Friday, December 23, 2011

Cauliflower risotto

Christmas can be a logistical nightmare for trying to get families together. For many years, we would have a lunch with one family followed by a dinner with the other family on Christmas Day which was quite exhausting. In more recent times, our first family gathering kicks off on Christmas Eve with my side of the family. Christmas Day is relatively quiet consisting of a brunch with the man's family followed by a proper lunch on Boxing Day. It feels more relaxing to have the festivities spread out over a few days and it also gives me plenty of time for cooking!

Over the last few years I have made a couple of nut roasts from Johanna's Green Gourmet Giraffe blog, a tofurkey discovered on Where's The Beef and Carla from easy as vegan pie's cauliflower and caramelised onion tart amongst other things. This year I wanted to mix it up a little. When my sister announced that she was planning a BBQ on Christmas Eve, I had to put my thinking cap on because veggie burgers or sausages didn't feel special enough for the occasion. I threw a few ideas at the man and the one that we both happily agreed on was arancini.

Arancini or risotto balls are best made with day old risotto so I decided to make a double batch of risotto, serve some for dinner and use the remainder for the arancini. A smooth textured risotto suits arancini best as it makes rolling the balls much easier. A cauliflower risotto recipe had been sitting in my drafts for several months as I didn't record the recipe properly when I initially threw it together and also felt that my first effort needed a bit of tweaking. I knew that the texture would be perfect for arancini so it was time to give it another try.

This risotto starts off by cooking the cauliflower in vegetable stock and then blending it with a bit of stock. The thick cauliflower puree is reserved and added to the plain risotto when it has finishing cooking which makes it a very creamy dish. We like to eat this risotto garnished with sun-dried tomatoes and olives. I have also sampled it with toasted slivered almonds and fresh parsley which gives it a lighter taste and a bit of crunch.

I was out of of white wine and fresh herbs which I would usually include in a risotto. I had prepared a very simple basil pesto so this was used in place of herbs. My mum has shocking allergies to every variety of nut so I had made this batch of pesto only with basil, olive oil, nutritional yeast and salt. The man adored this risotto and I had cunningly made it on a night when our son wasn't home for dinner. I've mentioned before that he doesn't care for risotto and olives are another pet hate of his. Sun-dried tomatoes are tolerable for him but they are not something that he is mad about. The man requested this meal to become a regular so I suggested that it could be a regular when it's tea for two.

I would like to wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope you all enjoy the festive season and devour some delicious food with great company.

Cauliflower risotto

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
8 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tablespoon basil pesto
salt and pepper, to taste
chopped sun dried tomatoes and olives, for garnish

Cook the cauliflower in a saucepan with the vegetable stock until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the cauliflower in a colander and reserve the stock. Place the cauliflower florets in a blender with 1//2  - 1 cup of the vegetable stock and process until it becomes smooth and creamy.  Pour the rest of the stock back into the saucepan and simmer over a low heat.

Heat the olive oil in a large wide pot and fry the onions for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute then stir through the rice ensuring that the grains are coated evenly with the oil, onions and garlic. Add 1 cup of stock and stir until the stock has been absorbed. Turn the heat to low and continue adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring often, until the rice is almost tender.

Stir through the cauliflower puree, nutritional yeast and basil pesto and cook for another minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, olives and fresh herbs if desired.   


  1. sounds great - I am so pleased you have had nut roasts from my blog for christmas but I love the sound of arancini balls - it is hard finding veg alternatives that are festive when there is less of a tradition - though I am not sure that bbqs are that traditional - do they do turkey sausages - I think salads can be quite fancy and festive which would help a bbq be festive - and I love the sound of cauli in a risotto - never done it but will have to try it soon!

    Have a great christmas - and hope to hear more about your arancini

  2. Happy Christmas and New Year to you too Mel :)

    I loved hearing about your dishes of years gone past and this year - the arancini balls sound delightful. Cauliflower in risotto is also something I've never thought of, but like the sound of.

  3. Thanks Johanna, our family Christmas affairs have become less traditional over the years which doesn't bother me in the slightest. The one tradition I am able to keep is making rum balls although this time I made my orange variation.

    Thanks Kari, I didn't have a blog this time last year so I wanted to share some of the links to previous dishes I have made for Christmas. I love cauliflower in a risotto because it is so creamy when pureed.