Black Olive & Lemon Risotto

The other day I whipped up a quick dressing for some black olives using what I had to hand - lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and fresh thyme - and it was one of those delicious happy accidents. The flavours were big, bold and fresh and I just knew they'd make a fabulous counterpoint to the rich creaminess of a risotto. Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

200g risotto rice
1 large onion
2 fat cloves of garlic
1 large glass of white wine
About 2 pints of vegetable stock 
Olive oil
2 handfuls of pitted black olives, well rinsed to remove any brine
A generous bunch of fresh thyme
1 lemon
1 ball of mozzarella, chopped

Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are

Start by finely dicing the onion and the garlic, and fry gently with a large scoop of butter and a splash of olive oil. You want the vegetables to soften without gaining colour, so keep the heat low and stir regularly. Separate about ten stalks from the bunch of thyme, chop finely and add to the pan.

Once the onion is nicely soft and translucent, add another scoop of butter, allow it to melt, and then add the risotto rice. Fry for a few minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn't catch, and then pour in the white wine. There should be a good sizzle and a hiss.

Once the wine has been mostly absorbed, start adding the stock a bit at a time, stirring constantly, and waiting until the last bit has been completely absorbed before adding any more. Every now and then, chop up a few thyme stalks and add to the pan.

By the time you've used up about three quarters of your stock, the rice should be nearly cooked - have a taste and see, adding more liquid if necessary. Once the rice is done, take it off the heat and add the mozzarella, olives, salt and black pepper, and a bit more thyme. Cut the lemon in half and add a generous squeeze of juice to the pan, as well as a little zest. Finally, add another scoop of butter and stir vigorously for a few minutes, until the cheese is deliciously gooey - this stage in making a risotto is called mantecatura, and is a crucial part of getting a lovely creamy texture.

Finally, sprinkle a few more thyme leaves over the top and serve with a chilled glass of white wine.