Northern Italy By Way Of Morocco

Risotto normally has delicate flavours, but this version has a delightful brightness thanks to the combination of spicy Harissa olive oil and sunny Mango white balsamic. Roasted sweet potatoes make it extra creamy and spinach is a wonderfully bright complement. It's comfort food at its exotic best!


1 large sweet potato, cleaned and cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Harissa olive oil
5 to 6 cups chicken or veggie stock
6 to 8 strands saffron or 1 tsp turmeric
2 shallots, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup Mango white balsamic
2 cups baby spinach, large stems removed
1/2 grated Parmesan Reggiano or Gran Pandano
Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 tbsp Harissa olive oil on sweet potato halves, both sides. Place cut side down on parchment lined baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes then flip over and bake an additional 20 minutes until fork tender. Remove from oven and cool. In a large sauce pan, bring stock to a simmer, then add saffron. Cover and keep at a simmer. In large frying pan over medium heat, saute the minced shallots, cumin and coriander in the remaining olive oil until soft but not golden, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and mix to coat evenly with Harissa olive oil. Stir constantly, until rice is shiny and translucent. Add the balsamic and deglaze pan, scraping bits of shallot. Keep heat on medium. When the balsamic has almost evaporated, add 1/2 to 1/3 cup stock, stirring well after each addition to ensure the rice is absorbing the broth slowly and consistently. Add more stock when the pan is almost dry and repeat until 4-1/2 cups of stock has been added. The rice should look plump. Taste to see that it is still firm. If the rice has a touch of crunch, add additional stock, stir and test for firmness without any crunch.  Scoop out the flesh of the sweet potato halves; adding it and the spinach to the rice, stir, then mix in the cheese. 

Place risotto in serving bowl and sprinkle with sea salt.