Monday, May 27, 2013


 Entering Rocco’s Italian Restaurant and she stepped out of the world of strip malls and steamy Florida evenings and into a cool, dark, faraway place filled with bustling waiters and a vibrant, foreign atmosphere. Wooden tables spread with the quintessential red and white checked tablecloths and candles stuck into straw-wrapped Chianti bottles, dripping red wax, splattering on the cloth. All of the paraphernalia to make us feel as if we were eating in the kitchen of an Italian nonna, and how was a ten year old to know? Plates were piled high with mountains of spaghetti swirled with rich, dark ruby-red or generous platefuls of creamy cheese manicotti, bowls brimming with exotic, mysterious mussels, her very first, bathed in spicy sanguine Diavolo sauce. She was whisked off into another world, a place in her dreams. Dark wood paneling glowed in the candlelight submerging her in a russet warmth.

 Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red light, green light. Red cherry poptarts. A single icy scoop of cherry sorbet sitting atop a cone. A favorite red skirt in the color of candy apples, a single white zipper sliding up up up straight up front and center ending in a white hoop daring the boys to yank it down causing her innocent cheeks to burn deep crimson, the color of the skirt. Garlands of chili peppers strung up in the kitchen window, abandoned, drying into a deeper shade of red. Tomatoes in scarlet, rust and vermillion splotched with black lined up like punished school children, the only bounty, other than the uneaten chili peppers, from that meager excuse for a kitchen garden off of the garage. Blaringly shiny fire engine red woodwork against lemon yellow walls.

 A childhood in red

 The red of winter, deep and brooding. Garnet-hued beetroots, blood red poinsettias. Stews brightened by sharp chilis, chipotle, paprika the color of brick; heat. Apple-red peppers, roasted smoky and sweet. Exotic. Tart pomegranate leaving fingers elegantly stained the color of velvet. Dizzying swirls of a fistful of candy canes; the vibrant tang of cranberries popping one by one in the foamy liquid, bubbling, frothing, seething, redolent of orange, cinnamon, clove.

 Red cabbage, carmine radicchio, mysterious dahlias. The bitter bite of red, intriguing. An ernest love-hate relationship.

 The red of summer, sweet and saucy, cherries and raspberries and strawberries, the joyous red of picnics, red-checked cloth spread out in the sun. Handfuls of pretty little radishes, sinful red giving way to pristine, virginal white. Rhubarb, deep red melting into pink.

 A splash of color, bright and warm. Fields of poppies as far as the eye can see.

 A squirt of ketchup on a hotdog… a study in red.

Seeing red.

Romance, cupids, hearts. Roses, peonies, plump satin bows perched atop boxes of chocolates. Love.

Violence, anger, warfare. Hate.

Red is passion. Sensual. Steamy. Heat.


Power and attention. Danger. Red stirs to action and stirs up emotions. Pounding heart, racing pulse. Lust.

Flushed cheeks. A maiden’s blush.

A young girl’s first lipstick. Fuschia, magenta, cinnabar.

 Red Velvet Cake. Less red then deep dark brown, the color of the earth. From dust to dust. I pop open the jar of pickled beets, perfect round orbs the size of golf balls. A deep violet red the color of garnets, shimmering with liquid like puddles in starlight. I measure out spoonfuls of the sweet, briny beet juice and add it to the chocolate batter. The whisk whips around and around until it is thick, creamy, unctuously smooth. Red melting into darkness. My brother watches in silence. His recipe, this is his favorite recipe I am making for him, a red velvet cake he has baked for himself for his own birthday for how many years? This will be the last cake I bake for him. I scrape the batter into the pans and slide each into the oven. My brother’s fingers curl around the spatula I hand to him, a look of glee in his eyes as he licks the chocolate and mugs for the camera. The silence weighs heavily, haunting me since I came to visit two weeks earlier, his voice long swallowed up by the illness. His once already lank body has shrunken to frail and I will serve him thick wedges of Red Velvet Cake drenched in chocolate ganache, scoops of ice cream on the side in a last ditch effort to plump him up. And make him smile. Feeding him love the color of my broken heart.

