Come Dine with The Courier: Risotto

WHEN I say to someone “I’m cooking risotto tonight” I generally get a strange look, as if I’ve just told them I cook lobster every night on a student budget. A lot of people deem risotto a ‘non-student dish’ or a meal to have only on a special occasion.  My experience with it has been quite different; it’s quick, easy and a cheap way of getting essential nutrients, whilst being incredibly tasty at the same time.

Risotto is a rice dish originating from Northern Italy. Its creamy, oozy consistency makes it the perfect comfort food for any cold winter evening where you’re sat at home watching a film and chilling out with some friends.

There are a few ‘base’ ingredients that I include in every single risotto I make:

  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Mixed Herbs
  • Parmesan
  • Butter
  • Arborio Rice
  • Any Cooking Oil (Vegetable, Sunflower or Olive)
  • Dry White Wine if there’s any leftover in the fridge

These provide you with the basic flavours for a risotto, letting you experiment with meat, fish or vegetables from then on.  It’s such a versatile, basic recipe that anything can be added once this base is prepared.

The basic risotto

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 500g Arborio Rice
  • 1 Large Onion, diced finely
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped finely
  • 1.5 litres of vegetable/chicken stock (mix your dry stock with boiling water according to packet instructions)
  • 1 Tablespoon Mixed Herbs
  • 1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil
  • A Knob of Butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Dash of Dry White Wine

Method:

  1. On a medium heat, fry the onion and garlic in a large saucepan with the cooking oil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the Arborio rice and stir for 1 minute until the rice becomes translucent so you can see the inner grain.
  3. Add a d ash of white wine and begin to pour the stock into the pan. The mixture should stop sizzling and begin to bubble.
  4. Gradually keep adding the stock to the rice and keep stirring for about 20 minutes. Towards the end of the 20 minutes start tasting the risotto. It shouldn’t have much of a bite to it and each grain should be fairly soft.
  5. Stir through a knob of butter and some Parmesan, then add the mixed herbs.
  6. If the risotto seems a bit starchy and stodgy, add a little more stock at the end and stir through.
  7. Season to taste with salt, pepper and olive oil and enjoy!

Note: It’s important you keep stirring throughout the cooking process otherwise the rice will start sticking to the bottom.

Now that’s the base of the risotto done we can add different ingredients to accommodate different diets or budgets. A few suggestions for you:

Smoked Salmon, Prawn and Peas – When stirring through the butter and Parmesan, add in some smoked salmon trimmings, prawns and frozen peas to make a tasty seafood risotto. If you’re not feeling as thrifty, substitute for real salmon fillet and king prawns. (For 4 people, approx. £2.00 each)

Butternut Squash and Sage – before making the risotto preheat your oven to 220⁰C/200⁰C Fan/Gas Mark 7. Cut open a butternut squash, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and some chopped sage. Roast for 30 minutes until soft. Chop the squash into cubes and stir through at the end of your risotto. (For 4 people, approx. £1.20 each)