Perfect risotto nero

‘This isn’t a relaxed supper dish, but something you would cook on a special occasion for someone you really love. Bruce Poole has been creating extraordinarily good food for several decades at his restaurant, Chez Bruce, in Wandsworth. This take on the classic risotto nero is mouthwatering: black, inky rice suspended in a glossy sauce flavoured with fennel, lemon, star anise and white wine. The result is a quasi-Nirvana. Serve it with gremolata, a fresh, finely chopped mixture of garlic (green stem removed), lemon zest and parsley’

Thomasina Miers

Risotto nero
Extract from Bruce Poole’s
Bruce’s Cookbook
Published by Collins

Serves 6 as a generous starter


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1.5 litres of fish stock, light chicken stock or water
100g unsalted butter (slightly less than usual, as the squid ink is rich)

Olive oil

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
Half a head of fennel, cored, sliced and finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
350g risotto rice (Vialone Nano for sticklers)
125ml dry white wine
150g passata [a good tomato purée]
1 small dried chilli, crumbled
2 star anise
3 sachets of squid ink (available from good fishmongers)
18 baby squid, cleaned with tentacles intact
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon



Bring the stock or water to a simmer. In your risotto pan, melt 50g of the butter with the same quantity of olive oil and, over a medium heat, sweat together the onion, fennel, celery and garlic. When these have softened, after 10 minutes or so, add the rice and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or so, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan as you go.

Next up, add the wine and cook until all but evaporated, then the passata, dried chilli, star anise and the contents of the squid-ink sachets. Continue to cook until the rice has begun to absorb the passata.

Now start adding the hot stock or water, one ladleful at a time in the usual way. Towards the end of the cooking process, heat a large, non-stick frying pan until it’s very hot (or have your barbeque lit and ready). Season the baby squid well with plenty of sea salt and pepper.

Either grill the squid-tentacles and all-on the barbie, or sauté in batches in the frying pan in a thin film of smoking-hot olive oil. In either case, transfer the cooked squid to a plate, together with any residual juices, squeeze a generous fistful of lemon juice over them and keep warm.

Finish the risotto with the remaining butter and check the seasoning. Divide between six warmed plates and top with the squid, the tentacles, any juices, an extra drizzle of olive oil and the gremolata. One of my very favourite things.

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