Sunday 3 May 2009

Surprising Beetroot Risotto

Here is a tale of frustration and discovery. For a long time I have wanted to make beetroot risotto with walnuts. I thought it was because I saw a recipe on a blog but when I started looking I couldn’t find the one in my mind. Finally I found Wendy’s Hazelnut and Fennel Risotto. I think this is where it all began.

Before I rediscovered the source of inspiration, I went on a lovely journey around the web looking for beetroot and walnut risotto recipes and found all sorts of fascinating recipes. Here are a few of them:

- Beetroot with Goats Cheese and Walnuts –
- Beetroot and Blue Cheese Risotto – Nami Nami
- Beetroot with Watercress and Goats Cheese – What’s the Recipe Today Jim?
- Red Beet Risotto (with pinenut and orange zest) – La Tartine Gourmande
- Beet Risotto with Lemon Marinated Tofu – Tofu for Two
- Beetroot and Fetta Risotto – Pettavel Winery and Restaurant
- Beetroot Risotto (with vodka or sherry and lemon zest) – Growing Communities
- Beetroot, Ginger and Chocolate Risotto - Just Cook It

Inspired? Moi? Oh yes! Blue cheese, vodka and watercress! Oh my! But I could not go past the idea of chocolate in my risotto. I have made a chocolate rice pudding before and swooned over it. And anyone who has had chocolate beetroot cake knows the flavours go together brilliantly. But Just Cook It had made a savoury risotto with chocolate. Frustratingly there wasn’t a photo. I had to see this. So I not only had to try it, but had to give the internet a photo of the phenomenon. My photo is not that great but at least it gives an idea.

When I started making it, Sylvia was having a cranky day. She is sleeping about 7 hours a night at the moment (although she doesn’t get to sleep til late, just like her parents!) so I can’t complain about being sleep deprived. On the day of the risotto revolution she had had a bad night and slept a mere 3 hours before waking. Perhaps this was why she was so hard to settle. Luckily E did his bit in soothing Sylvia.

Risotto is not ideal for when there is a crying baby distracting you. It requires constant attention so I was trying to stir, make notes for the blog and help E when I could. I think I have made beetroot risotto before but can’t quite remember. Most recipes I found said to roast it first but I didn’t have the time or energy. The beetroot in the risotto was only just cooked when I served it the first night. The second night it was a lot better cooked, quite possibly because it had cooked while the risotto cooled in the pot the first night.

I served the risotto with grated parmesan, chopped walnuts and grated 70% dark chocolate. The small smattering of chocolate lent a slightly sweet taste. I loved it. (However I don’t advise you get some excited by the idea and add a small handful of choc chips to the savoury risotto – it really doesn’t work! Although grated beetroot in a sweet chocolate risotto still sounds quite interesting). I thought I added quite a bit of stock powder but the risotto still seemed on the sweet side.

E was less enthused. He didn’t like the beetroot but he did like the rice. He ate around the beetroot - perhaps because it was not cooked enough. Since making it I have thought perhaps next time I need to roast the beetroot for about 30 minutes first. I have also wondered if I could microwave the beetroot for a few minutes before adding to the onion and rice or cooking it with the onion for a good 10 minutes before adding the rice. I love the colour of beetroot so much that I am sure I will add it to risotto again so will be experimenting with this.

Finally, I went to write up the post today. I have spent much more time cooking than writing up blog posts recently. I have notes on many recipes to write up when I get time. Some of my recipes I have made are written on scraps of paper as I cook and then float around my computer til they are typed into my computer. It is not terribly organised. To my horror, I couldn’t find the recipe for the beetroot risotto today. It will probably surface somewhere unexpected as soon as I post this.

In the absence of my notes, I have had to recreate the recipe from memory. I think it is fairly accurate. But risotto is a dish where a bit of intuition is necessary so you might need some small adjustments. But I highly recommend this for a delicious risotto. It will amaze your friends and give them something to discuss around the water cooler!

