October haze: the perfect autumn risotto

October haze: the perfect autumn risotto

Fri 19 Oct 2018 8:00 AM

In October, we find ourselves in the heart of autumn, a season of changing colours, cozy evenings and mug of hot tea in hand, watching the sun start its early descent beneath the horizon. Not to mention the perfect excuse to add that second layer you’ve been patiently waiting for since Easter.

For this month’s recipe, I offer a dish inspired by the harvest period, when we take to the fields to pluck grapes from their bunches and olives from their trees before transforming them into Tuscany’s finest. Two different varieties of grapes take the stage here, alongside white wine and a few drops of must, while duck breast and fennel bestow the dish with a wild and earthy element.

All the colours, flavours and aromas of Tuscany in the fall come together in this meaty yet sweetish risotto.


Grapes, white wine, parmesan, wild fennel and duck risotto  

Serves 4




320 g Carnaroli risotto rice / 2 bunches Canaiolo grapes / 1 bunch Malvasia grapes / 1 duck breast (female) / 2 shallots / chicken broth / salt / pepper / white wine / salted butter / parmesan cheese aged 48 months / wild fennel / sage / cooked grape must




Wash the grapes under running water.

Julienne the shallots and sweat them in butter in a small, deep pan until transparent. Add the rice and toast, then add salt. Pour in a small amount of white wine, letting it evaporate, and cover with the chicken broth. Mix occasionally with a wooden spoon.

Halfway through the cooking time, add the grapes, crushed ever so slightly by hand-crushed. The risotto will start to change colour and take on a violet hue. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, place the duck breast, skin down, into a cold non-stick pan and turn on the heat. You don’t need to add oil or butter, since the duck’s skin is fatty. Brown the skin, turn the breast over and season with salt. (I like mine cooked pink, which is softer and more succulent.) Cut into thin slices and set aside to rest on kitchen paper.

When the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and add a knob of butter and the parmesan (to your liking). Cook until creamy, leaving a bit of broth. Add the wild fennel. Plate the risotto with the slices of duck breast on top, along with a couple of drops of grape must.

Garnish with a few sage leaves.


Wine pairing / Helen Farrell


The earthiness of this dish echoes in the rustic refinement of a young Chianti Classico. Northeast of Siena, in the Castelnuovo Berardenga winemaking area, Tenuta di Arceno’s Chianti Classico 2016 is all cherries and roses, plums and spices that yearns to age but is joyful to drink right now.

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