This week is slightly different, in that I’m going to give you tips as well as the recipe. The reason for that is because the line between excellent risotto and crap risotto is so thin that your dinner can be sublime one minute and not even rat fodder the next.
The main tip is time; you need to make time for this dish. It doesn’t take long, but you need to concentrate and follow the basic rules and at the end of it, you will be rewarded. The whole prep and cooking is 30-40 minutes, so its not like you’re going to have to stand over the pan for 2-3 hours, but a little committment will go a long way.
Getting down to the nitty gritty, the key to great risotto is measuring and controlling the addition of the liquids; specifically the stock which flavours the dish and helps to create that wonderful, creamy texture. Add a little at a time and stir in until it is all absorbed, then add some more and stir in until that is absorbed. Rinse/repeat. Stirring breaks down the starch in the rice which is then released into, and absorbed by the rice which makes the creamy goodness.
One extra bit of advice is buy the right rice. In the main it is easy as the packets are usually labelled Risotto rice, but if not look for Arborio or Carnaroli – both give a creamy texture, the former with a stickiness and the latter with more bite.
The recipe below is the simplest that I make regularly – adding peas gives you some of that 5-a-day vegetable goodness but still retains the ease of preparation. Adding other veg earlier in the process (ie cubed carrots; diced peppers; chopped asparagus tips) or seafood can make you look like a chef of the highest order. Mushroom risotto can be extremely delicious – buy some dried shitakes and you can use them to make stock to really infuse the mushroom flavour into the risotto.
- a knob of butter
- one onion chopped finely
- 300g risotto rice
- 125ml of white wine
- 1 litre of hot chicken or vegetable stock
- 50-100g peas (frozen)
- shaved/grated parmesan cheese
- Heat the butter in the pan over a low heat
- Add the onion and sweat until soft
- Turn up the heat to medium and add the rice, stirring for a few minutes until all grains are coated
- Add the wine and stir in until it is all absorbed
- Add a ladle of stock and stir gently until it is absorbed
- Continue adding stock a ladle at a time and stir until absorbed before adding the next – about 18-20 minutes in total
- Add the peas towards the end and stir – again there will be liquid to absorb
- Taste the risotto – the rice should be creamy but with a little bite
- Remove from the heat and add the shaved parmesan
- Serve immediately in flat plates to show off dish