Sunday, May 10, 2009


Now that you have all that stock in the freezer you're ready to tackle risotto or any other one pot rice dish. Most cultures that eat rice seem to have one. Think pilau or pilaf (India, Middle East, Africa), paella (Spain), nasi goreng (Indonesia), and risotto from Italy.
This is a classic Sicilian risotto that gives you a good feel for how it works. Be brave about quantities of oil and wine. You'll get a really creamy risotto. You must use a good risotto rice - Arborio, Vialone Nano, or Carnaroli. Do NOT wash the rice and heat your stock first.
Start by softening your vegetable from the allium family - I usually use a leek but really whatever you have in the cupboard is good - onion, shallots.
If you are making a risotto with fish consider including half a finely chopped fennel bulb at this stage. stick of celery finely chopped adds good flavour. Once the onions are softened add the rice and cook for a minute or so to coat with the oil. Then add the wine (or if you are making risotto with fish then you could use Pernod).
Cook down the wine until evaporated and then start adding your hot stock, a ladle at a time. You want the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful. The point of the stirring is to release the starch which is what makes the risotto creamy so make sure you keep stirring. Use about 2 1/2 times liquid to rice. The trick is to add it slowly and stir to incorporate. Think of it as therapeutic. Draw up a stool to the stove. Ladle and stir, don't let anyone distract you. It will take about 18 minutes. Listen to your favourite music and pour yourself a glass of wine - you already have a bottle open.
If the meat or veg you are adding needs cooking, add it with the rice, if it is already coooked or just needs very light cooking, add it at the end. Once you feel your risotto is cooked, cover and let stand 2-3 minutes. Then stir through parmesan and a knob of butter. I sometimes like to add parsley because I like the colour. Let the diners add additional parmesan at the table to taste.
Start with something really simple like adding chopped ham & frozen peas. Or shredded chicken and mushrooms (you've just roasted a chicken to make the stock). Follow the basic rules then get the feel of how you like your risotto and then it will become your ultimate comfort food. This is home food not fancy restaurant fare.
As an aside this week made spelt rolls from Hugh's River Cottage autumn programme. I halved the flour & water and used 1 instant yeast sachet making eight rolls. These rolls smelled so good I was standing dribbling by the oven and the minute they came out I ripped into them risking blistered fingers. You need to discover them for yourself. I will be experimenting with this flour over the next few weeks.

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