Red beetroots taste as earthy as they look, that murky red-violet hue promises dark, full flavours from the parts of the world we can't see. I like red beetroots, they remind me of my mother's warm and worn hands, dirty from digging into the earth and pulling up what she had planted months earlier. I think she would have liked these cupcakes, spotty with chocolate and topped with cinnamon sweet icing.

9 big ones or 15 smaller

3 eggs
165 g/ 5,8 oz sugar
6-7 tbsp beetroot puree (I whizzed a couple of cooked and peeled beetroots in a blender with a little water until smooth)
120 g/ 4,2 oz butter, melted
255 g/ 9 oz flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 g/ 3,5 oz dark quality chocolate, chopped

red icing:
icing sugar
red beetroot puree
pinch of cinnamon

   Whisk eggs and sugar fluffy in a bowl. Add the beetroot puree and the butter and stir well.
   Sift flour and and baking powder into the bowl and mix until smooth. Fold the chopped chocolate into the batter and then fill your cupcake forms. Bake in a pre-heated oven (200°C/390°F) for 10-15 minutes, the time depends how big the cupcakes are. Leave to cool when ready.

   Mix icing sugar and cinnamon with a spoon of beetroot puree until completely smooth and of consistency you like. (It is difficult for me to give you exact measures because it depends on how liquid the red beetroot puree is.) When the cupcakes are cold, decorate with the icing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sieves and Colanders

 Weekend in Budapest. We seem to spend an inordinate, an absolutely senseless amount of time in markets when we travel. But where better to get the feel for a people, an impression of the daily life, the heart and soul of a city, if not a market? A stupendous structure in shades of earth and brick, a magical emporium offering a jumble of foodstuff and drygoods. An impressive three-story wonderland of rigid lines, spaces strictly defined, aisles running up and down, side to side like the streets of New York. Stalls teeming with fruits and vegetables, colorful, vibrant; sleek fish gleaming in silver, pewter, shimmering pale; cheeses heady, fragrant, tempting. And paprika. Lots of paprika. Endless heaps of paprika. I select one porcelain box, a cheeky pepper perched atop the lid, deep red, chilli red on white. 

 We wander the halls, climb the steps to the next level and then the next, perusing the goods, the local products, fingering linens, ogling the bounty. Husband is shooting photos as I remind him that we have yet to select a souvenir of the trip, other than that cute little paprika pot. He spots a stand filled with hand-stitched tablecloths in oatmeal linen and together we choose one, adding it to the sack with t-shirts for the boys.

 And then I spot it. Just what I want. A stand up on the third floor, tucked into the farthest corner, lonely and forlorn, not for the tourists. A jumble of housewares and kitchen supplies, as organized and presented as picture-perfectly as the fruit and the pastries down on the first floor: packs of sponges, bundles of mops and brooms, bathmats, plungers and string and scissors, whatever the homemaker may need. Yet mine is not a necessity but rather a desire, a craving, a selfish impulse. Edging the frame of the tiny shop are gatherings of enamelware in pristine white edged in ordinary blue: mugs and tiny milk pots, saucepans, ladles and jugs. And colanders. Strung up nonchalantly, bundled together as an afterthought. The colander was the perfect half circle cut through with holes within holes, concentric perforations dotting the bottom. A long, sleek handle on one side of the round balanced with a small thick hook on the other, the better to perch within a bowl, and I couldn’t see myself walking away from the market, leaving this city without it. Oh, it wasn’t perfect; upon closer inspection one could see minute, delicate chips revealing a dark underside already flecking the imperfect white. But I so coveted this homely, unsophisticated object, an object of desire. My husband, knowing that the oddest things make me happy, hushed my oooohs and ahhhhs, instructing me to remain silent and unmoved while he negotiated a price, hoping that she would throw in the small milk pot.

 A Hungarian white enamel colander. So unlike the battered aluminum colander of my childhood that stills nestles among the odd pot and pan in my mother’s kitchen cabinets.

 Colander Sieve Filter Strainer a symphony in metal.

 The tickety-tack of freshly shelled peas rolling back and forth, back and forth, cupped in the graceful curve of my stainless steel colander. A mad surge of water jolting the petit pois to life, out of their safe little world and pushing them violently up and back like on a roller coaster, a swing set, a see saw. Scoop down into the peas and shuffle them around, sliding through your fingers; jiggle the colander sharply, violently under the rushing stream and watch the peas dash deliriously around and around, a frenzied swirling Dervish.

