I recently had the fortunate experience of teaching Stratford Chefs School students as the Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer in Residence. Their project was to develop and write a recipe and then make a video. Not one of the 66 students had ever made a video before, but their work was humorous and smart. I wanted to print a few of the best recipes, but I have so many good ones that I am running two this week and I will continue to use others as the seasons change.
"Perfectly cooked Arborio rice, suspended in a creamy sauce consisting of flavourful meat stock and butter is a tough combination to beat," says James Toenders, a first-year student. "That is, unless you need to avoid animal byproducts."
As his girlfriend is a vegan, he had to get creative. "It's a common misconception that vegan food isn't flavourful. All of the richness and flavour of butter, cream and meat can be achieved using alternatives," he says. He uses vegan Earth Balance or Becel to replace the butter and enriches the packaged vegetable broth by simmering it with hearty dried mushrooms.
"Full of sharp, bitter and bright flavours, this crisp salad is perfect for pairing with traditionally heavy winter meals," says Sam Bavaro, a second-year student. "Serve this salad with attitude. Use a plate and let the salad fall naturally, showing height and body. Set the table with a fork and knife to cut the big leaves and roots," he says. Use purple and yellow carrots for colour contrast.
Beverage-wise, both recipes point in the direction of Italy – the risotto for obvious reasons and the salad because it resonates with bitter flavours adored by inhabitants of the Mediterranean's great peninsula. For the former, consider a Barolo, the Piedmont region's regal red. The wine often boasts a subtle scent of truffle over notes of cherry liqueur, tar and roses, a heady accompaniment to underscore the earthy mushroom essence of the risotto. If you're on a student's budget, look for a nebbiolo d'Alba, made from the same grape in the same region but often much less expensive than the $40-plus you'd incur for a decent Barolo. For the salad, go with a lean, lively and unoaked white from just about anywhere in Italy, especially affordable verdicchio from the central Marche region, Soave from the Veneto or a Sicilian grillo, both as crisp and delectably bitter as the greens. But you can't go wrong with a much more widely available – and generally inexpensive – pinot grigio. And you could serve any such white with the risotto, too, and give yourself high marks for covering two dishes with one bottle. – Beppi Crosariol