I ate my fair share of risotto while in Italy recently, and while it’s a dish I make with confidence at home on a fairly regular basis, it’s safe to say that attempting it post-trip was somewhat intimidating. How to match the perfect texture and incredible flavours of the Tuscan masters? But as winter is here and it’s prime comfort-food weather, and I couldn’t resist cooking up a batch of warming risotto last weekend.
This is a fairly basic recipe (thanks to the poor state of my pantry post-holiday), but it can be jazzed up with the addition of mushrooms and tarragon; chicken and saffron; prawns, asparagus and mint, or whatever takes your fancy really. In terms of technique, I don’t have any secret tips or tricks for perfecting this notoriously tricky dish – my only advice is to cook intuitively and practice, practice, practice.
In a medium-sized saucepan, add a chicken or vegetable stock cube to a litre of boiling water and reduce to a gentle simmer. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil or butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, and add a diced brown onion and a stick of chopped celery. Cook for about five minutes, then add 180 grams of risotto rice such as arborio or vialone nano, (a quantity which will comfortably feed two hungry humans) and stir until the rice is coated in the oil. Add half a glass of white wine and stir until the wine is absorbed, then throw in four cloves of crushed garlic (or more if you’re a fanatic like me) and stir to combine.
With the saucepan on a medium heat, add a ladleful of stock to the rice and stir until completely absorbed. Pour yourself a glass of wine and repeat the ladling/absorbing process until all the stock is gone, or the rice is almost al dente, whichever happens first. This step is a dealbreaker, so keep an eye on things and make sure the rice doesn’t stray into overcooked territory.
Take the saucepan off the heat and add the zest of one lemon, a good dollop of Greek yoghurt or cream, a sprinkling of parsley, and a handful of Parmigiano Reggiano to the rice. Add salt, pepper, and more cheese to taste, finishing off with a good drizzle of truffle oil or a knob of butter (or both, let’s be real). Buon appetito.