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WanderSups: Clean out the fridge – and make the best-ever risotto

Every fridge has its lurkers: nubs of dried-out cheese, sticks of floppy celery, slices of stale bread. Believe it or not, writes Velvet’s Hannah Gregory, there you have the makings of the best-ever risotto. . .

Hannah Gregory's Odds & Sods Risotto
Hannah Gregory's Odds & Sods Risotto

I have a secret to share. A dirty, dark secret that until now, only my inner circle have been privy to and that is usually down to them rooting through my fridge rather than me willingly sharing.

At the back of my fridge lurks a box. This box is always there no matter what the time of year. At the peak of her season (a brief time period) she is a proud, beautiful chest of cheese; for the rest of her time, a vessel for cheese nubbins. Yes, you heard. Cheese nubbins.

Over the festive period she is a glorious thing to behold, proudly boasting her innards of crumbly Cheddars, stinky blues and oozy softs. At least once a week she is plucked from her chilly plinth and plopped onto the kitchen counter to come to room temp ready to provide us with the best cheeseboard in the east.

As she warms up, her pungent aroma seeps from her seals, her goods ready and waiting to be married with crisp crackers and fiery pickles. This is her time to shine.

For the other 10 months of the year, it’s a slightly different story. Neglected, forgotten about, she gets shoved and pushed to make room for lighter ingredients. Often sworn at for being in the way like a Labrador that is always under your feet but never removed, for I must always have a cheese nubbin box.

Brought up in a household that never threw food away, it was commonplace to be handed a greening lump of Cheddar and told to scrape the mould off if I was in the mood for a toastie, my Dad mumbling something along the lines of “It’s penicillin, it’s good for you” - I never bothered to fact-check this, it didn’t sound right, but also never killed me.

As my cooking developed through my young adult life, I learnt never to throw away the flavour bomb that is a Parmesan rind. As a beholder of long nails, whenever it comes to grating, I am always left with a polygon of sorts in order not to lose the tip of a talon - into the box it is chucked, to dry out and crack with its dairy friends; who knows when it will see the light of day again.

Recently, a hungry partner returned home from work, desperate for something filling and comforting. Being the bad girlfriend / busy independent woman (delete as you feel appropriate) that I am, I hadn’t got anything in and the shelves were near enough barren. As I opened the fridge door, closed it, reopened it repeatedly in the hope that something miraculous would jump out at me, my eyes kept landing on the box.

Having been opened more times over Christmas than a gambler’s wallet in a casino, the poor girl was tired and near-empty - a few scrapings remained, the aforementioned Parmesan rind, some questionable brie, a sorry excuse of a knob of Stilton. I scooped her up, determined to make her work.

To bolster her: a couple of floppy sticks of celery found lurking in the bottom of the veg drawer, some alliums, a crust of old bread, the end of a bottle of Sauvignon that let out a gasp of relief when I opened it - never a good sign - and a jar of nduja.

I can work with this, I thought. Coupled with some cupboard staples - risotto rice, a veg stock-pot and a good knob of butter - I can absolutely work with this.

And so, Odds & Sods Risotto was born, and possibly, may I be so bold, it’s the best risotto I have ever made. Of course you can go and buy fresh cheese if you don’t have a dirty little box like mine, but this is the perfect recipe to use up leftovers and give those nubbins a new lease of life.

Odds & Sods Risotto
Serves: 2 (very generously)

What you need :

Items listed below can be used loosely, this is a clean-up operation after all.

● An amalgamation of whatever cheese you have lying around. For this particular rendition

I used:

- A knob of Baron Bigod (probably an 8th of a wheel)

- Approx 50g of Cheddar

- Approx 50g of parmesan (plus rind if you have one available)

- Approx 25g of Stilton

● Glug of olive oil

● 750ml veg stock (chicken stock is also fine)

● 200ml white wine (rose also works)

● 1 onion finely diced (use shallots if you are out of onions)

● 2 cloves of garlic finely diced

● 2 sticks of very floppy celery, finely chopped

● 250g risotto rice

● Salt and pepper

● Large knob of butter

For the nduja pangrattato:

● Hunk of crusty old bread (or premade breadcrumbs / panko breadcrumbs)

● 40gnduja

● A couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves removed (optional)

How you do it:

1. First up make the pangrattato - blitz your hunk of bread into breadcrumbs.

2. Add the nduja to a frying pan and slowly heat until it melts, breaking up with a spoon until you have a uniform paste.

3. Add the breadcrumbs and keep stirring to make sure the breadcrumbs absorb all the delicious spicy oil.

4. Add the thyme leaves and allow the breadcrumbs to fry until crispy and then remove from the pan and set aside.

5. Heat the stock in a saucepan until warm then keep on a low heat.

6. Add a glug of olive oil and half of the butter to another pan and heat until melted and foaming.

7. Add the diced onion, garlic and celery and turn the heat down to low. Cook the veg gently for about 15 minutes, making sure not to get any colour on them (if you do get colour on them, no one is going to cry about it).

8. Whilst the veg is cooking, chop / crumble / grate your cheese and set aside.

9. Once the veg are softened, add the rice and parmesan rind (if using) and turn the heat up to high.

10. Stir the rice in the pan to ‘fry’ it, the edges will begin to go translucent.

11. Once the rice has done its thing, chuck in the wine.

12. Once the wine has evaporated it is time to begin the massaging of the stock. Adding a ladle of stock at a time, stir the risotto, massaging the rice which allows the starch to be released and the stock to be absorbed. Don’t rush this - it will take 15 to 30 minutes but will result in a perfect texture.

13. When all the stock has been absorbed, check that the rice is cooked - it should be soft but still have a bite. If it needs longer, you can add boiling water and continue the massage.

14. When the rice is where it needs to be, remove the parmesan rind add in all the cheese and remaining butter, stir to combine, then turn off the heat and plop on a lid for a couple of minutes so it gets nice and oozy.

15. Spoon onto a plate and cover with a blanket of the spicy breadcrumbs.

A former BBC MasterChef quarter finalist, Hannah hosts WanderSups supper clubs, “serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf”. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. To find out more follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com.

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