This happens to me most weeks. I wonder what I’m going to cook for the Wife and myself on the weekend. I usually get my ideas by perving the windows of butcher shops and fishmongers. I’ve even been asked to leave one butcher’s shop when I explained, in response to his “What can I get you?” that I was “just looking”. This approach works most of the time but, like any creative process one can’t time the arrival of ideas to coincide with the warming of the saucepans. A couple of weeks back, I had done my window gazing, I had thumbed the couple of yards of cookery books that live in my ‘blog room’ and even spent some time Googling everything from cheese sandwiches to filet mignon. Then I had a look through the Irish Food Bloggers page on Facebook.
There it was. An innocent comment by the lovely Alice Goodwin (of Sauce Pots fame). Alice had topped a risotto with walnuts. That got me to thinking. Thinking led to a walnut risotto. Thinking about a walnut risotto got me thinking about what would go nicely with such a woodland dish. Pigeon seemed like a good idea. So, my train of thought led to a pretty swanky sounding Walnut Risotto and Sous Vide Pigeon Breast.
The ingredients list for the risotto is similar to a plain one but with the addition of loads (and I mean loads) of walnuts.
Walnut Risotto and Sous Vide Pigeon Breast for two people
- 200 grammes of risotto rice (arborio in this case)
- 200 grammes of walnuts
- 2 shallots
- A few pieces of dried porcini mushrooms
- A glass of white wine
- A litre of good quality homemade chicken stock
- A generous handful or two of parmesan cheese
- Walnut oil for dressing
- Some parsley for a bit of colour
- Salt and pepper
- 4 or 6 wild pigeon breasts
Pour some very hot water over the mushroom pieces to reconstitute. Slice the shallots up nice and small. Fry these gently in a little oil until they become translucent.
This will take a few minutes to do. While the shallots are sweating, prepare the walnuts. Take about 150 grammes of them and blitz them to a paste.
Put all bar a few of the remaining walnuts into a bag and bash them gently with a rolling pin. This is to add some ‘mouth feel’ to your risotto. Keep the few to scatter on top.
Side note on ‘mouth feel’: This is one of the most descriptive and disgusting of marketing’s addition to the lexicon of cookery. I hate the expression. It brings thoughts of food perverts to mind.
Add the rice and stir until it becomes coated with oil and feels a little gritty to stir.
Add the wine.
Stir this until the wine has almost completely absorbed into the rice. Add a ladle of warmed chicken stock.
Stir this until it has almost completely absorbed into the rice. Repeat the process a couple of times. Taste the rice. It will be about half cooked. Add the walnut paste and the bashed walnuts to the risotto.
The pigeon breasts take just 15 minutes at 55ºC in the sous vide. Season them. Add some thyme and a knob of butter. Vacuum seal them and pop them in the water bath.
Remove the mushroom pieces from the water. Add the water to your stock. This will add lovely flavour. Slice the mushrooms and add them to the risotto. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to add stock and stir until the risotto is cooked to your liking.
Grate your parmesan cheese. If you had bought the pre-grated muck, turn off the cooker and scrape the risotto into the bin. You are a disgrace.
Sprinkle most of the cheese on top of the risotto. Turn off the heat. Add a few pools of walnut oil. Place a lid on the saucepan and let things blend a bit. While this is happening, take the pigeon breasts out of the sous vide and brown them in bitter on a hot pan. Stir the risotto to incorporate. Serve it with a nice powerful red wine. I was lucky enough to have a bottle of Phelan Segur hanging around. It didn’t hang for long.
I am really proud of this dish. The risotto was really fantastic with a fantastic meaty / nutty flavour. The pigeon breasts were delicious with it. All in all, an inspirational meal, even if the original inspiration came from Facebook. I encourage you to give it a try. The pigeon breast is optional as is the Phelan Segur. Optional but wonderful.