Sometimes I get seized by a vision of something I think I could cook, that I've never heard of anybody else cooking but which feels to me like it could be really, really good. Every now and then it turns out that I'm wrong, and my crazy ideas don't add up to something delicious after all. Most of the time though, I find that I am right and I come up with something I'm really happy with, like chocolate risotto with chestnuts and pears.

For once I pretty much know how much I used of each of the ingredients, because I followed the risotto essentials from the excellent mushroom risotto recipe (one of the few recipes I've ever actually followed as such) in The Vegetable Book, by Colin Spencer (one of my all-time favourite books). This provided a good-sized helping for three people, possibly greedy people. You could probably feed four average-sized stomachs without too much trouble. I would describe this as semi-sweet - enough so that it feels indulgent, but not insane, for this to constitute a main evening meal.

  • 2/3 cup of arborio rice
  • 2/3 cup of white wine and/or sweet sherry
  • 150g of chestnuts (100g dried, reconstituted)
  • Loads of cocoa. Um, about 50g maybe?
  • 7 tbs of coconut oil, or a mix of oil and butter or whatever, if you're not vegan - this may be more than is strictly necessary
  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom
  • 4 small pears, or equivalent
  • A little salt
  • The juice and rind of about half a lemon

Get the chestnuts ready to go, first - I used dried chestnuts that needed boiling for 10 minutes and then draining and clearing of a few bits of brown skin. You can probably get them in tins or roast fresh ones on an open fire, whatever works for you*. They need to be in small pieces, so break or chop them up quite finely. Once they're ready you need to chop up the pears into smallish chunks, ready to go.

Melt the coconut oil and add the pears together with the chestnuts, lemon, salt and spices, then once they've started to soften add the rice and cocoa. Mix well, so the rice starts to take up the flavours around it, then add the wine and 1 and a quarter cups of hot water, and bring to the boil. Simmer with the lid on for eight minutes, then let it stand for five. Check that the rice is well cooked - if it's not, you might need to add a little more water and turn the heat back on for a bit.

Then eat.

Note: Although this was off the top of my head, I'm not the first to have invented chocolate risotto. I'm okay with that.

*The second time I cooked this I used fresh chestnuts, which involved cutting little crosses in the top, boiling them for about five minutes and then carefully peeling them. The result was much the same as I got with the dried chestnuts.

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