Valentina Harris’ new book, Risotto! Risotto! delves deep into the world of risotto, with delicious recipes, tips and tricks for the perfect dishes. We love authentic Italian food, so loved hearing from Valentina about her new book.
Risotto is part of my DNA because my ancestors, the Sforza Dukes of Milan. They were instrumental in the design and financial commissioning of the intricate system of irrigation that still feeds the rice fields of Lombardy and Piedmont five centuries later. It is also the very first thing I ever learned to cook from start to deliciously silky finish.
I fell in love with cooking, especially the authenticity and tradition of Italian cuisine, thanks to a man called Beppino. He taught me how to value and respect those ingredients, told me the stories surrounding flavours, and gave me recipes that have shaped my own career. These are what have made Italian food so loved and celebrated the world over.
I arrived, at the age of just 10 days, at our much loved family house in Tuscany, where Beppino looked after the vines, the olive trees, the chickens, rabbits, pig, grappa still, fruit trees and vast vegetable garden, as well as the house itself. And he cooked. Oh how he cooked!! Even now, as I write this, I can almost taste the way he was able to make even the simplest of ingredients taste so special, like nobody else ever has…
From the moment I met Beppino, we developed a unique relationship, based around food: its production and preparation. I followed him around from the moment I could toddle: helping him trim vines, gut rabbits, or plant seeds. By the time I was 8 years old, I’d taken over the family sandpit and turned it into my very first restaurant, named after Beppino. Nowadays my son’s catering business, Beppino’s – is also a result of his influence!
Before the war, Beppino worked at the restaurant Savini in Milan’s Galleria where he was the risotto chef. He taught me how to make risotto when I was about 6, and I always make it the way he taught me. His voice in my head tells me what to look out for during the whole rhythmic, mellifluous, mindful process of making this great Italian rice dish, with its myriad variations.
Risotto! Risotto! Is a great celebration of this remarkable dish, with lots of history and useful information about cooking risotto properly. This should help those nervous about making risotto overcome their fears! It is beautifully designed with gorgeous photography thanks to the master than is Ian Garlick. I think Beppino would approve…..!”
Roasted Pepper Risotto and Tomato & Basil Risotto
These recipes are taken from Risotto! Risotto! by Valentina Harris [Absolute, Hardback, £20]
Photography copyright Ian Garlick.