Beetroot Risotto with Chocolate and Walnuts
Serves 4

1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ cups Arborio rice
2 large beetroot, peeled and chopped*
½ cup white wine
5½ cups boiling water
1 tsp orange zest
3-4 tsp stock powder
¼ cup of parmesan cheese

To Serve:
4 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
4 tbsp walnuts
10g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely grated

*You may want to roast beetroot for about 30 minutes or microwave a few minutes first to soft it up or to fry a bit longer as mine could have been cooked more

Heat butter and oil in large stockpot. Fry onion over medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. Add beetroot and garlic and fry for about 3 minutes. Add rice and fry another 3 minutes. (While you are frying boil the kettle so you have boiling water on hand.)

Add wine and stir til absorbed. Add orange zest and stock powder with about half a cup of boiling water. Stir until water is absorbed. Repeat adding half cups of hot water and stirring til absorbed. Do this until rice is cooked through. It took me about 5½ cups and about 25-30 minutes but may vary slightly each time it is made.

When rice is cooked, remove stock pot from heat. Stir through ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Serve hot with a spoonful of grated parmesan cheese, a spoonful of walnuts and a sprinkling of dark chocolate.

On the Stereo:
Don’t’ try this at home: Billy Bragg


  1. Oo yum! I've had that one at taste bookmarked for ages but I always get scared off with fresh beetroot for some reason.

    Your risotto sounds delicious! The idea of chocolate in my risotto is fascinating me.

  2. I have to admit I'm a little hesitant about this mix of flavours! I have made a chocolate and beetroot cake and that was nice but it was sweet but this is savoury!

  3. Are you sure you aren't pregnant again? That's one insane combination! ;)

  4. Well you surprised me! I love the idea of the chocolate though - I bet it sets off the beetroot really nicely. I've made beetroot risotto before without cooking the beets first - perhaps I added more stock than usual at a time so that it had more liquid to cook in. I really like the way it turns the rice purple.

  5. Mmm I know beets and chocolate go together but I never would've thought of grating it on top of a savoury risotto with cheese! Intriguing.

  6. Wow this sounds so yummy and wonderful vibrant and different

  7. That certainly is an inspired recipe. I adore beetroot, and never thought to make a risotto with it. And chocolate as a topping? Very interesting!

  8. Your risotto looks absolutely delicious and so intriguing! I love the color!

  9. Thanks Vegetation - I love the colour left everywhere by fresh beetroot (well not on a good white top if I owned one)

    Thanks Lorraine - maybe I should have said think chocolate in a mole sauce - now that is where it makes sense in a savoury dish!

    Thanks Wendy - actually pregnancy made me avoid chocolate so definitely not

    Thanks Lysy - the extra stock sounds a good idea - and I agree about the colour - looks so spendid

    Thanks Ashley - it seems to work as a garnish so you just get a little of the chocolate flavour

    thanks Katie - yes, yes and yes

    Thanks Lisa - I am sure you would love beetroot risotto if not a chocolate topping

    Thanks Jodye - glad the colour delights even if it is not my best photo :-)

  10. This is really interesting...the ingredients that you have in it are just amazing. The color of the risotto is just very impressive.

  11. Looks absolutely lovely Johanna! I love beets and risotto and I can imagine how tasty this must have been!

  12. Thanks Juliana - beetroot is so wonderfully colourful isn't it!

    thanks Jenn - beetroot is always wonderful in risotto - such wonderful earthy flavour

  13. Now THAT is an intriguing idea! I'm wondering if my reaction would be similar to E's, but I'd still like to try it.

  14. thanks ricki - gotta try it at least once

  15. Here's the answer: grated beetroot.


  16. made it as per your recipe (except in the pressure cooker, and having roasted the beets the day before 1 hour at 400) and it was a great hit. i sprinkled a little shaved chocolate on it but let people add more as they wanted, and everyone did. thanks for the amazing idea!


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