We recently went to Montecatini Terme just on a whim. We were staying at the Villa Montecatini – a B&B in a completely different place, not Montecatini at all in spite of the name.  Then we saw Montecatini Terme on the map and we thought ‘why not?’. We had a pleasant morning exploring this very pleasant Italian spa town, and then we saw a café in a pretty courtyard advertising an amazing deal: a starter followed by steak and chips and accompanied by mineral water, bread, a little salad and, I think, coffee, all for 10 € – unbelievable!

The starter was also a bit of an eye-opener – strawberry risotto. It sounded  bizarre, but it turned out to be excellent. This is my method for recreating it.

For more ideas for strawberries, follow this link.


Recipe for savoury strawberry risotto


For four as a starter

• 200g/1 cup carnaroli risotto rice
• 16 strawberries
• 1 teasp lime or lemon juice
• 1 L/5 cups vegetable stock made with five vegetable stock cubes
• 1 large wine glass/½ cup dry martini
• Olive oil for frying – a couple of tablespoons
• 1 stick of celery, destrung and finely chopped
• About 100g/4 oz butter – cut into cubes and keep in the freezer
• 1 banana shallot, peeled and chopped
• 1 cup/100g/4 oz grated Parmesan or grana Padano
• Generous grinds of Indonesian long pepper

1. Fry the banana shallot and the celery in the olive oil until the shallot starts to soften.
2. Add the rice, stir well to coat the grains with the oil and continue to fry for two or three more minutes
3. Add the vermouth and stir until absorbed
4. Add the stock, about half a cup at a time – absorbing as you go
5. Once about two-thirds of the stock has been absorbed mash eight of the strawberries with the lime or lemon juice and stir into the risotto
6. When all the liquid is absorbed take the risotto off the heat and put on the lid. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
7. Hull and finely slice the rest of the strawberries
8. Stir in the butter and cheese, grind over the pepper and serve, decorated with the remaining strawberries.

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