Beetroot Risotto with Roasted Beets, Lamb, Soft Goat Cheese and Rocket and Walnut Pesto


Can I just say - YUM! I lost my cooking mojo for a couple of days there (why???? - a wee bout of vertigo - yuck - but no other decent explanation) and then all of a sudden I had a hankering to make this risotto when my Dad and Mother-in-law came for dinner. Bless Dad for raving about it as I think he would be over-the-moon if I served him a toasted sandwich, but by crikey, it was very good indeed. Do not freak out when you see the list of ingredients and preparation, because yes it has quite a list of stuff to do, but I promise it is all very simple. You will not be wanting to whip this up in half an hour for a mid-week family dinner, but you should give it a go at the weekend - honestly if you love beetroot and risotto you will be very happy!  Dessert was Chocolate Meringues with Liqueur-spiked Chocolate Mousse and raspberries, but more on that another day. Make sure you read the whole recipe before starting - it makes life so much easier!

Rocket & Walnut Pesto:

1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts

1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cloves garlic (small - or 1 large) crushed
2 cups rocket (thats arugala to some of you!)
1/3 - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to serve
4 medium/large beetroot
6 small baby beetroot
2 tbs olive oil
sea salt & pepper
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup red wine
6-7 cups good quality chicken stock
sea salt and pepper
a few sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
25g soft butter

Racks of lamb - you want to end up with 18 little cutlets
(eg 3 racks of 6)
sea salt and feshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive

To serve:
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts
2/3 cup Rocket & Walnut Pesto (see above)
1/2 cup soft goat cheese
1/2 cup microgreens (optional - or fresh baby rocket)

Feel free to make the Walnut Pesto the day before - throw it all in the whizzie and blend - thats it. Store in an air-tight container until you are ready to use it. If it thickens up too much, just add a wee bit more extra virgin olive oil.

Ok - next get the beetroot out of the way - you can do this the day before too if you like. Preheat oven to 180*C (350*F). Trim all beetroot leaving 3cm of the leafy stalk tops on - then put in a large pot of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Remove baby beets after 10 mins, then big beets after another 25 mins (35 mins in total). When beets are cold enough, slip the skins off gently with your fingers. Put baby beets to one side, then cut big beets into about 8 wedges each. Put wedges into a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, add thyme and pop in the oven until tender and easily pierced with a sharp knife  about 15 minutes. Put all beets to one side for now, and if cooking lamb straight away, increase oven temperature to 190*C (375*F).

Now the lamb - super simple. season both sides of the racks with sea salt and black pepper. Heat olive in large frying pan to a medium/high heat. Add racks flesh side down to sear, for about 4 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a roasting pan (use the one that had the beetroot in it!) and pop in the oven for 15 mins. Remove and cover with tinfoil to rest.

Heat olive oil in a big sauce pan and add onion, cook for 8 minutes over a medium heat. Add garlic, cook for 2 minutes season with salt and pepper, then add rice. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then add red wine. While the red wine is cooking down, heat all of your stock (I confess to microwaving mine for a couple of minutes, but you can just pop it in a saucepan). Once most of the red wine is absorbed add about 1 cup of stock. Keep adding stock as it becomes absorbed, without ever letting the rice dry out. Honestly - no big deal, just keep your pan or jug by the rice pot and add a big slosh every now and again, stirring it in. Pop in a couple of sprigs of thyme while its cooking, and get your serving plates ready. After 20 minutes test your risotto for doneness - taste a bit of rice, it should have just a little 'bite' still left, and season if neccessary with extra sea salt and pepper. When its done, remove from heat and stir in big beetroot wedges, (if you made the beetroot the day before, pop it in the oven for 5 minutes at the end of the risotto cooking time), parmesan and butter. Slice lamb into cutlets and plate up!

Spoon risotto into bowls, top with three lamb cutlets each, a spoonful of soft goat cheese, a tablespoon of pesto and a crumbling of walnuts ( very Nigella!) and garnish with a baby beet and a sprinkling of micorgreens. Serves 6.

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