 Berries, gently oh-so gently so as not to break the tender fruit. Place a scoop, a palmful in the bottom of the sieve, berries cradled in fine mesh. Allow the water to wash over the delicate things softly, a quiet wriggle of the utensil to bathe away the impurities without harming the fragile skin. Blood in garnet, violet and indigo, staining white porcelain, staining fingertips.

 My aluminum chinois. Nothing soft about the hard-edged tool. Cone-shaped looking for all the world like a Gaultier-Madonna collaboration or something once worn by the Tin Man. On his head. Bulky, too long, too deep, too sharp to fit smoothly into my cabinet; awkward and unwieldy, I struggle with it each and every time I open the door out it clatters and I try and wedge it back in, shuffling all the baking sheets and food mill, equally troublesome. Yet, how I love my chinois, reminding me of pastry classes, reminding me of everything French, making me feel so efficient, so experienced, so expert. A rain of white rice, elegantly slim basmati, rustic brown, that cool scud of waterfall pushing its way through the opaque, seemingly impenetrable barrier, rushing out the bottom, showering through the point. Nebulous. Indefinite. Time washing away impurities like sinful thoughts. Perching the chinois within the curve of a bowl, precarious. Digging out the last of the grains from deep inside the tip, the squelch of the liquid, the scratch of fingernails on metal. Enamored.

 A nesting of colanders, sieves, strainers in stainless, plastic, ceramic and silicone, chipped, battered, shiny and dull, each one his or her specific use. Which one fruit, which one pasta, which one boiled potatoes? A sifting of flour, cocoa, powdered sugar through one, a straining of crème anglaise in another, a heap of green beans to be snapped or peas to be shucked, a colander tucked between legs. Homely, elegant, utilitarian, sensual. A jaunty military helmet for a tiny head, a fine mesh strainer to sift for gold.

A fresh cream cheese dessert from my corner of France, there are many versions of the traditional Crémet. There is even a debate – in my own mind – of whether this is actually a Crémet Nantais or a Crémet d’Anjou from the neighboring region, around the city of Angers. Like many traditional recipes, I begin with fromage blanc faisselle, a chunky type of fresh white cheese made from curdled milk, much the consistency of wet cottage cheese. One could replace this with home-curdled milk, cottage cheese, quark or ricotta. I have also seen the proportions of fromage blanc to heavy whipping cream vary, from equal quantities to two-to-one. As this is a no-bake dessert, feel free to experiment. And sweeten to taste. Like a Coeur à la Crème, a Crémet may have a very slight or mild tang or hint of cheese flavor depending upon the cheese or milk product used. Left to drain overnight to thicken, the Crémet becomes milder and sweeter and is perfect served with fresh berries or berry coulis.


This is a very delicate, fragile dessert that should be manipulated as little as possible. As in anything made light from whipping, be very careful when unmolding, spooning from sieve into serving bowl or serving. Do not overfold the ingredients when preparing.

Approximately 300 g (10 ½ oz) fromage blanc faisselle (a chunky curdled milk product) or cottage cheese, ricotta or quark *
200 - 250 ml (generous ½ cup – 1 cup) fresh cold heavy or whipping cream
2 large egg whites
Pinch salt
85 g (3 oz) powdered/confectioner's/icing sugar or to taste
Fresh berries to serve

*this is a curdled white fresh cheese similar to a wet cottage cheese.

Spoon the fromage blanc into a sieve and placed over a bowl in the refrigerator to drain the time of a meal or a few hours.

Once drained, beat the fromage blanc in a large bowl with all of the sugar less 1 - 2 tablespoons with a hand mixer on low speed to smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat the cold heavy cream to Chantilly - very thick whipped cream. Fold the whipped cream delicately into the fromage blanc.

In a separate, very clean bowl using very clean beaters, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt on high speed until frothy; continue beating, gradually adding in the remaining tablespoon or two of icing sugar. Beat until the whites are stiff. Fold delicately into the cheese/cream mixture until the mixture is smooth and thick.

Place the Crémet in a fine mesh strainer or sieve (or tightly wrapped in mousseline placed in the strainer or colander), place the sieve or colander over a bowl and place in the refrigerator to drain overnight. Alternately, the Crémet can be divided into individual molds with holes in the bottom like a Coeur à la crème.

