Risotto is a delicious, easy and versatile italian dish that makes a nice change from having pasta all the time. It’s not the quickest meal, taking around 45 minutes from start to finish, but a good one for the weekend when you’ve got a bit more time. Once you have a good base recipe, you can add any flavours you wish – great for using up leftovers! I love vegetarian risotto because it’s cheap and healthy, and this is my favourite combination – it’s just so rich and comforting. Pea, mint, courgette and lemon also makes a wonderfully light alternative. You can add meats such as chicken if you like, but the flavour tends to get a bit lost and it’s just a waste of money. The best meats to use in risottos are those with strong flavours e.g. chorizo and pancetta.
Many vegetarians still choose to eat parmesan, but for a strictly vegetarian alternative, look for a vegetarian italian hard cheese.
Tips for making a great risotto:
– be patient
– keep an eye on the heat, the rice should be continuously simmering after the first stock addition
– use a white wine that you would happily drink. There is no such thing as cooking wine! If you don’t like the flavour of a wine as a drink, there’s no way it will taste good once you’ve cooked off the alcohol and intensified the flavours even more. Plus with this recipe you can have a glass while your waiting for the risotto to cook!
– try not to hang around, eat it quickly before it dries up!
– season your risotto after you have added all the stock and the parmesan. Stock cubes and parmesan are high in salt, so its best to adjust the seasoning once it has all been added to prevent over seasoning
Basic risotto ingredients (for 1):
- 90 g risotto rice (I use Arborio)
- approx. 300 ml vegetable stock (I usually make up 500ml with half a stock cube because the amount needed will vary)
- 1/4 of a large glass of dry white wine – pinot grigio works well
- 1/2 a small white onion
- 1/2 a small garlic clove
- 20 g parmesan (Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- knob of butter
- sea salt & black pepper
Extra ingredients/ toppings (for 1):
- 1 small butternut squash
- 1 red onion
- 20-30g of soft goats cheese
- 1 garlic clove (skin on)
- fresh rosemary
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar of Modena
- Preheat oven to 200°c / 180°c fan.
- Dice the butternut squash into 2 cm pieces. Slice the top end of the red onion off and trim the woody bits off the root end, ensuring the white circle the remains attached – this will keep the onion in wedges when its roasting. Peel away the skin and slice into 6 wedges (in half, then each half into 3). Tip the vegetables into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil, and season generously with sea salt and black pepper. Finally, add a sprig of fresh rosemary and a whole garlic clove (skin on) and place on the middle oven shelf. Flip and mix the veg around occasionaly during cooking. TIP: crush the garlic slightly with the blade of your knife to release the flavour more.
- Finely chop the white onion and garlic then add to a saucepan over a low heat with a knob of butter. Sweat the onions and garlic in the butter with a lid on for 5-6 minutes, until soft and translucent. TIP: the aim here is to sweat, not fry. If the heat is too high they will burn and the risotto will become dark and bitter.
- While the onions are sweating, make up your stock with boiling water in a sauce pan and leave to stay warm on the lowest hob ring. Measure out your white wine and grate the parmesan.
- Once the onions have cooked, whack the heat up a little and add the risotto rice. Cook the rice for 30 seconds to absorb the liquid in the pan.
- Add the white wine and boil off the alcohol. Its done when there’s only a small amount of liquid left in the pan and you can no longer strongly smell the alcohol in the steam. TIP: if you don’t have a gas hob, reduce the heat again now while the alcohol is cooking off, to allow for the time delay.
- Reduce the heat to a low setting, add a small ladleful of the hot stock and stir through.
- Once the rice has nearly absorbed all the liquid, add a little more, stir through, and leave to simmer. Continue adding the stock little by little until the rice is soft, with a small amount of bite in the middle. TIP: At first it will be very clear when the rice is drying out but as the rice cooks it will release starch and form a creamy sauce coating the rice. Do not cook all of this off otherwise the risotto will become to dry. It should be silky and fairly loose in consistency, but not runny. when it’s plated up there should be no excess liquid around the perimeter.
- Once the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan. Taste the risotto, then season with more sea salt if necessary, plenty of freshly ground black pepper. At this point you have a great basic risotto, but for this variation, add roughly 6-8 rosemary leaves.
- By this point, the squash and red onion will be beautifully caramelised. Mix as much as you like of the veg into the risotto, and reserve the rest for later in the week. I like to squeeze the garlic out of the skin, mash it up and mix into the risotto to taste. Roasted garlic has an incredible flavour, and is more mellow than the pungent raw cloves. Transfer to a serving bowl, crumble over the soft goats cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
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