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risotto with camomile

This strange risotto is one of the best I have ever made. Fragrant, gentle, ideal for a glass of white wine

ingredients for 4 servings (cost about 2 € pp)
  • 240 g carnaroli rice
  • 1 small glass white wine
  • 1,2 litre water
  • 1 large bunch of fresh camomile
  • EV olive oil
  • 1 small leek
  • Salt
  • 40 g Parmigiano or Grana cheese
  • 40 g butter

Spring. The season which offers the largest variety of products. Fruits, vegetables, mushrooms and, of course, plenty of wild herbs.

I enjoy going to open air food markets (here, in Greece, we call them popular markets), especially during spring time. It is a paradise for me, as I can find a vast variety of wild leaves, grown on the Greek valleys and harvested just a few hours before selling time.

So, yesterday I found fresh camomile and it was ridiculously cheap, just 70 cents each (large) bunch. I bought one, without having decided, how I would use it.

The first thought is obvious. Tisane. Actually a cold tisane with fresh camomile, honey and ice is wonderful, but I have drunk it a lot of times.

Why not making a risotto, I wondered. And I started preparing it.

First of all, we prepare the camomile “stock”. We keep a very small quantity of camomile flowers and leaves for the final decoration. We discard the largest part of the leaves and the stems (as they have a bitter taste) and we boil the camomile flowers for 10 minutes. We turn off the heat, we cover with cling film and we let the flowers infuse for 10 minutes more. We strain and we keep the stock.

We continue with the soffritto. I decided to use leek, instead of the classic onion, as it has a sweeter and lighter taste. I suggest that you do the same, but If you don’t have a leek, don’t worry, use an onion. So, we mince the leek and we gently fry it in EV olive oil for 5 minutes.

In a small pan we lightly toast the rice, USING NO FAT AT ALL and when it is so hot that we cannot hold it in our hands, we pour it into the pan with the soffritto. We pour in the wine and then we start cooking the risotto, adding a ladle of very hot – boiling camomile stock, whenever the liquid starts to get reduced.

We blanch a few camomile leaves and flowers in the stock for 10 seconds. We chop them.

While the rice is being prepared, we also finely grate the cheese.

When the rice is cooked (al dente, of course), we remove the pan from the stove. We taste the salt, adding some if required. We also add the chopped camomile leaves in order to visually “interrupt” the white colour with tiny green spots and make it look better.

Stirring constantly, we start adding the butter, cut in dice and the cheese. We continue stirring, until we obtain a very creamy result, we cover the pan with a lid and we let it stand for 3 minutes.

We plate and we decorate, as shown in the photos, with finely chopped camomile flowers.


Published in RICE