Friendship and food

Salmon at Copenhagen Hospital


A few days ago I rushed to the bedside of a dear friend, in Copenhagen, where she had a terrible accident and had emergency surgery to save her life.

While I was waiting to see her at the hospital, I had this salmon on toast, and many thoughts came up while I ate it: will she make it through the next 24hrs? how will she be when this is over? how life can change in a matter of minutes? is there anything I can do to help her family? Is it right? Why did it happen to her?

Our friendship now spans almost three decades and I was there, in a foreign country, seeing God in every nurse, surgeon and carer who looked after her, and praying for her life. Thinking of all the meals we shared, the emails we exchanged, the hours on the phone, laughs and cries, babies and funerals, husbands and flings, her mum cooking a delicious pizza after she married her lovely husband in Cumbria, the glorious breakfasts we have when we are together in UK or Italy, all this could have gone away in one minute…

She is now back home: recovery will take time, but I am celebrating life with her and her strength and luck. Someone up there must have taken good care of her. I like to think it might have been an angel with a moustache.


The power of risotto

My delicious yellow risotto

Back in the kitchen, in need for comfort food.

One of my favourite comfort food is saffron risotto, easy and quick to make, smells and tastes delicious and it’s so fulfilling that you don’t really want anything else. If all the food was truly nourishing…

My ritual when I need comfort is very simple: open the cupboard, where I can always find a bag of rice (preferably Carnaroli, it’s the perfect one for al dente risotto), some dry saffron, this one was from Tesco, a bit of onion, some olive oil and stock (tonight I used the Knorr one, Stock Pot Beef). The next 20 minutes are spent cutting the onion very thin, so it will mostly melt when you add some oil and briefly sautee’ it. Then add the risotto and toast it, this phase is really important as it seals the rice and prepares it for the next phase. The rice will have to be translucent at this point, not opaque as when you add it to the sauteed onion.

In the meantime, you have prepared your stock, very easily, by dissolving the stock in a pan with some water (this is what you will add to the rice, little by little until it reaches your desired consistency). It is important that you keep the stock boiling, as you don’t want to add cold stock to the rice, it will stop the process and it won’t cook properly.

When the rice is translucent, you can add a bit of wine (in this case I had some white leftover, so I added the white wine. You may have red, or champagne, that will do…just a little though, and it’s important to wait until it is all evaporated, and to continue stirring, as it may leave some strong flavour and alcohol taste otherwise.

Then start adding the broth, little by little, stir and look as the rice absorbs it and start getting softer and softer. On a small glass, you will now dissolve some saffron with two or three tablespoons of hot broth: this will create a golden liquid that you will then add to the cooking rice. This will give it the saffron colour and taste, and by having it dissolved in the broth before, it will uniformly mix with the rice. Continue adding broth until the rice has the consistency you prefer (I like mine “al dente” but you may want it “all’onda” which means literally “wavy” so a bit more liquid and soft).

At this point, you may want to add some parmesan if you like it. I didn’t with mine as I want the full saffron flavour and nothing else. But in any case, the last step and my grandpa secret was to turn off the gas, put a clean tablecloth on the pan and let it sit for 3minutes. The tablecloth will let the steam evaporate, so the rice doesn’t get too watery, but at the same time it will seal the taste and end the process adding flavour to your rice.


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