The black risotto of Venice achieves its dark presentation from cuttlefish and their ink a most effective natural dye. Be warned: it works equally well on clothes, tablecloths and teeth. This was the ultimate designer dish of the Eighties and is good enough to serve into the next century. If any of your guests find blackened teeth distressing reassure them that this is a form of radical Venetian chic For my more detailed treatment of cooking risotto,.
Your fishmonger may be able to get cuttlefish for you, which should be small, weighing no more than
If your fishmonger has not done it for you, first prepare the cuttlefish: lay each down with the cuttle side uppermost (you can locate this easily because it is the only firm part of the body sac). Slit the thin membrane covering it and pull it gently out from the head end. This will open the body, exposing the innards and the head, which should be pointing away from you. Hold the base of the body and grasp the head from the tentacle end and pull this gently upwards towards you and away from the body. It is vital to take care at this point, or you risk bursting the ink sac • Put the body sac into cold water and then lay the head, tentacles and innards with the head away from you on your work surface. The ink sac is a small grey elongated pear-shaped pouch about
Scrub the mussels thoroughly and discard any which are open and do not close when tapped • Finely chop the onion.
Put the mussels into a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer and which has a tight-fitting lid. Pour the white wine over, cover and cook over a high heat, shaking. Within 2 minutes, they will have opened. Strain through a colander into another pan. Discard those few mussels which stubbornly refuse to open, cover the open mussels in the colander with a damp cloth and reserve.
Put the mussel liquor into another saucepan with the ink and vermouth mixture, together with just enough cold water to make about
Put the olive oil in the risotto pan and sauté the chopped onion until translucent Add the unrinsed rice and stir to coat until it is uniformly shining.
Keeping the pan over a high enough heat to have the contents just below the boil all the time, add the stock in ladlefuls and stir it in until it is all absorbed. Continue in this way the rice is just cooked al dente.
At this point stir in the mussels and season. Put on the lid and hold off the heat for 3 minutes. Do not put any Parmesan cheese in this dish.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan over a high heat, sauté the cuttlefish very briskly and briefly in
Serve on warmed white plates. Scatter chopped flat leaf parsley over and - if you like the idea - thin strips of lemon zest.
© 1993 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.