Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Prawn and Broad Bean Risotto

Risotto is not a hard dish to do. All you need is the right rice, Arborio or Carnaroli, some decent stock (make your own, buy fresh or use a cube) and something to go in it, like some prawns and broad beans. Or chicken and herbs, fresh vegetables perhaps, crabmeat and roasted squash, whatever you fancy really. Here's a link to a post about one I did recently - risotto with braised celery. And if you're in the mood for something a bit different, try this - Italian bubble and squeak.

Most recipes start with finely chopped onion or shallot softened in butter or olive oil. However, on Saturday Kitchen at the weekend Antonio Carluccio was in Italy with the 'King of Risotto' and the King didn't use onion or shallot. So if you haven't got either, don't worry.

Another common feature of risotto recipes is a glass of dry white wine or vermouth. Again, good for flavour but not vital and not having any wine to hand shouldn't stop you from cooking risotto.

The most important thing is technique. You need two pans, one for the rice and one for the stock. Get the stock simmering on the hob so that you always add warm liquid to the cooking rice. To start, cook your rice for a minute or so in hot butter or olive oil - with or without onion/shallot/wine. When the rice starts to turn see-through at the edge start adding hot stock, one ladle at a time.

Stir the rice a few times every time you add stock and add another ladle of stock before the rice cooks dry. A good rule of thumb is to add it when you leave trails in the rice when you stir it. There's no need to stir constantly, if you do it'll take ages for the rice to cook.

Add the rest of your ingredients according to how long they take to cook but not before the rice has had about 10 minutes and is well on the way to looking like a risotto. If you're adding chicken cook it beforehand or just add it at the end fully cooked. Peas and other small veg can be warmed up in the hot stock. Herbs should go in right at the end to ensure they retain their flavour.

After about 20 minutes you should be ready. The risotto should be thick and saucy. Try a little - the rice should have a little bit of firmness in the middle, but only a little. If its at all chalky or dry add more stock (or warm water if you've run out) then stir and wait a couple more minutes, then try it again. The liquid should look glossy and creamy.

Before serving let the risotto stand for a couple of minutes off the heat and for a really good flavour add a good knob of butter, a generous scoop of mascarpone or a handful of grated parmesan. Check the seasoning.

With the basics taken care of (rice, stock, stir, rest) risotto really is easy. It's a great for veggies and meat eaters and works with pretty much all meat and fish. It can even be a sweet dish, like an Italian rice pudding, using fruit like blueberries or strawberries, fresh brambles or mulberries would be pretty good as well I reckon.

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