The flavour of this risotto is both earthy and bright, and the textural combination of the fried eggplant with the creamy risotto is just wonderful. Definitely one for aubergine fans!
This one was adapted from Ottolenghi’s recipe in the beautiful “Plenty”. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe to the letter, but have subsequently toned down the lemon a bit and replaced the basil with parsley. In his book, the chef recommends cooking one of the aubergine directly over the burner of a gas stove to give it that beautiful smoky taste, but I suspect he doesn’t have to clean his own stovetop! I prefer the much less messy oven grill (broiler) method. And I have an even lazier risotto cooking method. I do it on the stovetop, but I don’t stir continuously… The rice may not be quite as creamy as the traditional method, but laziness wins. For traditional stovetop and oven methods, check out this recipe.
Aubergine: 1 hour plus cooling
Risotto: 45 minutes
The aubergine can be prepared ahead
2 medium aubergines, about 750g or 1 1/2 lb total
90ml (6 Tbsp) olive oil, divided
1 litre (4 1/2 cups) vegetable stock
40g (3 Tbsp) butter
1 medium onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
250g (1 1/2 cups) arborio or carnaroli rice
120ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
salt and black pepper
100g (1 cup) finely grated parmesan cheese
finely grated zest of half a lemon
8 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, minced
Preheat the oven grill (broiler) to high. Pierce one aubergine all over with a fork, place it on a tray and grill (broil) for about an hour, turning occasionally, until the whole thing is charred and shrivelled. Remove from the oven, allow to cool enough to handle, trim the stalk end off and peel the skin away from the flesh. Discard the skin, roughly chop the flesh and set aside.
Meanwhile, dice the second aubergine into bite-sized pieces (about 2cm, or 3/4″). Heat 60ml (4 Tbsp) olive oil to shimmering in a heavy frying pan and fry the aubergine until golden brown all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside.
Place the stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Melt the butter with the remaining oil in a large heavy-based saucepan on medium-low heat, add the minced onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant but not brown.
Add the rice to the saucepan and stir to coat.
Add the white wine and stir until it has evaporated.
Add the hot stock, cover the saucepan, reduce heat to very low (use a heat dispersing mat, if necessary) and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until the liquid has all been absorbed and the rice is soft. Cooking time will depend on temperature.
Remove from the heat, season well, stir through the chopped aubergine flesh, parmesan, lemon zest and most of the parsley, then stir through the fried aubergine immediately before serving.
Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley.