Leek and Bacon Risotto

Plenty of leeks, a generous seasoning of thyme with a hint of lemon zest and garnish of crisp scraps of smoked bacon swirling round buttery and white wine-lapped rice, are a happy combination. I started cooking hours before the risotto was served, getting it to the stage where wine is added to buttery rice, so the final cooking took minutes. I also used stock cubes. It was extremely good and leftovers formed the basis of a soup, liquidized with a handful of spinach and more stock. My photo shows the end of the first stage of cooking which I left, covered, for several hours.

Serves 3-4
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 35 min

100g bacon lardons
½ tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, approx 90g
300g trimmed leeks
40g butter
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
125ml white wine
1 lemon
200g Arborio rice
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock or
2 chicken stock cubes and 1 litre boiling water
2 tbsp crème fraiche, optional
Few sprigs flat leaf parsley

Stir the lardons into the olive oil in a spacious, lidded sauté/frying pan over a medium-low heat. Leave to crisp and brown, stirring occasionally, while you halve, peel and finely chop the shallot. Slice the leeks in 1cm thick pennies, agitate in a sink of cold water to clean. Drain. Scoop the lardons out of the pan onto a fold of kitchen paper to drain. Add the butter to the pan and stir in the shallots. Cook gently, stirring often, for about 10 minutes until beginning to soften but not colour. Stir in the leeks and with a generous pinch salt. Toss thoroughly, cover and cook for a further 10 minutes. Stir in the rice, stirring constantly until all the grains of rice are shiny with butter. Add the wine and let it bubble up and disappear. This is the point the risotto can be left, covered, until you are ready to complete the cooking. To do so, have ready hot stock (cubes dissolved in boiling water from the kettle) and reheat the contents of the pan over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Add thyme and microplaned zest of half the lemon. Add 2 ladles of hot stock, stirring as it’s absorbed, repeating until the risotto is thick and creamy and/or all the stock is absorbed. I had about 150ml leftover. Stir in the crème fraiche if using (or a knob of butter), cover and leave to sit for 5 minutes. Serve hot from the pan with lardons scattered over the top and a little chopped flat leaf parsley. Offer Parmesan to lavish over the top.