Risotto is one of those Italian dishes which seems to be shrouded in mystery. Many celebrity Chefs talk about the richness coming from the addition of Cream, or Creme Fraiche. Wrong. Some recipes I have seen recommend that you use American long grain rice, and I even saw one once which recommended using Basmati! WRONG! Che Confusione! (what confusion!)
Basically I can tell you categorically that making Risotto, a good Risotto, is surprisingly very easy. The secret to a good Risotto is in the rice you use, the simple principal techniques employed, and of course the quality of the stock.
There are basically three main Risotto rices which most people will encounter, the one most people are familiar with, which is the Arborio, and the other more robust grains of Vialone Nano and Carnaroli. You will hear mention of Superfino, Comune, and Fino on some websites, but that just refers to grain size, which in all honesty we don’t need to know about. Just know that Arborio is the smallest grain of the three common types.
In this particular recipe the beautiful delicate flavours of Saffron are enjoyed, and this risotto is an extremely useful one to have in your repotoire as it is mainly made from storecupboard ingredients.
2-3 tablespoons (approx) of olive oil
1 finely diced shallott (or a small onion)
400g of Arborio risotto rice,
1 glass of a decent white wine,
1 pint of a good vegetable stock (a cube is not really recommended)
4-5 strands of Saffron (infuse in a little warm water)
4 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan
4oz (approx) of butter
-In a medium sized pan, over a gentle heat, add the olive oil, and the finely diced shallots. You want to gently cook the shallot until translucent, we are definitely not looking to colour them. Cook for approx 4 minutes.
-Next you can add the Arborio rice, and gently stir so that the rice grains are all coated. Cook for around 2 or 3 minutes, and then add the white wine. Gently simmer until the wine has evaporated (important!).
-Next add a small quantity of the freshly made vegetable stock. So OK we do not always have fresh vegetable stock to hand. If you are caught short, make a very weak stock using a quarter to a half of a dried vegetable stock cube. Don’t be tempted to use a whole cube, or it will ruin the taste of the risotto. I am not recommending using a dried cube, but it can be used if you want too. Now while still simmering gently stir the risotto, and continue to do so, until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Don’t boil it dry though! Once almost dry, add another small quantity of stock, and repeat the process. You will need to continue to do this for around 15-18 minutes, taste the rice and check for “bite” before adding the next quantity of stock.
-Once your happy with the “bite” (cooked state) of the risotto, add the small quantity of infused saffron, and the liquid it was sitting in (around a tablespoon or two). Stir the risotto through, and now comes the magical part. The next step is what makes the risotto creamy, and in fact it is referred to as creaming the risotto, but rest assured no real cream is involved.
-To create the perfect creamy risotto add the butter, and parmesan into the pan, and stir very vigorously! Keep doing this until the butter has melted, place a lid on the pan, and remove from the heat. Let the risotto sit for 2-3 minutes and serve immediately.
This type of Risotto is traditionally served with something like Osso Buoco, but you can like we do, even serve it with a nice lamb chop, maybe one that has been grilled, or pan fried in butter for example. However equally, this would be a tasty supper served alone with some fresh Ciabatta bread, and a crisp white wine. Enjoy!