A Romantic Alpine Flower Risotto Recipe from Piedmont
by Faustina Gilbey
I’d just returned from a few days away with Fiorenzo my other half and was busy cooking a risotto for supper when he reminded me of a weekend many years ago when I cooked my very first risotto and apparently “captured his heart”! This was the first time he’d admitted it to me but it confirmed the old adage that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! I had no idea it was really that simple!
It had been ten years ago in fact, the beginning of August and we’d rented a friend’s house for a weekend up beyond Ivrea in Piedmont, close to the beautiful ‘Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso’. Driving up we stopped around early evening near Vercelli to buy some of the local ‘Carnaroli’ risotto rice. Forgetting we were near rice fields I made the mistake of leaving a car window open so that, as we drove out again onto the autostrada, we were attacked by what seemed like swarms of mosquitoes. It could have been a scene from ‘The Birds’ movie but it felt more frightening and definitely more painful! We ground to a halt, opened all doors and windows to let them out and massacred any that were left. Effective, but not a great way to start a romantic weekend!
However, I would definitely recommend a romantic weekend in Gran Paradiso to anyone – here is nature in all its glory. We took blissful walks in the mountains breathing in fresh pure air, marvelling at alpine meadows nodding with flowers and listening to the distinctive flute-like sounds of marmottes warning their families of our presence. I also vividly remember turning a corner and walking straight into a cloud of blue butterflies – it was all quite magical!
And then of course, after the walk, there was a risotto supper to be made!
I was quite nervous as our relationship was relatively new, I’d never made risotto before and I knew that, being Italian, food was important to him!
Inspired by the romance of the wild flower meadows, I’d decided to try and use some of these flowers. I found packets of dried alpine flowers in the local store and the owner kindly gave me a risotto recipe….now it was just up to me!
Risotto Recipe: Alpine Flower Risotto
Recipe serves 4
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
300g Carnaroli rice (or any risotto rice you like)
75ml dry white wine
1L chicken stock
2 Tbsp dried alpine flowers (or any equivalent edible dried flowers/herbs)
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
In a medium-sized saucepan heat the olive oil and gently sauté the onion until soft and translucent, not brown.
Add the rice, stirring until every grain is coated in oil and then pour in the dry white wine.
Stir until the wine has been absorbed then start adding the hot chicken stock – ladle by ladle. Make sure the stock has been absorbed before adding the next ladle.
Continue until the rice is almost cooked and al dente – this takes about 20 minutes.
Turn off the heat, stir in the alpine flowers, butter and grated parmesan cheese and allow to sit for 5 minutes with the lid almost covering the pan.
Serve with un bacio! Buon Appetito!
About the Writer:
Faustina is English but, for the past 8 years, has been living in Italy. The first couple of years in the Alta Langhe, Piemonte and is now based in Albino near Bergamo. She is the author of “The Little Canadian Cookbook” and wrote for about 6 years for a daily Canadian CBC Television cooking show in Vancouver. Whilst living in South Africa she was assistant manageress of an African restaurant in Capetown as well as writing a pilot TV programme on African food. In London she did private catering and event organising as well as working for the media and independent Film & TV producers.
Faustina moved to Italy to be with her partner, Fiorenzo, and they now have a Feldenkrais, Floating and Food Therapy Centre: www.spaziof.org
She continues her love of food and research by exploring all the wonderful places and products here in Northern Italy; She is a member of Slow Food Italia and teaches seminars on healthy eating and juicing, as well as writing her food/health blogwww.eatingcloudsinitaly.com