From a very early age I was always helping out in my family’s restaurant, which was on the shores of Lake Comabbio, in Corgeno, Lombardy. On Christmas day my brother and cousin would be doing lunch service, I would be in the kitchen and my other cousin was at reception – we all stuck together. But at about 6pm we transferred to my grandmother’s house and we would have our dinner there and carry on till very late. My uncle Giovanni, who passed away last year, used to organise a tombola, with jokes and prizes. It was such a nice day.
Food was important too, of course: smoked salmon, capons stuffed with truffle or prunes, lobster, tortellini, fresh anchovies with parsley and garlic. It was a massive feast.
For a restaurant such as the one we ran, New Year was like the glue of the season: if you got it right, you would be OK in January and February, when it’s cold and quiet.
This dish, prosecco risotto, came about when I was working at a restaurant in Paris where we served a risotto made with champagne. I later tried making it with prosecco and discovered that the tiny little sweetness of the prosecco goes beautifully with the rice. It is a recipe born of my experience of both British and Italian cuisines; prosecco is such an Italian thing, and the best scallops in the world are from Scotland (and Ireland).
Giorgio Locatelli is chef-patron at Locanda Locatelli in London.
Rowley Leigh is away
Risotto al prosecco con capesante
Prosecco risotto with scallops (serves 4)
6 large, fresh scallops
1 litre hot fish stock
75g butter, plus an extra knob of cold butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
350g superfine Carnaroli risotto rice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
● Chop two of the scallops into 5mm dice. Slice the rest of the scallops thinly, season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.
● Put the stock in a saucepan and keep it at simmering point.
● Melt the 75g of butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook gently until softened. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute to coat it with the butter. Add the prosecco and cook rapidly until it is reduced by half.
● Slowly pour the fish stock into the rice a ladleful at a time, stirring well. After each addition, allow the stock to be absorbed into the rice before adding the next ladleful, letting it simmer and stirring all the time.
● When all the stock has been added and the rice is tender (this should take about 15-20 minutes), add the diced scallops. Remove from the heat and leave to rest for 30 seconds, then add the knob of butter and stir together well.
● Season well to taste and then serve the risotto in warmed serving bowls garnished with the sliced scallops. The heat of the rice will almost cook the scallops on the way to the dining table.
Poached pears in red and white wine
4 medium-sized ripe pears
3 tablespoons white wine
200g caster sugar
2 cardamom pods
3 tbs red wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
To serve (optional): Vanilla ice cream and biscuits, such as sablé
● Peel the pears and cut in half, remove the cores, then cut each half lengthways into thirds. Put half the pear pieces in a pan with the white wine, half the sugar, the cloves and cardamom pods. Put rest of the pear pieces in a pan with the red wine, rest of the sugar, cinnamon and star anise.
● Heat both pans very, very slowly on as low a heat as possible for 10 minutes or so – the wine should not even reach a simmer, as you want to cook the pears through without them falling apart. When the wine begins to get hot, test the pears with a sharp knife. If it slides into the pears easily, they are ready. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
● Lift out the pears (keeping them separate) and boil up each liquid separately (to 118C, if using a thermometer) and reduce to a thick syrup – remembering that it will thicken more when it is cold. To check if it is the right consistency, put a spoonful on top of a piece of marble or a cold plate – within seconds it will be cold. If it is watery, it needs to be boiled for a little longer, but if it spreads a little, but holds its shape, it is ready.
● Arrange three pieces of each type of poached pear separately on your serving plates, and serve with vanilla ice-cream, drizzled with the two different coloured syrups and biscuits. Or place two rounds of feuilleté crisp on each plate, top one with mascarpone ice-cream, the other with cinnamon ice-cream, and sprinkle the powdered vanilla on top.