Gastro Villas

(by susie)

Do you like your holidays to be of the delicious variety?

Or perhaps you fancy re-living some gastro memories from recent times spent abroad?

Either way, I have a suggestion for you – which also works as a fine excuse to feature another fantastic Jo Pratt recipe, accompanied by my wine matching tips.

I’ve just done some work for a company called

They wanted to promote some of their holiday properties on the basis of their gastronomic credentials – ie if they were close to top local markets or restaurants, or had great cooking facilities or dining areas.

So they asked celebrity chef (and resident Winchester Wine School star) Jo Pratt to come up with some locally themed dishes, and me to come up with suitably local and delicious wine matches accordingly.

They called this initiative Gastro Villas (you can also navigate your way to this via the box on their home page).

We think it’s a great concept – whether you’re a travel-loving foodie who wants to book through them, or simply searching for authentic European food experiences.

As a taster, we’re reproducing one of the recipes and my wine suggestions as below.

Bon appétit – and bon voyage!

Jo Pratt’s… RISOTTO

Making risotto is remarkably easy, however the key is to be patient and not to rush the cooking time – simply relax and enjoy stirring the rice as it cooks. You’re on holiday so relaxing really shouldn’t be difficult!

This recipe is for a basic Parmesan risotto (Risotto Bianco). If you fancy adding a few additional flavours, have a read of the suggestions at the end of the recipe.

Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • About 50g butter (around one fifth of a pack)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • about 1.2 litres vegetable or chicken stock (see PS note)
  • 400g risotto rice (arborio, vialone nano and carnaroli)
  • 1 large glass of dry white wine
  • 2 good handfuls of finely grated parmesan cheese

Heat a large frying or sauté pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil, and half of the butter. Once the butter is bubbling, add the onion, garlic and celery. Cook until they are softened but not coloured.

Meanwhile, place the stock in a saucepan and keep over a low heat so it is kept hot.

Add the rice and stir for a minute or so until the grains become translucent. Stir in the wine and cook until it has evaporated.

Add a ladleful of the hot stock to the rice and turn the heat down so the stock simmers. Stir continuously until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding ladles of hot stock, one at a time, stirring all the time. It will take around 15-18 minutes. Once the rice is soft but with a slight bite it is ready. If you run out of stock – just use some boiling water.

The risotto is now ready to be finished by seasoning with salt and pepper, and stirring the parmesan and remaining butter. Cover with a lid and leave to become extra creamy for a couple of minutes before serving.


If you don’t have a measuring jug, you can always use a washed out wine bottle to measure the amount of stock to use. Standard wine bottles are 750ml.

For a Courgette, Parmesan and Basil Risotto, sauté two medium diced courgettes in 1 tbsp olive oil until tender. Stir into the risotto with the parmesan cheese and a good handful of finely sliced basil leaves. Serve with shavings of parmesan and basil leaves.

For an Artichoke and Thyme Risotto, add the leaves from a small bunch of thyme to the onion, garlic and celery when sautéing in oil. When you are close to adding the last ladle of stock to the pan, stir in a couple of good handfuls of sliced marinated artichokes. Finish the risotto with the butter and parmesan as the recipe states.

For a Tomato and Basil Risotto, gently cook a punet of halved cherry tomatoes, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and a small bunch of torn basil leaves in olive oil for a couple of minutes. Stir into the risotto with the Parmesan and butter.

Susie’s wine selections…

Forget about the rice, it all hangs on the type of risotto you are cooking when it comes choosing a perfect wine. Here are some traditional Italian matches for Jo’s delicious recipes:

Courgette, Parmesan and Basil

A simple, refreshing Italian white such as a Soave, a Gavi or good quality Pinot Grigio from Trentino is all that’s needed to set off this delightful Italian classic.

Artichoke and Thyme

A zesty Verdicchio di Matelica should cope admirably with the tricky artichokes in this recipe, as well as enhancing the heady aromas of the thyme.

Tomato and Basil

Bursting with soft, red cherry fruit, a light and refreshing Valpolicella will work brilliantly with the tomato as well as picking up on the aromatic notes of the basil.