Sabato: From garage to table
Starting out from their garage in 1993, Jacqui and Phil Dixon have developed Sabato into a benchmark supplier of high-quality ingredients. In these days of the wide availability of European ingredients, it is this high quality that is Sabato’s point of difference, along with the many ingredients only Sabato imports. For me, way back, Sabato was a revelation, teaching me (and many chefs) about essential Italian and Spanish (not to mention French and high quality Kiwi) products, long before I travelled to Italy and Spain and tasted them for myself. Sabato’s approach to marketing was also original, being the first place I could go and actually taste the products — anything that could be sampled from the packet or container, like extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chocolate, was placed on large tables for tasting. They have always run workshops and cooking demonstrations using the products to teach cooks what the real things taste like and how to use them.
When I think of the key ingredients Sabato was first to import, I think of high-quality Italian extra virgin olive oil, traditionally preserved pork products like pancetta (no chemical additives, just salt), parmesan cheese and Italian rice to name a few. It is these I have used in the following risotto, a dish representative of the type of products Sabato is famous for.
The Ferron brand of rice (the two main varieties are carnaroli and vialone nano) comes from a traditional grower, Gabrielle Ferron, near Verona in Northern Italy and because of its quality can be used to make a risotto that needs minimal stirring.
Other varieties of rice, like arborio, need to have the hot stock added little by little so that it will be creamy and retain a firm texture — the process becomes a bit of a drama compared to using Ferron rice and the pilaf method.
When making a Ferron risotto, the sofrito of vegetables and flavourings are made the same way as for any risotto but the hot stock can be added all at the same time without constant stirring.
You just cover the risotto and let it cook so that the rice absorbs the liquid (this rice absorbs more than twice its volume in liquid) and becomes creamy by itself.
A quick addition of butter and the risotto is made — all it needs is parmesan. If other varieties of rice are used this way they will collapse and make a very gluey risotto.
I never use any other rice, and the vialone nano variety makes a great rice pudding.