13:33 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Two Risottos

Risotto is brilliant. It's so easy but feels like proper cooking, with that self-satisfied glow that comes from placing a steaming bowl of something nutritious in front of someone in need. A little bit of gentle chopping, then relaxed stirring for 20 undisturbed minutes. Risotto will not be rushed, and it tastes better if you fuss over it, stirring gently and coaxing it lovingly into deliciousness. You will be rewarded with the most soul-affirming, comforting meal that requires no rushing, pan-banging or stress of any kind. Chuck everyone out of the kitchen, pour yourself a glass of wine, and stir the day's stresses away.

My very favorite is a roast chicken and mushroom risotto, for the perfect chill-out comfort dinner on a Monday night when you're tired. Hopefully you would have some leftover chicken in the fridge from yesterday's roast, but you could equally cook off a couple of chicken legs. In my dreams I would use 3 or four different mushroom varieties. A common chestnut or squeaky button, with a delicate oyster and earthy porcini for texture and flavour. In reality it is only ever chestnut mushrooms, as I cook this often for Steviant who is terribly mushroom-spooked and currently will only just put up with a very ordinary mushroom. I don't want to scare him off. I often steam a few smallest florets of broccoli for colour and freshness. Broccoli is lovely with chicken, but you could equally use a few petit pois from the freezer. The amounts here are rough, so change, taste and adapt as you see fit. I don't want to measure ingredients for this recipe, That's not what it's about.

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto.

For two you will need:
A chunk of unsalted butter, maybe 20g or something like that.
Half a white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Half a box of arborio risotto rice. The best I've tried is the Riso Gallo organic arborio.
A glass of dry white wine, and another for you to enjoy whilst cooking, essential!
A big handful of mushrooms
Leftover roast chicken, stripped into chunks
Some steamed broccoli florets, if you like. Or frozen petit pois.
A litre of chicken stock. Boil you chicken carcass in a large casserole of hot water with some bay, some chopped carrot, onion, celery and seasoning for 20 mins, the strain the broth to use as stock, or use a good commercial brand. I like knorr stock pots, they taste real and they aren't nearly as salty as cubes.
A few dried chili flakes
A rough teaspoon of italian herb seasoning
Ground black pepper. Don't put salt anywhere near this please, it will ruin it.

Heat your butter in a large saucepan, wok or risotto pan if you're flash. Cook the onions in the butter over a medium low heat, until soft and transparent, but not browned. Add your mushrooms and crushed garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms coated with the butter. Add the rice and stir through until it soaks up the last of the butter. Turn the heat up a little, and splash in your glass of wine and let it bubble, stirring until it is absorbed. While this is happening, add your italian herb seasoning and your chili flakes. Be careful here, this is not a spicy risotto, but a very few flakes will just enhance the flavours of everything else.

Once the wine has been absorbed, you can begin adding your stock, a ladle-full at a time. Stir until one ladle full has been absorbed, the repeat with the rest of your stocj until your risotto is done, about 18-20 minutes. In my opinion it should be soft to the tooth. Some argue for al-dente so if you prefer it that way, go for it. Either way, your loving stirring should have created a creamy, comforting sauce that coats the rice and all other ingredients. When you think one more ladle full of stock should do it, add your chicken and broccoli or peas with the last ladle stir to absorb, and then remove from the heat. I scatter basil over mine just before serving and stir through. It's not essential but it tastes great. Serve in warmed bowls with plenty of parmasan.

The picture above shows my slightly posher, dinner-party risotto, which is much more photogenic. It follows the same basic recipe, replacing chicken stock with fish or vegetable. Instead of chicken, broccoli and mushrooms, I add with the last of the stock: prawns fried briefly in butter and a little garlic, peas and the juice of one lemon. A big handful of rocket leaves scattered over the finished risotto looks and tastes fantastic. If I make either of these risotto in the next month or so, I will be making the most of the short English asparagus season, and replacing the peas with beautiful, fresh spears, lightly steamed.


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