If you know Raymond Blanc, then you must know his restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. A while ago, we dined there. It was probably one of the best Michelin star restaurants that we have ever been that left us with really good experience!
I remember we had Menu Découverte, a 9-course menu at £150 per person, excluding wine, coffee and petit fours. (Yes, it’s not cheap for good food!) Raymond Blanc is one of the inspiring chefs who teaches proper French food. If you want to learn making ‘real’ French food (when I say ‘real’, it means authentic, comprehensive and correct methods that guarantee great outcomes!), then you will not be disappointed. For those who are serious about food, then you’ll know what I mean.
I watched one of the series of Kitchen’s Secret by Raymond Blanc and was reminded to try out the tomato essence and tomato risotto recipes. When we were at Le Manoir, we have tomato risotto and absolutely loved it. I remember asking one of the waiters how it was cooked and he did explain the tomato essence bit to me! So, I was keen to try making it at home. This recipe takes a bit of patience as you need to make the tomato a day before, preferably. But, the result is well worth it!
I forgot to take a picture when I hang the muslin parcel with tomato mixture to obtain the essence. Hence, I just took a photo shown below to demonstrate how the tomato essence was obtained.
Tomatoes are abundant at this time of the year. So, try to grab those little jewel-liked cherry tomatoes. This is truly a vegetarian dish and I was really impressed by all the flavours without using seafood or meat. I could eat this risotto everyday! Look at the dish, it’s so summery and basically it is summer in a dish, I would say! I think the tomato essence is such a great idea that brings a potentially plain risotto to another level of flavour.
I have changed a bit on the ingredients by omitting some ingredients and adding some of those that I got at home. For the tomato essence, I kept and put a few small tomato vines to marinate with the mixture and removed them before I poured it into a muslin cloth. I truly recommend this recipe, even if you are not vegetarian! You’ll be amazed of the flavour combinations that make this a great vegetarian risotto! Thank you, Raymond, for this wonderful recipe!
Yield: 4 persons
For the tomato essence:
850g cherry tomatoes
1/2 small fennel, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1/4 celery stick, chopped
1/4 shallot, finely sliced
1 sprig fresh basil
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 -3 drops Tabasco sauce
1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
For the risotto:
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
250g risotto rice, such as carnaroli
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1cm/½in cubes
400ml tomato essence
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
80g asparagus, cut into 5cm lengths
4 tsp freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
1. To make the tomato essence, place all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix together.Place the mixture, in batches, into a food processor and pulse five times for 1-2 seconds each time. Transfer the purée into a large bowl and repeat until all of the vegetables have been puréed.
2. Cover the bowl with cling film and chill in the fridge for six hours. Line a clean bowl with a large piece of muslin and spoon in the tomato mixture. Draw the corners of the muslin cloth together and tie up tightly. String the muslin 'bag' up above the bowl to catch the strained juices. Leave to strain overnight. (Do not be tempted to squeeze the muslin.) Once strained, cover and refrigerate until needed.
3.Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. To make the risotto, heat a pan over a medium heat, add the olive oil and gently fry the onion for 3-4 minutes, or until tender. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the rice, stirring well to coat in the olive oil. Fry for 1-2 minutes, or until the rice is translucent. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4. Place the halved (or whole) cherry tomatoes onto a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven for 5-6 minutes, or until the tomatoes are just tender and collapsed slightly.
5. Add the butternut squash to the pan and mix well. Add the water and half of the tomato essence, then bring to a gentle simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Place the remaining tomato essence into a saucepan and warm through.
6. By now, the rice should have absorbed all of the liquid. Remove the lid and stir well. Add the asparagus cook for a couple of minutes. Add the peas and parmesan and stir well, adding a little water if the risotto is too dry.To serve, spoon the risotto into a small serving bowl. Top with a few roasted tomatoes, a little sprinkling of parmesan.