Leek & Parmesan Risotto with Baked Pesto-Crusted Salmon

Here we go folks – it’s the return of the too-long title. Will we survive, or will we be lost to its megalomaniacal clutches? Only time will tell. Batten down the hatches and get your stoutest all-terrain trousers on, for we’ve a storm to weather.*

Or something.

Now that we’ve all been revived by our smelling salts, we return once more to the matter at hand: food. Isn’t that always the way? I mean, this is a food blog, so you’d hope so. There’s a lot of shouting into the void though, so that’s not always a given.

I don’t have people over for sit-down meals very often; I love cooking but often there will be a lot of wine involved and I’ll end up doing a pot of chilli or something instead of anything fiddly. If you’re trying to entertain and catch-up, having a kitchen that doesn’t allow for seating isn’t necessarily a good thing; being able to slob out on the sofa with a glass of wine as something bubbles away out of sight is ideal.

This is not one of those meals. On a recent visit to friends of ours, they made us a stupidly good dinner of Tandoori sea bass with a cucumber yoghurt salad. Obviously when they were invited to ours in turn, the panic set in; I had to make something of equal value and, as much as I love chilli, it’s just not of the same calibre. I tentatively mentioned risotto and everyone seemed game.

Now to make it hecka fancy.

(I even got the nice plates and cutlery out. You know, the stuff that you only use at Christmas? There was a table runner and everything. The cat was mildly alarmed.)

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Leek & Parmesan Risotto with Baked Pesto-Crusted Salmon (Pescatarian)

Serves 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

Equipment

Roasting tray lined with greaseproof paper; medium frying pan; food processor (if making your own breadcrumbs); jug; optional garlic press or zester; 2 small bowls; stirring and cutting utensils and/or some kind of oversized Swiss army knife.

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets (I prefer skin removed, but that’s up to you)
  • 50g low-fat cream cheese
  • 2 tsp green pesto (plus a little more to serve, if you want)
  • 40-50g breadcrumbs (I whizzed up an English muffin, which gave me slightly more than needed, but panko could also be used)
  • 1 leek
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 40-50g parmesan cheese, grated (check for animal rennet)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 vegetable stock cube in 400-500ml boiling water
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Boil the kettle and get the oven on at 200°C. Get your pan on a medium heat and add 1 tbsp of the olive oil to heat up. Start the risotto by trimming the leek and taking off the outer leaves, then slice roughly and rinse (or rinse roughly and slice, if you like to walk on the wild side). Add to the pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then either grate in the garlic, finely slice it, or use a garlic press. Add a pinch of salt and a generous amount of black pepper, then stir and cook for a further couple of minutes.
  2. Add the risotto rice to the pan and stir for about a minute – the rice will start to change slightly, becoming a bit more translucent in the heat. Add the white wine vinegar, stir again, and leave to absorb.
  3. While that’s happening, prep the salmon. Get the fillets into your lined roasting tray so you don’t have to move them later. Mix the cream cheese & pesto together in one of your bowls then spread over the top of each piece of salmon. In the other bowl mix your breadcrumbs with the remaining 1/2 tbsp of olive oil until thoroughly combined, then divide between the fillets, pressing the crumbs down gently into the pesto mixture so they stick. Don’t worry if you get crumbs in your pan – this bit’s quite messy. Set aside while you get on with the risotto.
  4. Add the stock cube and boiled water to your jug. Add around 100ml of stock to your risotto and, stirring occasionally, wait until it’s almost absorbed before adding another lot of stock. Once you’ve added the second bit of stock, put the salmon in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the crumbs are crispy and the fish is cooked through. Keep tending to the risotto, adding stock and stirring frequently until the rice is cooked through – it should still have a little bite to it, but be mostly tender.
  5. Remove the salmon from the oven and turn off the heat under the risotto. Add the parmesan and lemon juice, and another generous twist of black pepper, and stir until the cheese is melted. Divide the risotto between four plates and top with the salmon.

Not pictured: the rose prosecco, seville orange gin, and Sauvignon Blanc that was consumed alongside the meal. Also there may have been some potato products later on. With cheese.

Hattie

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If you like risotto (which I should hope you do if you’re browsing this recipe, otherwise you will be sorely disappointed), why not try my Goats’ Cheese & Thyme Risotto with Honey-Roasted Parsnips? I even have vegans covered with a Roasted Balsamic Tomato & Basil Risotto, where you really don’t miss the cheese. Seriously, if I can do without lashings of parmesan, so can you.


*One of my all-time favourite stories told by mum is about my brother. He came home from primary school brandishing a letter about a school trip: “Mum, it says we need stout underwear!” My mother, understandably perplexed by what kind of nefarious school outing could possibly require her son to sport long johns, read the letter and realised that it actually said ‘stout footwear’. From the mouths of babes, eh.

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