UNTIL recently, each time a vegetarian guest walked into the restaurant, we had a major crisis in the kitchen as we wondered how to make him happy by boiling tasteless vegetables.
After all we run a French restaurant with a French chef in charge, and the symbol of France is a chicken, not a carrot.
Then I had two revelations: First, I met Masterchef Alain Passard (who was a guest chef at the World Gourmet Summit in April).
We spent an hour talking about the beauty of home-grown vegetables, the spectacular taste of his 13 types of tomatoes and how the slow process of roasting an onion can be a passionate experience.
Second, I realised that organic vegetables are available in Singapore.
For the past month, Saint Pierre has gone as organic as possible.
Depending on the availability of the season, we can find almost every vegetable at places like Super Nature (#01-21 Park House, Orchard Boulevard) and L'Organic (Block 17, Dempsey Road) where certified organic produce is air flown from Australia and New Zealand.
As a chef, I have to admit that the taste of organic fruits and vegetables is different. They are more flavourful.
Organic produce is also healthier as it does not contain any additives or chemical pesticides.
It is not much more expensive than genetically modified crops usually sold in Singapore.
As organic vegetables taste is better, cooking them is also easier. There is no need to cover the taste with greasy sauce or MSG.
Finally, and more importantly, organic agriculture is better for wildlife, causes less pollution and protects the environment for the future generations.
As the hot days lengthen, this light dish of a simple risotto with steamed summer vegetables is perfect for the summer solstice next week.
Risotto With Steamed Summer Vegetables
- Risotto rice: 2 1/2 cups
- Vegetable stock: 1.5l
- Olive oil: 40ml
- Shallots, peeled and chopped: 3
- Carrots: 3
- Green zucchini, thinly sliced: 2
- Mushrooms, thinly sliced: 100g
- Cherry tomatoes, halved: 100g
- Sugar peas: 100g
- Yellow squash, halved: 100g
- Fresh herbs: 2 tbl
- Salt and pepper: to taste
1. In a saucepan, bring the oil to a gentle boil and fry the shallots. Add the washed rice and stir until the rice turns translucent. Slowly incorporate the stock until it is fully absorbed. You can choose to add some cheese (such as parmesan) or replace vegetable stock with chicken stock.
2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Poach the squash for 1 minute, add the snow peas and poach for 1 more minute. Finally, add the zucchini and poach for 15 seconds.
3. Spoon the risotto on a plate, garnish with the cooked vegetables and add the raw ones: mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh herbs. Drizzle a little olive oil and some grey salt.