick whilst not overpowering and also adding some additional creaminess. Even when you are not a fan of blue cheeses or Brussels sprouts (or for kids in general), I can fully recommend this superb recipe!
The recipe is easy to follow. There were some slight changes to the original recipe to accommodate my usual liquid-to-rice ratios for risotto, but it was enough to serve 4 persons. As usual with Ottolenghi’s recipes we eventually toned down on the lemon and only added to taste. It goes without saying that the quantity of Parmesan cheese was doubled by Chef jr.
- 30g/1oz unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 200g/7oz onions, finely chopped (about 3-4 small onions)
- 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 tbsp thyme leaves
- 1 lemon, half of the rind shaved in long strips; the other half finely grated zest of the other
- 250g/9oz risotto rice
- 600g/20 oz trimmed Brussels sprouts of which 400g/13oz shredded and 200g/7 oz quartered
- 250ml/1 cup dry white wine
- 1000ml/4 cups vegetable stock
- about 400ml/1½ cup sunflower oil (for shallow frying)
- 40g/1½oz Parmesan, roughly grated
- 60g/2oz Dolcelatte, broken into 2½cm/1″ chunks
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- salt and black pepper
- Put the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and the butter melted, add the onion and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly caramelized.
- Add the garlic, thyme and lemon strips, and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the rice and shredded sprouts, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently to gently toast the rice.
- Pour over the wine and let it simmer for a few minutes
- Reduce the heat to medium before you start adding the stock and add the stock ladle by ladle, stirring often, until the rice is cooked but still retains a bite, and all the stock is used up – about 15-20 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, pour the sunflower oil into a second large saucepan; it should never be higher than halfway up the sides. Place on high heat until very hot (180℃/355℉).
- When the oil is ready, use a slotted spoon to add a handful of the quartered sprouts. Make sure they are as dry as possible; they will still spit, so stand well back and be careful. Fry for less than a minute, until golden and crisp, then transfer to kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. Keep warm while frying the remaining sprouts.
- Add the parmesan and Dolcelatte cheeses, tarragon and half of the fried sprouts to the risotto and stir gently.
- Serve at once topped with the remaining fried sprouts, the grated lemon zest and a drizzle of lemon juice.
Verdict: 10/10, We have a winner!