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Lemon Drop Spiced Fruit Risotto

Still working through the backlog of posts on my blog, this latest copy-over is, by shear coincidence, for one of the many components of my tacos and rice throwdown entry, only this time served as a full meal.
Here you go:
[SIZE=medium]Hey guys, it's recipe week again and, while I've never been one for keeping different cultures of food separate if the work together, this summer sizzler's a real melting pot of influences.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]The original dish on which this month's creation has been based comes from episode 16 of the japanese show “Food Wars” and, should you want to cook the original apple and bacon risotto, a recipe can be found for it in chapter 42 of the show's manga.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]But, while the fruity take on it may be japanese, risotto itself hails from italy and my take uses a morrocan-style spice blend with the peruvian lemon drop chilli to add a bit more substance.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]The original did, after all, lose its battle in the anime for being too light and unsatisfying.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]So, instead of an apple and bacon risotto, I shall be presenting you with a spiced apple and pear risotto that can be eaten hot as a main dish or cold for a smaller meal like lunch or the originally intended breakfast. Or simply if the warm weather is as agonising for you as it is for me.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Here's what you'll need:[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]For the spice mix that's:[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]1 teaspoon cinnamon[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]1 teaspoon cumin[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]1 teaspoon aji lemon drop powder (aka aji limon)[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]5 black peppercorns[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]7 cloves[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]A dash of nutmeg[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]And for the substance of the dish:[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]2 tablespoons olive oil[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]2 tablespoons butter[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]1.5 litres apple juice (variations like my apple should be fine)[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]2 pears[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]2 apples[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]2 onions (not red or large)[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]2 small garlic cloves[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]250g arborio rice[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]You may notice, however, that I'm using apple and mango juice instead of apple. This isn't a conscious choice I made, the shops near me were simply all out of plain apple juice, odd as that sounds. I know that this dish works great with apple, ginger and rhubarb so I thought why not? We'll talk more about the results of this substitution later.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]You'll also notice that I'm mixing garlic and fruit, which is usually a bad idea, but this isn't a sweet rice dish. It's intended to work as a main meal with a fruity sweetness to it, sure, but also to pass as something vaguely savoury. It's a fine balance that the garlic actually helps.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]And, as for the chilli, it's normally quite citrusy indeed, with some definite lemon flavour to it but, unlike lemon, it can be toasted. Which makes for a rather unique taste when dried and powdered like this. One that fits in surprisingly well with the moroccan feel I'm going for, despite the chilli's origins.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]It's not a widely produced chilli powder but it's available enough that you should be able to track it down if you want to cook my recipe.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]I got mine some time ago from Wimborne Chilli Shop, who have since taken over Lick My Dip, and bring it out for several of my fruitier dishes but never use a lot at a time. Sure, I could up the heat, but I'd rather just use a bit for flavour and spice things up post production if I really feel I have to.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]There's no sense overdoing the citrus in a dish and blotting out the rest of the flavour but, if this one's too mild for you, you can probably get away with a second spoonful.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]And now's the time to decide because we're starting with the preparation. Grind thosee spices together and get onion and garlic chopping.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Then, once that's done, we'll dice the fruit into a water bath like so:[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]This is to stop them browning before they meet the rest of the dish and normally we'd include a little lemon juice to further help in keeping them fresh but this meal doesn't need any extra citrus on top of the chilli and they seem to survive just fine without it.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]So, now that everything's ready, we can move on to cooking.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Simultaneously heat the juice in a saucepan and the oil and butter in a deep frying pan. A frying pan with a lid because you'll be needing it later.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Then, when the oil and butter have combined, toast your spice mix for ten to twenty seconds and then turn the heat down to medium. Now toss in the onions and garlic, making sure that they get properly coated.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Once they start to go a little transparent, it's time to add your rice to the pan, leaving it unwashed so that it keeps as much starch as possible. This will come in handy in a moment to slightly thicken the now (hopefully) simmering juice.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Turn that down if it's properly bubbling at all because we don't want to boil it off.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Meanwhile, keep stirring your rice in from the edges with a wooden spoon or spatula. It should soon go slightly transparent at its edges, much like the onions, though you may need the colour contrast of the wood against the grains to see it.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]When it does, add about a fifth of your apple juice to the frying pan, and continue stirring as your rice swells with the new liquid. Repeat this step when the juice has all been absorbed and keep doing so until only one addition remains.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]With the last of the juice, it's time we also drained our fruit and added it to the pan. Give it a stir through and then put the lid on to let it steam and soften a touch.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]After about five minutes, we can then go back to our previous routine, though, stirring gently while the last of the apple juice is taken up.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]And, when that's done, it's time to eat. Here's mine in serving bowl:[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Unfortunately, mine didn't turn out quite as perfectly as I'd've liked. As you may be able to see, the end product is a little over-moist and I had to call it done because the rice was turning mushy.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]It still tasted excellent, if a little sweeter and more of mango than I had intended, but that's what happens when you buy the wrong juice. What bothers me is why the last of it just wasn't getting absorbed, despite this recipe working just fine without the mango.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Is there some property of the fruit I'm missing or did I just subtly screw up something else without noticing?[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]I have no idea but I know this recipe works because I've made it at least twice before and even this mishap still had all the desired fruit and spice flavours. It still filled me up and tasted great, just with a little less mouth work.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Heat-wise, it was noticeable but very mild at the start but then continued building in the background and only made itself known again two thirds of my way through the meal when it peaked at a quite reasonable[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Nothing to write home about but a decent level for getting your day going or for if you like your food a little milder. Even I don't like things hot all the time.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]But if you do want it stronger, a second spoon of lemon drop powder may do the job as I mentioned earlier. You could also try pairing it with a savoury chipotle sauce or, my personal preference, a good tunisian style harissa paste.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=medium]Whatever your preference, this is an excellent all purpose dish which can be served cold to help you beat the summer heat, despite bringing a decent little bit of its own.[/SIZE]