What a success this dish had been. It not only looks good but tastes delicious. Originally a Jane Baxter recipe, I’ve tweaked it quite a bit to make it a little easier and more to our taste.
It definitely needs some salad greenery alongside. Either a small bed of mixed greens as a starter, or a generous side salad if serving it as a main meal.
The recipe is not difficult and actually it’s surprisingly quick. Risotto however is always needy as you have to stay by its side and not slip out of the kitchen to send off emails or hang out washing. (You can however go to the oven and turn over the roasting vegetables, and remove them from the oven whilst risotto ‘ladeling’).
As it all has to cool I actually left the finished risotto and vegetables for the day – covered – then, early evening, I spent an easy 10 minutes ‘layering’ the cooked components, then baking it for 30 minutes.
The layering part was fun, and the end result is a ‘wow’ moment.
Easily serves 6 as a starter. It also should have managed 6 as a main – with a generous rainbow-content salad alongside. However as three of our foursome had ‘seconds’, only a small 5th portion was left – and no 6th !
Either be cruel and say ‘no seconds’ to your six guests, or aim to serve 4 and have yummy left-overs the next day.
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 generous tbsp olive or coconut oil (for cooking)
…plus some olive for coating the vegetables, oven-ready
pinch of saffron
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds
1-2 chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped (if you like chilli, 2 were very manageable)
200g chopped tomatoes, canned (or use the whole can and a little less broth)
450g arborio (risotto) rice
1.2 litre hot vegetable stock
1 aubergine, thinly sliced, but not shaved
3 courgettes, thinly sliced, ditto
1 bunch fresh basil, torn or sliced
250g mozzarella, sliced
200g roasted red peppers (some then need peeling but some don’t – up to you!)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Cook the onion in the oil over a low heat until transparent. Add the crushed garlic, fennel seed, saffron and finely chopped fresh chilli and stir for another few minutes before adding the rice and chopped tomatoes; coat the lot well over a medium heat.
Now add the stock gradually to the rice, as one does with risotto. One ladle at a time. Wait for each one to be absorbed before adding the next (the 20-25 mins goes quickly and you can indeed be checking on your roasted veg at the same time).
When most of the liquid is used up check the rice – cooked but still a little ‘al dente’. Season with some sea salt – if needed – and fresh pepper, then add the basil leaves.
Meanwhile, toss the aubergine and courgette slices in some olive oil and bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes, until limp and a little coloured. Place on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil left over. These cool quickly.
Butter or oil a loaf tin well. I used a tin which took 2litres of poured water as I can find all these tin sizes a bit wayward at times; I trust ‘content’!)
Line the base with a strip of baking paper – or if you love ‘lining’, do the whole tin.
Layer your tin as follows:
Take 1/3 cooled rice mixture and press it into the bottom – easy and fun because it has become quite sticky and pliable. Don’t be overly generous with your 1/3 as you’ll run out of rice for the final layer as I did the first time I made this.
Top this lay with ½ your roasted vegetables and mozzarella cheese, ie. a row of courgette slices then aubergines and red/yellow peppers and then mozzarella.
Repeat with another 1/3 rice and the remaining vegetables and mozzarella, then finish with the last 1/3 of rice. That’s it.
Bake in a 150c degree oven (or 350F or gas mark 4) for 30 minutes until golden on the top. Run a knife around the edge of the tin, place a serving dish on top and turn it over. If it doesn’t flip, just turn back and run your knife around the edges of the tin again.
The risotto cake has come out beautifully every time although the last time I had to re-run the knife twice!
Serve hot or room temperature with salad.