The following day, unmold the Crémet onto plates or place the drained Crémet in a serving bowl. Rinse the berries, pat dry. Spoon servings of the Crémet into individual dessert plates or bowls and serve topped with berries. Serves 4 to 6.

Monday, May 13, 2013


 She always used the same skillet: tiny, just big enough for one single egg, no bigger than her open hand; bright, shiny, silver the color of the sky just after a storm. One single egg snapped into the metal mixing bowl, the rapid-fire movement of the fork, vigorously whisking that egg into a blur of pale yellow, the color of a fairytale princess’s tresses. A dusting of salt, a grinding of pepper leaving flecks of earthy black across the surface. A swirl of butter sizzling as the heat explores the face of the miniature skillet, a waterfall of egg, the deft movement of the wrist as the pan is lifted ever-so slightly from the flame allowing the bright yellow liquid to spread. Then it sets, in a flash, and puffs up to the fascinated, wondering eyes of my childhood self as I peep from around my mother as she stands at the stove. She shoos me away; this is her time, her lunch, her egg.

 Fried egg sandwich. This was part of my mother’s special repertoire of private treats. A ritual, quasi-religious. Creamed corn eaten right out of the can or dumped into a bowl, a splash of milk added, spooned up as she read the newspaper or a paperback novel. A tall, chilled glass of milky, sweet iced coffee, tasting of dessert, the ice cubes making that intriguing, adult clatter as she drank (stolen sips when her back was turned; scolded for the attempt). One single baked sweet potato. And a fried egg sandwich. A pillow of egg scooped from the pan and placed steaming in the center of one slice of white bread. A squirt or two of red, red ketchup, deeper crimson than my flushed, envious cheeks. A second slice of soft bread edged in brown, a sharp knife movement creating two perfectly even triangles – a sandwich always cut on the angle. She kept these adamantly, diligently to herself.

 Did my passionate desire for fried egg sandwiches grow out of the forbidden nature of such an adult pleasure? Such provocation was her making this sandwich in front of me. Such delicious intrigue in the single serving, the one-egg frying pan, the childlike smear of pungent ketchup. So bewitching the sensual texture of the fluffy bread, the ice cold, savory sweet surprise of the ketchup against the warmth of the egg, the utter blandness of the egg, the pop of the omelet as one bites down into the whole. Such an intoxicating delight was this most simple of foods. And I craved nothing more.

Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelettes. 
George Bernard Shaw

 Green Eggs and Ham. The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg. The Most Wonderful Egg in the World. How much magic in an egg. Smooth and perfectly shaped, pristine white or milk-chocolate brown. Speckled or pale Easter blue. Stories one after the other of the magic of the ordinary egg rendered less ordinary by stupendous powers, spectacular beauty or uncommon value. Two little boys, wide-eyed with wonder, singing the splendor of green eggs and ham I do not like them Sam I am. 

 Dotty had the most beautiful feathers. Stalky had the most beautiful legs. And Plumy had the most beautiful crest. But which of them was the most beautiful? The three hens went to the king. "Whichever one of you lays the most wonderful egg I will make a princess," he proclaimed. 
Helme Heine, The Most Wonderful Egg in the World

 My sons had storybooks galore filled with tales of special eggs, but my own favorite wasn’t to be found in the pages of a book. It was true to life, the tale of a handsome young man, clever and adventurous. The secret story of the Prince’s eggs. The young man, straight out of school, finds himself in charge of the Prince’s precious ostrich eggs. The King’s brother oversaw a farm of the beloved birds, bred them for pleasure, adored the graceful flightless monsters. The young man was put in charge of the newly laid eggs, overseeing their incubation, making sure no harm came to the treasure before they turned into birds, much like a frog turning into a prince. 

 One day, the absentminded young man inadvertently placed his morning coffee mug on one of the incubators. And forgot about it. The following morning, he arrived to work and found the Prince’s emissary standing in the doorway of the building, arms crossed, furious. He explained that somehow all of the Prince’s ostrich eggs had cooked. Hard boiled. Mysteriously. A coffee cup placed on the temperature gauge. Lips pinched, eyes like slits, the emissary sent the embarrassed young man packing.


