Bowerman explains risotto abroad (and for the “mantecatura” only uses rice cream)

On the stage of the Gastromasa congress, in Istanbul, she shows how to make an excellent vegetarian risotto, adding no salt or fat

30-12-2019
Cristina Bowerman on the stage of Gastromasa in

Cristina Bowerman on the stage of Gastromasa in Istanbul

A few days ago we went to Istanbul, Turkey, to follow another edition of the Gastromasa international congress, which Gökmen Sözen has been organising for 5 years now, with more and more success and a special fact: on the stage, holding lessons in the style of Identità Milano, there are only international chefs, no Turks. Guests are always very prestigious, this year including Albert AdriàAndoni AdurizVirgilio MartinezElena ArzakAndreas Caminada, the two Berezutskiy brothers, Gastón Acurio and many more. Each one of them, on the stage, addressed the assigned theme: inspiration. There’s always a prominent Italian speaker. This year it was the turn of Cristina Bowerman, who has a connection with Turkey because a few months ago she opened a restaurant, not far from Smirne, inside resort Club Marvy.

Gökmen Sözen, organiser of Gastromasa: a sort of Turkish Paolo Marchi 

Gökmen Sözen, organiser of Gastromasa: a sort of Turkish Paolo Marchi 

Her speech – and recipe – was much awaited. And Cristina was up to the expectations. She explained to the audience not only the importance of risotto in Italian culinary tradition, but she also revealed a small secret to make it lighter, healthier and easier to digest, without losing in terms of taste. Here is what she said.

«I’m the founder and president of the Ambasciatori del Gusto association which includes many people, not just chefs but also pastry-chefs, journalists, scientists, bakers... We share our knowledge and cooperate with the institutions; as part of these activities, we have reached an agreement with the Ente Nazionale Risi [the national authority for rice] to give value to this food (see Valorizzare il riso italiano attraverso la sua conoscenza). Rice is a universe still rather unknown; people in Italy think there are only three types, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano and Arborio. In fact, there are some 160 different varieties in our country, and we can say that each one is perfect or almost perfect, for a specific recipe».

The poster announcing Bowerman’s lesson. With a mistake: they said Glass Hostaria was in San Sebastian

The poster announcing Bowerman’s lesson. With a mistake: they said Glass Hostaria was in San Sebastian

«Every time I approach tradition, which is our great strength but sometimes it’s also a limit, I make the effort of interpreting it so as to make it easy to communicate and functional for the new generations. Today we do little physical activity, we spend most of the day in front of a computer. This is why food must be different from the past. We cannot keep the same culinary traditions, because they were developed in a world that no longer exists; so traditions must be adjusted to the new lifestyle, for the very reason of preserving them as long as possible».

«This is what I did with risotto too: usually, it is mantecatowith some sort of fat. But this is a problem because the richness of butter or cheese doesn’t agree with our lifestyle. But we still want risotto to be creamy, that’s what guests expect. To obtain this effect, do we really have to add something fat? The answer is no».

Bowerman is awarded by Boris Minialai, CEO at Metro Türkiye, one of the sponsors of Gastromasa

Bowerman is awarded by Boris Minialai, CEO at Metro Türkiye, one of the sponsors of Gastromasa

«As you’ll see, I chose a different approach: a risotto with no added fat, but with a pleasant texture nonetheless. With very little added salt, so that I used ingredients that have a natural sapidity to convey and make the dish rightly sapid. Finally, I don’t use any raw materials of animal origins, so that this risotto is vegetarian. Here’s how».

«First, I toast the rice adding nothing else. Aside, I prepare the other ingredients that I’ll need to make it cream and to season it. One is typical of this region, pomegranate, both the grains and the molasse: this way I add acidity as well as different textures. Then I add capers from Sicily, full of flavour, in different textures: fried and powdered. And then: lemon confit, which I often use when cooking. It gives a sweet and savoury note that is part of our tradition, as well as the Indian one; cauliflower, one part is cooked and blended, so as to make a purée, the other is simply browned. Finally, I over cooked some more rice, in a thick broth».

Bowerman, before the congress, making baklava

Bowerman, before the congress, making baklava

«After toasting the rice in a pot, I pour some white wine which I let evaporate, then I continue cooking it normally, gradually adding the vegetable broth; at around half of the process, I first add the powdered capers (I can use anchovies instead, but the dish will no longer be vegetarian. In any case, it helps me minimise the use of salt) and then this cream of rice in which the starch serves to make the risotto perfectly creamy, thus avoiding butter or cheese, which would make my dish heavier and more caloric».

A chat with Paulo Airaudo, another guest in Istanbul

A chat with Paulo Airaudo, another guest in Istanbul

«Finally, I add the cauliflower purée, which gives an interesting flavour, and just a pinch of salt; I dish out and finish the dish with the lemon confit, the browned cauliflower, a drop of pomegranate molasse, the grains of pomegranate, some more powdered capers and fried capers».

«Our Ambasciatori del Gusto, in agreement with the ministry, have taken the task of promoting the culture of risotto, a purely Italian source of pride, all around the world». Bowermanherself did so, not only at Gastromasa, but during the Settimana della cucina italina nel mondo, right in Turkey, invited by our embassy. 

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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