When I made this dish, I didn't really expect it to turn out as good as it did because the combination of ingredients is somewhat unusual. I mean, have you ever tried spinach with cranberries? No? See.
But just as white is the new black and frugal is the new decadent (or was it the other way round?), mixing flavours that normally don't go together seems to be the new traditional cooking. And because I'm the Ghost of Christmas Present and up to the minute I decided to follow that trend.
Or, to be really honest: the ingredients all turn up in what is propably the best piece of Christmas-related telly on this planet, and I was really, really bored that day and didn't come up with a better idea than throwing all of them together and making them into a supper.
I won't keep you in suspense any longer: The mystery dish is basically a porcini mushroom risotto with some cranberries and spinach added to it. Originally, I wanted to use water spinach and goji berries but as I couldn't find them anywhere (and goji berries would've been far too expensive, anyway) I substituted normal spinach and dried cranberries. Works just as well. And it tastes far better than it looks (well, risotto ALWAYS looks quite boring if you ask me...)
This recipe is especially for you, Ziska. And for everyone else who's in on the joke.
As I said, it turned out much, much, much better than I expected: There's a wonderful earthy basis from the porcini mushrooms that contrasts perfectly with the sweet fruitiness of the cranberries. Couldn't taste much of the spinach, though, except for a very faint note. Might need to add a little more next time.
However, I LOVE cooking spinach. It's always fun to put that huge heap of fresh leaves into the pot and watch it shrink to the tiniest fraction of its original size. And the smell...! Yum!
As far as ingredients go, it's very important that you use porcini mushrooms, fresh or dried, and not a wee tin of the button variety because they've not got the same zip ...!
Ith gu leòir and Happy Christmas!
200 g/1 cup rice (I prefer brown)
125-250 g/4-8 cups spinach
Half an onion
1 small clove of garlic
25 g/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
0.25-0.5 l/1-2 cup white wine
2 stock cubes
50 g/0.3 cups dried cranberries
50 g/0.5 cups parmesan
Some cardamon (optional)
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
First, soak the mushrooms in 1l/4 cups lukewarm water for about 20 minutes, then drain them and cut into bite-sized pieces. DON'T pour away the lovely soaking water, you'll need it later.
In a large pan or medium pot, heat some olive oil. Wash the spinach, remove the stalks and throw the leaves into the pan. Cook until they're reduced to a small, sad-looking heap, then transfer to a blender and puree. Put aside.
Heat some olive oil in a large pot. Dice the onion and finely chop the garlic, then add both to the oil and sweat until translucent. Add some more oil and then the rice, and fry until that's translucent, too. Don't forget to stir, you don't want it to burn. Turn down the heat.
Cut the dried cranberries into halves.
Heat the mushroom water, add 2 stock cubes and stir until dissolved. Add some of the stock and the wine to the rice, stir until the rice absorbed it all, then add 40 g of the cranberries and some more stock and wine.
Keep adding stock and wine until the rice has absorbed all of it and is nice and creamy. Remove from the heat, add the spinach and combine. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add a generous pinch of cardamon if you're feeling adventurous. Leave it out if you don't.
Serve with a lot of grated parmesan and dried cranberries on top.
Well, that was it for now. The Ghost of Christmas Present is just about ready for bed after another exhausting day's haunting. (And if you're really curious about what this risotto was inspired by, then click here)