For the love of risotto. Made in Italy, Wales, and Scotland.

Everyone has that one dish they can rely on, a go to dish that they can pull out when required, like an old friend it’s simply there when you need it. For me stew is a winter staple, and soup a real labour of love, but if I had to cook one dish that my life depended upon it would always be risotto. It’s a dish I find so enjoyable to cook, the intensity of constant attention, feeling the dish come together ingredient by ingredient and grain by grain. It would seem I’m not the only one and via the world of social media I’ve ‘met’ some inspiring like minded individuals like Carla Tomasi, ‘a Roman based cook who, when not in the kitchen, can usually be found in her garden’.

Carla has taught me many techniques simply via Instagram, and when I caught sight of her ‘risotto stirrer’ it seemed a must have utensil. And because he’s such a genuinely nice guy, her very good friend Carl Legge made me one. On a visit to Carla’s home he measured and sketched, and on returning home spliced and whittled a stunning utensil out of beautiful Welsh sycamore, a wood the Scots reputedly used for hangings on account of the strength of the lower branches and which, appropriately enough, is believed to have been brought by the Romans.

Carl’s story of construction

1. The Log - This is the log just cut from the tree. It's about 200mm in diameter. As you can see, it has a healthy population of lichen which is a testament to the clean air of the Llŷn Peninsula

1. The Log – This is the log just cut from the tree. It’s about 200mm in diameter. As you can see, it has a healthy population of lichen which is a testament to the clean air of the Llŷn Peninsula

2. The Split - I cut the log and split with my Gransfors Bruks small forest axe and a rubber mallet. There's a slight twist on the log, and one of the joys of working with green wood is to use the grain to 'tell' you what shape things should take.

2. The Split – I cut the log and split with my Gransfors Bruks small forest axe and a rubber mallet. There’s a slight twist on the log, and one of the joys of working with green wood is to use the grain to ‘tell’ you what shape things should take.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. The Plank - I then took off the 'top' of the log with the axe to make myself a plank. At this stage the plank is about 60mm thick.

3. The Plank – I then took off the ‘top’ of the log with the axe to make myself a plank. At this stage the plank is about 60mm thick.

4. The Design - I reduced the thickness of the plank some more and then drew on the basic shape. You can see my notebook where, when I was at Carla's I took down the measurements and shape of her version.

4. The Design – I reduced the thickness of the plank some more and then drew on the basic shape. You can see my notebook where, when I was at Carla’s I took down the measurements and shape of her version.

5. Waste Removal - There's not much of the original log left. And I'm going as close as I dare using the axe to reduce the material. The axe is quicker but the risk of a project ending mistake gets greater. But the basic shape is appearing and I have a better idea of the grain and the shape the spatula needs to be to be strong and functional.

5. Waste Removal – There’s not much of the original log left. And I’m going as close as I dare using the axe to reduce the material. The axe is quicker but the risk of a project ending mistake gets greater. But the basic shape is appearing and I have a better idea of the grain and the shape the spatula needs to be to be strong and functional.

6. Refining - The next stage is refining the shape using the knives. These are Mora carving knives which I've sharpened using very fine wet and dry sandpaper and a leather strop.

6. Refining – The next stage is refining the shape using the knives. These are Mora carving knives which I’ve sharpened using very fine wet and dry sandpaper and a leather strop.

 

 

7. The Finished Article - After lots more work with the knives and sandpaper, the right shape appears and the spatula is the right thickness. The shape follows the grain for strength, which makes the nice curve on the top of the small end and defines the roundness of the thick end.

7. The Finished Article – After lots more work with the knives and sandpaper, the right shape appears and the spatula is the right thickness.
The shape follows the grain for strength, which makes the nice curve on the top of the small end and defines the roundness of the thick end.

Cooking with it….

After receiving my new utensil made by and Englishman, from Welsh wood, to an Italian design there was only one thing I could make. My favourite risotto using Scottish fish. Peat smoked haddock. I was truly humbled to receive such a beautiful piece of craftsmanship from Carl, and it’s as functional as it is aesthetic, the Engineer in me appreciating the perfect mixing action which leaves no rice at all adhering to the pan with each stir! I look forward to many years of continued use in my kitchen sanctuary with my go to dish.

Peat Smoked Haddock Risotto

Serves 2

1 fillet Smoked Haddock – skin off and preferable peat smoked
1 small Onion – finely chopped
1 small Leek – white only, finely chopped
150g Risotto Rice – I always prefer nano via lone
1 small glass White Wine
Knob butter and splash Olive Oil for frying
1 Bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to season

  1. Make the stock by gently poaching the fish in 400ml cold water with the bay leaf. After 4 minutes the haddock should be cooked. Remove from the stock and reserve both;
  2. In a heavy based sauté pan sweat the onion and leek in the oil and butter until soft, they should not be brown;
  3. Add the rice and stir to cover with the oil, cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring often and being careful not to burn;
  4. Turn the heat to medium and add the wine, stirring rapidly until it all evaporates;
  5. Add the stock ladle by ladle, stirring until each is evaporated before adding the next;
  6. Continue adding the stock one ladle at a time until the rice is al dente, approximately 15 minutes but will depend on the rice;
  7. Stir through the haddock to break up but you want to keep reasonable size chunks, not totally flaked;
  8. Remove from the heat and at this point correct for seasoning with salt and a good grinding of black pepper.

SmokedHaddockRisotto

 

 

 

About Graeme

I want to tell the world of the natural larder and eclectic cuisine of Scotland

2 Comments

  1. What a lovely story – and I know how good that tastes x

  2. It looks lovely. In SW France where I live, I can only buy dyed smoked haddock at approx.16€ a kilo, which I am not keen to eat, so I smoke my own fish in the wok. It’s very good. I usually use it in a kedgeree or very occasionally with a poached egg on top.

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