Smoked ham hock, rosemary and taleggio risotto

Karen Martini
Karen Martini's smoked ham hock, rosemary and taleggio risotto.  <b>Photo:</b> Marcel Aucar. <b>Styling:</b> Marnie Rowe.
Karen Martini's smoked ham hock, rosemary and taleggio risotto. Photo: Marcel Aucar. Styling: Marnie Rowe. 

Infusing the stock with rosemary perfumes this risotto with beautiful flavour and it's a natural match for the smoky hock and pungent taleggio. I like to keep the hock meat quite chunky in this as a contrast to the lusciously silky rice. Please don't be tempted to skimp on the quality of stock or rice, or you'll compromise the essence of the dish.

Ingredients

1 smoked free-range ham hock (about 400g)

1 garlic bulb, 3 cloves finely diced, the rest whole

2 fresh bay leaves

10 black peppercorns

1 litre good-quality chicken stock

4 sprigs rosemary, bruised

40ml extra-virgin olive oil

3 eschalots, finely diced

400g arborio or carnaroli rice

150ml white wine

40g butter

50g Grana Padano cheese, finely grated

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

150g taleggio cheese, diced

Method

1. Rinse the hock well in hot water and add to a medium saucepan along with the whole garlic cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, chicken stock and 1½ litres of water. Bring to a simmer, skimming when necessary, and cook for 1½ hours, or until the meat is tender. Lift the hock from the pot and strain the liquid into a saucepan.

2. When the hock is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and discard. Pull the meat from the bones, discarding any sinew, and flake or chop up.

3. Place the strained ham stock over low heat and add the rosemary to infuse.

4. Add the oil to a heavy wide-based pot and heat for 20 seconds. Add the eschalots and diced garlic, stir and cook for three minutes to soften without colouring. Add the rice and stir on medium-high heat for five minutes. The rice should be hot to the touch.

Add the wine and stir until completely reduced. Add the stock two ladles at a time while stirring. Continue adding the stock gradually as the rice absorbs it.

5. After about 10 minutes, add the hock meat. Continue adding the stock gradually while stirring for a further five minutes or so. When the rice is just cooked, but still with a slight bite, turn off the heat and add the butter and cheese. Whip the risotto quite vigorously with your spoon until creamy.

6. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and add a little more stock if the risotto is too stiff. Stir through the taleggio until it is just starting to melt. Serve immediately so that the chunks of taleggio are still visible in the risotto.

TIPS

1. Fry some rosemary leaves in a little oil until crisp, drain and scatter over the risotto as an optional garnish.

2. Check a grain of rice by pressing it between thumb and index finger. If the rice flattens but still has a white vein in the middle, it's al dente.

3. When making risotto, don't worry if you run out of stock before the rice is cooked. Just add a little hot water instead.

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