For me, food is comfort. When I am stressed or upset I shut myself in the kitchen and cook out my fury. I’m also physically incapable of cooking for one, so recently I rage-cooked a slick pot of Risotto allo Zafferano and marrow without any regard for the weather and called in R and TBP to help me eat it.
Saffron risotto is really common in the north of Italy, particularly Milan – although to make it Risotto alla Milanese I should have put the marrow in the risotto. Lombardia is one of my favourite parts of the world and this dish has huge nostalgia value for me. The presentation in the bone is inspired by Lalla Rookh, although theirs was much more professional and less caveman-like. My family recently tried the tasting menu for my Mum’s birthday and the memory of that perfect, unctuous marrow spread on their crisp and chewy grilled focaccia will follow me to the grave.
Risotto allo Zafferano with Marrow
For the risotto
1 brown onion
2 cloves of garlic
3 cups of arborio rice
1 cup of white wine
2 litres of beef stock
100g grana padano
Saffron – a pinch or more, whatever you can afford
Salt & pepper to taste
For the marrow
Marrow bones – I used two large beef bones
1 clove garlic
Half a brown onion
1 stick celery
50g grana padano
Salt, pepper & sugar to taste
Several hours (or at the very least, half an hour!) before you start the risotto, combine the saffron and wine and sit at room temperature to steep.
When you’re ready to cook, start with the sugo for the marrow – the further ahead you can make it, the more delicious it will be.
Chop the onion as finely as possible and mince the garlic. Warm a dash of olive oil in a saucepan and saute the onion and garlic.
Cut the celery and carrot into brunoise (3mmx3mmx3mm dice). Add to the pan and continue to cook, stirring, until they begin to soften.
Add the passata and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, then leave to cook uncovered (sorry in advance for what this will do to your stovetop) until the sauce has reduced and the flavours developed. I’m a pretentious git about tomato-based sauces and I like to leave it for a couple of hours, but I’m sure it’d be fine with only half an hour or so. Depending on your passata, you may need to add a teaspoon or two of sugar. If the sugo reduces too far but you aren’t ready or happy with it yet then top it up with a bit of water or stock to keep it trucking along.
When the sauce is about half an hour off ready, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place a small pot on the stove and gently warm the stock for the risotto.
Chop the onion and garlic for the risotto – I usually leave the onion pretty chunky in this dish but that’s a personal preference thing.
Just before starting the risotto, place the marrow bones on a tray and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Heat up a glugg or two of olive oil and a knob off your 50g of butter in a heavy-bottom pot over a low heat. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until softened. Add the rice and toast a little, stirring to make sure each grain gets covered in butter and oil, and nothing sticks.
Increase the heat to medium and add the white wine to the pot, stirring until it’s absorbed. Gradually add the stock, one ladle at a time as it’s absorbed – you want to keep the risotto under a thin, glossy layer of liquid, neither dry and catching nor sloppy and drowning. Stir frequently to keep it as creamy as possible.
The 20 minutes for the marrow bones should be up around the same time your risotto starts to look ready. Pull the bones out of the oven and pile some of the sugo over the exposed marrow, making sure to get some chunky vegetable bits as well as just sauce. Pop them back in the oven for another five minutes while everything comes together.
When the risotto is juuuuust reaching al dente, grate the grana padano for both the risotto and the marrow, and cut the remaining butter into cubes. Pull the marrow bones out and sprinkle one lot of grana padano over them, then pop them back in the oven for a final five minutes to melt the cheese.
Take the risotto off the heat. Add the remaining grana and butter and stir vigorously. Check for seasoning, then serve. When the grana has melted over the marrow bones, serve them in a caveman-worthy pile in the middle of the table.