The adventure of the Rice Food Blogger Contest of Risate&Risotti continues we are very happy to announce that we will participate in the final on 2 July in Lucignano, in the province of Arezzo!
But before we think about the next appointment, let’s go back a few days to discover how this incredible weekend went during the semifinal that took place at the Campus Etoile Academy in Tuscania!
The semifinal at Campus Etoile Academy
“When you drive along the road to Tuscania, you have the feeling of being lost in a silent countryside where only fields and olive trees speak. Then, suddenly, St Peter’s cathedral looms at the horizon with, a few metres away, a corner of paradise for those who, like me, love food and what it means: the Campus Etoile Academy.
Here, young people come to learn the art of what the school’s founder, Chef Rossano Boscolo, calls ‘the most beautiful job in the world’, that of a chef or pastry chef. And here, driven by the affection for an event that has won me over (Risate&Risotti), and curiosity for something I had never done before in my life, I landed to participate in the semi-final of the Rice Food Blogger Contest, launched by the organisation that makes rice and fun its flag.
Gaia and I arrive tired and unaware of what awaits us, but happy for the simple fact of spending two days just us, away from the world and daily commitments. In addition to the overwhelming scent of jasmine, we are greeted by beautiful smiles and pieces of pastry history that bring the tuff walls of the former 16th-century convent to life. And this is only the beginning.
At 6.30 p.m. the appointment is with the host, chef Rossano Boscolo, who overwhelms us with his passion, his strength and his infinite knowledge: leafing through the pages of Bartolomeo Scappi’s 16th-century work that is the Bible of Italian cuisine, he is moved and, while he tells us its value and meaning, his hands delicately caress those words and drawings.
The chefs’ school gives us great emotions
The classrooms of the school are not just any classrooms, they are jewels of technology and antiquity that smell sweet. Yes, because the smell of pastry is too strong to contain it within the walls. The vegetable garden, the room in which to enjoy a glass of wine in company, a basketball court between the tuff walls of what should become (bureaucracy and all-Italian paradoxes permitting) the school’s main entrance, lead us to the final destination of the evening: the demonstration room where the brigade led by Chefs Francesco Triscornia and Antonio Paolino is waiting to amaze the eyes and palate.
For Gaia, sitting at the table with all the other semi-finalists and enjoying the same food is such an immense gift that she confesses to me: “You know, I could live here!”
The technique and creativity taking shape before our eyes is such that I wonder if I will still have the courage to cook the next morning! But the greatness of art is that, through its beauty, it makes you grow and learn, and so this dinner has earned a permanent place in my heart.
On Saturday morning, we are all ready, as excited as before an exam, but I have a special nourishment: Gaia, who is the real and only reason why I am here. Armed with a camera and excited as only kids can be, she is always in the front row.
When everyone is at their cooking station, the chef sets out the rules: you can choose the ingredients you personally want but, in addition to the taste of the dish, he will judge also food waste, cleanliness, orderly execution and presentation.
And then the decision: with all these ingredients I could make at least 30 different risottos, so which one should I make to meet the judges’ taste?
Gaia looks at me nervously because she reads my uncertainty, but it is her worried little face that removes any doubt: which risotto would I have cooked at home today for lunch? Yes, because Saturday lunches are our rendezvous with risotto, a kind of reward, since for Gaia’s diabetes, rice, which we all love but which has a high glycaemic index, is best eaten at lunchtime. When I left home yesterday, beautiful courgette flowers were shining in my garden – that’s what I would have used if I had been home!
I decide to prepare two heart-shaped Parmesan crisps because Parmesan cheese is where I come from and the little heart is my children’s favourite decorative element (because you have to remind yourself often that you love each other: it’s good for your health!). I am also thinking of adding another seasonal vegetable, peas, but I want to make a cream with these, because Gaia does not like them when they are whole. However, I would like my sauce to be a little sour because the courgette flowers are rather sweet, so a hint of contrast will help to liven up the dish; among the ingredients, I have my eye on yoghurt, which is just right for me.
Due to the strange combinations of workstation sequences, I will be the last one to submit the dish to the judges and I find myself alone with Gaia cooking my risotto. I adjust salt, stir to the best of my ability and serve our ‘May and cheese’, because the name of the risotto already sums up its ingredients.
As I climb the stairs to reach the three chefs who will taste what I have prepared, my legs shake and all the doubts assail me, leaving me with bated breath until Chef Boscolo states in a firm tone: “Good, really good!” That’s enough for me, if it is good for him, it would also be good for my family.
The rest of the race was a bit like when you are asleep: you hear your name and Gaia cheering, you make arrangements about the final, you say goodbye, then you find yourself awake driving the car home, back to the real world. This time, however, even our pesky guests, called diabetes and celiac disease, decided to play the part of the good guys in our beautiful dream, giving us wonderful food and perfect blood sugar levels.
At this point, we will be in the final in Lucignanoin the province of Arezzo, on 2 July 2016, hoping to live another beautiful dream.”
And now here is our recipe to try!
May and cheese risotto
21.23g carbohydrates per 100g
- approx. 1.3 litres of previously prepared vegetable stock
- 320g Carnaroli rice
- 140g courgette flowers
- 100g fresh peas
- 60g grated Parmesan cheese (plus the one for the heart crisps)
- 40g plain yoghurt
- 30g leek
- 30g butter
- 20g shallot
- 1 clove garlic
- extra virgin olive oil, mint leaves, salt and pepper
- First of all prepare the pea cream. Put a little oil in a saucepan with the thinly sliced shallot and garlic clove. Let the shallots and garlic soften and brown, then add the peas and a ladle of stock; let it cook and add chopped mint to taste. If necessary, add more stock to cook the peas.
- Once ready, remove the garlic and blend everything with an immersion blender. If there are any chunks left, pass the cream through a fine sieve. Then, adjust the flavour by adding yoghurt, salt and a pinch of pepper. The cream is now ready and you can set it aside.
- If you want to prepare cheese crisps, it is worth proceeding before making risotto.
Put a non-stick pan on the stove and form a light layer of grated cheese: I tried to give it a heart shape!
- When the cheese starts to melt and become crispy on one side, turn it over and let it melt slightly on the second side as well. Remove the crisp from the pan and allow it to cool.
- Start preparing risotto. Put a little oil in a pan and sweat the thinly sliced leek in it. After about 15 minutes, add the rice and toast it on a high heat (it took me 3 minutes to have transparent rice grains with a white core in the centre).
- Add the chopped courgette flowers after removing the pistils, stir and start adding the hot stock. Continue stirring and add stock only when the rice has absorbed almost all of it. When the rice is al dente, remove from the heat, cover the pan with a tea towel, let it rest for 1 minute and then cream it.
- Add 30 grams of butter, stirring well to release the starch so that a nice cream forms, add the grated cheese and continue stirring until it is completely incorporated.
- Let the pea cream cool down and put it in a piping bag with a very thin tip.
Serve the risotto on hot plates and spread a small amount of pea cream on the surface, forming a spiral pattern from the centre outwards.
Finally, put the Parmesan hearts and a few mint leaves in the centre.
This recipe participates in the “Rice Food Blogger 2016 – Chef Giuseppina Carboni” contest