Venus Black Rice with Prawns and Calamari

black rice, not wild rice!

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The first time I had black Venus rice was at a posh Italian restaurant a few years back. I remember that it was paired off with scallops and calamari and veeery good.  Exceptional aroma and flavour aside, I was fascinated by its choreographic quality. Fast forward a few years.. I was browsing the aisles of the local organic grocery shop and my eyes fell on a packet of black grained rice called “Venus rice”.  The label wove a tale of noble origins for this exotic looking grain. It is told,  in fact, that the extremely rare black rice was reserved for the Chinese Emperor’s and his immediate entourage’s consumption. It seems that the packet of black rice that ended up in my basket was there thanks to the efforts of a Chinese researcher working for one of Italy’s leading seeds producers to recreate black rice and allow for large scale production of it.

A few days later I had relatives over for dinner and wanted to whip up something a bit impressive. Luckily the black rice came with a very good recipe on the side. I followed it to a T and the result has been deemed thoroughly satisfactory by all who tried it.. Here’s the recipe.

For 4 people (as a first course)

1 small mild onion
250 gr. of Venus Black Rice
a glass of dry white wine
200 gr. of calamari or cuttlefish, cleaned.
400 gr. of prawns
750 ml of fish broth or vegetable broth
a cup of ripe cherry tomatoes
a pinch of dry tarragon leaves
4 tablespoons of brandy or cognac
Extravirgin olive oil
Garlic
Salt

finely chop the onion. Heat a couple of tablespoons of EVO in a medium sized saucepan, add chopped onions and lower the flame to a minimum for the onion to become soft and develop sweetness without burning (about 15 minutes)
In the meanwhile, clean the cuttefish getting rid of eyes, beaks, unedible parts. Cut it up a bit. Throw it in a food processor with some of the broth and process it to a fine puree.
After the onion has become soft, translucent pour in the rice and toast it on a high flame for about a minute.
Then add the glass of white wine. When adding wine, always do it over high heat so that the alcohol evaporates and does not leave an acidic aftertaste.
When the wine has been absorbed, pour in the calamari puree and stir for about 3 minutes, until the calamari has  become translucent somewhat.
Add the fish broth, salt to taste, cover and let the rice cook for about 35 minutes.

Black rice does not release starch when cooked, therefore you’re not going to have a creamy risotto consistency but something a bit rougher.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in 2 or 4 (depends on how big they are), briefly sautee them over a high flame with some garlic. Set aside.

Clean and devein the prawns, marinate them for 15 minutes in some brandy or cognac.
Heat some EVO oil on high heat, toss in a sliced/flattened clove of garlic and briefly sautee prawns. Don’t overcook! You could substitute butter for Oil when sauteing prawns if you want a richer taste.
Add some salt at the very end. Keep warm and set aside.

Your rice should be ready by now. Spoon it out attractively on heated plates to keep it from cooling excessively while you’re assemblying the dishes.

Top the rice with the sauteed cherry tomatoes and prawns, sprinkle with parsley if you like. Enjoy.

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