South of Arles, in Provence, the legendary wetlands of Camargue produce a superb red long-grain rice. Grown in Europe’s largest delta, the rice tastes incredibly nutty and lends itself to all kinds of dishes, warm or cold. This colorful risotto is vegan, nourishing, and satisfying so it can be a main course or side dish.
Adapted from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.
PHOTO by Penny De Los Santos
Less known than the Italian Arborio or the Spanish Calasparra and Bomba – all medium grain rice – the red long grains of Camargue are easier to cook. They don’t require constant stirring and retain their shape and bite beautifully. The recipe is simple, and you can use it as the base to create your own variations with seasonal vegetables, greens and herbs, or with dried fruits and nuts.
1/3 cup olive oil
1 leek thinly sliced, white and tender green parts
1/2 cup chopped dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
2 cups red rice, preferably from Camargue
2 1/2 cups boiling vegetable broth or water
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Maraş pepper or a good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
3 cups fresh (or frozen) shelled fava, blanched for 1 minute, drained and peeled (see Note)
1 cup chopped cilantro, or 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or coarsely ground walnuts
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pan. Add the leeks and sauté, tossing often, for about 6 minutes, or until they soften. Add the mushrooms, reserving their soaking water, and cook 3 minutes more. Remove the leeks and mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the rice to the hot oil and sauté for 8 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of broth, the leeks, mushrooms and the mushroom liquid. Reduce the heat, add salt and pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Check often and add more broth as needed until the rice is al dente. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding black pepper if you like and more salt.
Stir in the fava and cilantro. Plate the risotto, drizzling extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkling pine nuts over each serving.
If fava is not available, you can use peas or flageolet beans.