Thursday 28 July 2011

Resorting to Risotto

Without wishing to sound arrogant, I make a pretty mean risotto.  I don’t really understand how this happened, as I only discovered the delights of this wonderful oozing rice dish a couple of years ago, but it has rapidly become a reliable recipe for storecupboard emergencies and situations when I need to impress.
One of the things I love most about risotto is the way its flavour entirely depends on which ingredients are added to the rice mixture – almost like an Italian version of the fabled stone soup. Creamy and sweet with parmesan and leeks, crisp and fresh with asparagus and smoked salmon, silken and earthy with butternut squash and sage...there’s a combination to satisfy any craving and every mood.

Nigel Slater once said risotto was “as instantly soothing as sucking your thumb”, and for me this is true not only of tasting that first gooey spoonful, but also of the process of cooking the meal itself. There is something incredibly therapeutic about watching the grains slowly expand as you stir the mixture, almost as if the stresses of the day are being released along with the rice’s starch.

So this seemed the ideal dish for celebrating the first night in our new flat. Despite having purchased enough grains, pulses and other storecupboard essentials to survive a nuclear war, I had somehow utterly failed to purchase any fresh ingredients. Luckily there were a couple of bacon rashers left over from my boyfriend’s breakfast sarnie, plus a lovely housewarming gift of Cabernet Sauvignon from our new landlord, which added a rich depth of flavour to the sharp notes from one of the many tins of chopped tomatoes.

With apologies in advance for the absence of some of my regular risotto’s key ingredients, here’s my step-by-step guide to making the simplest delicious dinner for two:

Fry a couple of smoked bacon rashers in some butter for a few minutes along with a medium onion and a clove of garlic (you also use lardons or pancetta if you prefer)

Add the risotto rice (75 grams per person) and stir this around in the pan for about a minute so that it soaks up all the juices and any remaining butter. Then add a regular glass of wine – clearly all the packing and moving was more stressful than I first thought, as this was a rather over-generous wine serving!

Turn up the heat and continually stir the pan until all of the alcohol has burnt off and most of the wine has this!

Add a tin of chopped (or peeled) tomatoes, and turn the heat back down to a simmer. Stir the pan intermittently to make sure the rice doesn’t stick, and to help the starch begin to break down.

The grains should be starting to expand now, and becoming slightly softer as the majority of the chopped tomato sauce is soaked up. Start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, and keep stirring the rice – once the liquid disappears then it’s time to add the next spoonful. You will need between 500ml and 900ml of stock, depending on how crunchy you like your rice – the runnier the better for me personally!

I happened to have a jar of sharp sundried tomatoes in the mammoth storecupboard selection, so I added these once the risotto had reached my preferred level of gooey-ness. In this final stage of the recipe I would normally add some nutty parmesan cream, making sure there were also plenty of gratings available for sprinkling over the top of the dish. Now all that’s left is for you to ladle the mixture into a couple of large bowls, grab the remainder of the bottle of wine, and settle down on the sofa to relax!

1 comment:

  1. I love this recipe! I have never cooked risotto before and due to this recipe have realised how easy it is. This is delicious and both my children love it. I am now trying lots of other risotto recipes!