A scrumptious tomato risotto recipe flavoured with sun-dried tomato paste and topped with toasted cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves and halloumi. A delicious vegetarian main course.
For a long time I was unable to eat risotto in the comfort of my own home because Lee didn't like it. Luckily (?), it is the vegetarian option in almost every lazy, unimaginative meat-focused restaurant in the world, so I hardly went without it, but I still, I wanted more.
Finally, I cracked it. Risotto that passed Lee's muster. He puts it down to his capitulation, I put it down to deliciousness. And I want to share that deliciousness here with you.
Enter sun-dried tomatoes. Softened in hot water and blended to a purée, they form an incomparable flavour base which permeates every grain of starchy rice with umami delight. No more bland rice sucking every bit of flavour out of whatever you put in it. It's like the tomatoes take care of flavouring the rice, leaving whatever extra ingredients you add to shine.
The topping, a simple mix of cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves and chunks of halloumi, is roasted until juicy in a low oven. Delicate, flavourful, caramelised, melt-in-the-mouth, amazing.
To make this dish vegan, omit the cheese and opt for olive oil instead of butter. Although I like the addition of the cheese, the sun-dried tomato base is so savoury and delicious that this dish will still taste great without it. Similarly, the roasted garlic and tomatoes are tasty enough to stand on their own.
I always make more risotto than I need. I know it's not conventional, but I just stir a bit more water or stock into the refrigerated rice and heat it up again on the hob, stirring as necessary. To me it tastes as good as new.
roasted halloumi, garlic and tomatoes
- 250 g sheep/goat milk halloumi
- 20 cherry tomatoes
- 10 cloves garlic cloves (or more) peeled
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 70 g sun-dried tomatoes (dried, not packed in oil)
- boiling water, enough to cover tomatoes
- 500 g risotto rice (arborio/vialone nano/carnaroli)
- 5 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 onion (red/yellow) diced
- 30 g olive oil or butter
- 200 g white wine
- 1400 ml vegetable stock
- 70 g pecorino Romano or Parmesan finely grated
- 40 g butter or olive oil
- fresh herbs if you've got them
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- sea salt to taste
for the roasted topping
- Heat to oven to 180c. Put all the ingredients except the halloumi in an ovenproof dish and bake until the garlic is soft, about 20 minutes.
- Add the halloumi and roast for another 5 minutes, until the cheese is lightly browned.
for the risotto
- Pour boiling water over the sun-dried tomatoes and leave to soften. I do this in the food processor so I don't have to transfer them later. Leave until needed.
- In a large pan, bring the vegetable stock to the boil, then turn down the heat to keep just hot.
- Using another large, heavy-bottomed pan, gently fry the onions and garlic in the olive oil or butter until soft and translucent. Add the rice, stir everything together, and cook for a few more minutes. Add the white wine and stir until absorbed. Add 3/4 of the stock to the rice and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low and cover the rice. Simmer until the rice is al dente, about 15 minutes.
- Blend the softened sun-dried tomatoes to a purée and stir into the rice. Stir the rice vigorously for about 2 minutes – until the rice has released its starch and the risotto is nice and creamy.
- When the rice is soft and tender - with no crunchy middle, but not too mushy - stir in the butter or olive oil, Parmesan/pecorino, fresh herbs and season to taste. Cover and remove from the heat. Leave to rest for 5-10 minutes, then serve with the halloumi, garlic and tomatoes spooned artfully over the top.