 Eggs. Delicate, fragile. Childhood reminiscence of egg custards, egg creams, scrambled egg on toast. Oeufs à la coques et mouillettes, served by a French grandmother to her tiny grandsons, comfort food. Soft-boiled eggs nestled into egg cups; tap on the top with the back of a spoon until the shell cracks. Delicately, carefully, pick off the cap to reveal the glistening white. Break the surface of the white oh-so slowly. Dip the spoon into the smooth white until the yellow bursts forth and dribbles down the side of the egg, cup and all. Dust with a fine layer of salt, select one single finger of buttered bread and bury the top half of the stick into the runny yolk. A childhood delight.

 I became a scrambled egg lover in the early eighties when I spent a summer in London doing nothing more than enjoying life. I lived in a hostel for young women where I shared a room with two office girls, Janet and Kim. They were very different from one another and I bonded with Janet who was a very exuberant, chatty and alive kind of person, a true party girl! One Saturday morning, that kind of day after the evening before that sometimes can happen, we went out shopping but suddenly felt the urgent need to eat. She took me to a dingy, plastic cafe which didn't promise anything when you walked in but it was there I found my scrambled egg nirvana: creamy, sweet and with a perfect buttery feel to them. 

1 large or 2 small servings 

2 eggs 
2 tbsp fresh cream 
1 tsp chopped fresh herbs, I used oregano, marjory, sage and thyme 
a pinch of salt 
high quality butter 

 Slice the bread and cut off any hard edges. Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the bread on both sides. 

 Mix eggs, cream, herbs and salt lightly, not too much. 

 Melt a generous knob of butter in a non-stick pan, pour in in the eggs and start stirring with a wooden spoon over low heat. Stir continuously and take the pan from the heat while it is a little creamier or looser than you want it; it will continue to cook in the skillet once off the heat. 

 Serve the scrambled eggs with the fried bread.

Monday, May 6, 2013


I eat my peas with honey 
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny 
But it keeps them on the knife. 
- anonymous 

 There is a ritual to eating peas. Prick one, tiny, round green orb with the tine of a fork. If you have the talent and if you have the patience, you can slide one single sphere onto each tine. This may take the use of your fingers. A very delicate pressure placed on the tender pea so as not to crush even one. POP the skin bursts allowing the thick creamy meat to ooze out and you must start the process over again after licking the sweetness off of your fingertips. Oh maybe a double row, if one is thoroughly daring. Or three. How many peas will each tine hold? Then admire your handiwork. Show off just a little. Wave the fork around a bit; don’t worry if the food gets cold. Peas are delightful cool, as well. Build up to the final movement, the denouement. Expectations high. Slide the fork between eager lips, place the rows of peas upon the tongue. Very gently, mouth closed but lightly, then softly slide those peas off of the fork.

 Or by the spoonful. Peas swimming in salty butter, dusted with a shower of fine dried mint crushed between your fingertips. Or just a light hand of fleur de sel. Teaspoon? Tablespoon? Soupspoon? Pick out any other vegetables. Push the tiny cubes of carrot off to the side of the plate; today we are in a round, green mood. Grasp the spoon tightly in one hand and press the bowl to the surface of the plate. Tilt ever-so slightly towards you then, using the pad of your thumb, push as many peas as will fit into the bowl of your spoon into the upturned, expectant utensil. Coordinate this perfectly with the graceful movement of the spoon itself, lifting, a slow, gentle, sweeping curve, as the spoon is filled with peas. And you are ready to eat.

 Flicking peas off the tip of a spoon at each other across the diningroom table. Catapult. Better with mashed potatoes, come to think of it.

 A dog pushing one single fresh pea around the kitchen floor with his snout.

 A colander filled with pods. Pop open the pods one by one with a sharp, satisfying snap. Nestle the pod lengthwise in the palm of your slightly cupped hand. Using only one thumb pressed down underneath the bottom pea, push the thumb upwards in one sweeping, determined, unflinching movement. Pretty maids all in a row. Smell the sweet pea fragrance released. The scent of springtime. A sharp staccato as they tumble into the bowl.

 Begin all over again.

 One escapes the procession. Jumps ship, a renegade pea. Breaks the cadence, the rhythmic lull of the afternoon. Slips between fingers, hops across countertop, bounces onto the floor. Dog stands waiting, at the ready for just such an event. Curious, the snout tips forward, sniffing this odd thing. A gentle nudge sends the pea moving. A snort and a second nudge and a third. Pink tongue whips out, lashes the pea, pea disappears then reappears as dog spits it back out. And repeats, a game of cat and mouse.

We lived very simply – but with all the essentials of life well understood and provided for 
– hot baths, cold champagne, new peas and old brandy. 
- Winston Churchill, “The Last Lion” by William Manchester, 1993 

 Canned, frozen or fresh? Springtime peas come in early summer, heaped up in a jumble on wooden market stalls. Wooing with their brilliant color, the color of apples and emeralds and gingham curtains hung in a young girl’s room. Against her will. Green the color of Girl Scout uniforms.

 Amidst the golden peaches, ruby nectarines, neon strawberries. Hiding their treasures in a tough cocoon like coy women hiding curves and femininity behind wraps of wool and fur.

 Risi e bisi. An Italian summer, rice simmered slowly, the scent of crisp white wine, a dusting of Parmesan. Peas al dente.

 Lamb navarin. A French springtime ritual, young lamb, meat melting under the fork, tiny baby carrots, elegant pearl onions, tender potatoes, thick, rich broth. Spring peas.

 Samosas. Indian heat, creamy potatoes spilling out of crisp, flaky wrappings, flecked with bright green.

 A cup of icy frozen peas, frosty orbs in a halo of brume. Tumbling into flames, the heated skillet with a sizzle, coming to life. Violent, hard, heat into something soft and tender and sweet.

 The fog as thick as pea soup.

 A simple, homey yet elegant dish, the perfect light summer meal, Risi e Bisi – Rice and Peas – is a classic of northern Italian home cooking and the perfect way to highlight summer’s fresh pea bounty. This is my own untraditional version. Mint adds a wonderfully fresh touch; roasted cherry tomatoes add a flavorful, sweet balance and a pop of color to the dish. Use frozen peas to capture a warm Italian day in the middle of the winter.


1 small onion or shallot, finely diced
3 Tbs (45 g) unsalted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 ½ - 2 cups young, tiny sweet peas, fresh or frozen
About 5 cups (1 ½ litres) chicken or vegetable stock, warm
9 oz (250 g) round rice for risotto, Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli
Handful of chopped fresh mint or a dusting of dried
Finely grated Parmesan cheese to taste or chopped or crumbled Greek feta, if preferred
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Firm cherry tomatoes, about 4 or 5 per person
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 peeled and crushed (not chopped) garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Begin by roasting the cherry tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Stir together 2 tablespoons olive oil with 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar in a glass baking dish or pie plate. Season with a little salt and pepper and add 2 peeled and crushed garlic cloves. Toss the cherry tomatoes in the flavored oil and roast for about 20 minutes or until the skins are split and shriveled and the tomatoes start to show signs of roasting (a bit golden). If you like, turn on the overhead grill for the last couple of minutes to color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool while preparing the risotto.

Prepare the Risotto: Heat half the butter and the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and, stirring, cook for a couple of minutes until softened and just starting to turn golden.

 Add the peas and a few tablespoons of the warm stock and cook for a few minutes just to defrost the frozen peas or up to 10 minutes for fresh peas until tender.

 Add the rice and toss with the onion and peas until all the grains are coated in oil. Cook for a minute or two until the grains of rice become slightly translucent. Pour on two ladlefuls of broth and cook, stirring continuously and gently, until the liquid is almost completely absorbed. Continue cooking the risotto over medium low heat, adding 2 ladlefuls of broth at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of liquid to be almost absorbed before adding more broth. This should take between 20 and 25 minutes total cooking time from the moment the rice is added to the peas.

 A few minutes before the rice is done, stir in a large handful of chopped fresh mint and the finely grated Parmesan or crumbled feta, more or less as you please. Taste and add a bit of salt only as needed – the stock and the cheese are both salty so taste to see if any additional salt is necessary. Add pepper.

 When the risotto is finished, the rice should be meltingly tender, the risotto creamy and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter and top with a bit more Parmesan, if desired. Serve with the warm roasted cherry tomatoes.