Sunday 28 December 2014

Rachel Allen on the perfect risotto

There's nothing quite as comforting as a creamy risotto and the Italian classic can also be a joy to prepare.

Rachel Allen

Published 29/04/2014 | 12:42

Rachel Allen serving her meatballs and risotto dish. Photo: Tony Gavin
Rachel Allen serving her meatballs and risotto dish. Photo: Tony Gavin
Rachel Allen cooking her meatballs and risotto dish. Photo: Tony Gavin

There is a certain romance to the ritual stirring of a risotto.

I channel my inner Italian grandmother as I gently stir in hot stock and, with pride, watch as the rice absorbs it and swells. It's the sort of thoughtful, ponderous cooking I love to find the time for, but 100 other things too often get in the way.

That's why I've practised the art of the baked risotto. It has all of the creamy, yet al dente goodness of a stove-top risotto, without demanding nearly as much of your careful attention.

Your inner Italian grandmother may throw up her hands in dismay at the thought of a risotto baked in the oven, but she won't be able to argue with the results!

It is true that near-constant stirring will always give you a luxuriously smooth risotto. An oven-baked risotto, though, can be just as good, as long as you vigorously stir in the butter and Parmesan after you've taken the risotto out of the oven. That stirring releases the starch on the outside of the rice, which is what gives it that distinctive, delicious risotto texture.

Risotto isn't strictly a one-pot meal – the stock needs to be heated in a separate pot, so it has to go down as a two-pot meal, which is still very useful in my book! It makes it easy to coordinate and, of course, to wash up.

The asparagus risotto, opposite, is one to eat right now, with our local asparagus at its best. Its sweetness goes so well with the salty, savoury goat's cheese.

The tomato risotto recipe is one that you could cook now, or at any time of year. It works really well with the tinned tomatoes, and the meatballs make it a great, substantial main course.

The risotto verde recipe is the quintessential summer risotto. The peas and spinach have such a lovely, fresh flavour and, stirred in as a puree, they produce a colour of beautiful, brilliant green.

Rachel Allen 3 .jpg

Asparagus and goat's cheese risotto

Serves 3-4.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion (about 150g/5oz), finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

300g (11oz) risotto rice

100ml (3½fl oz) white wine

850ml (1½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock

10 asparagus stalks, snapped at the bottom to remove the woody base (about the bottom 2-3cm – see my Tip, opposite)

75g (2½oz) peas

50g (2oz) finely grated Parmesan

25g (1oz) butter

75g (2½oz) soft goat's cheese

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Put a saucepan on a medium heat, then add the olive oil and the finely chopped onion. Season with the salt and freshly ground black pepper, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 6-8 minutes, until the onion is soft, but not coloured.

Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium. Add in the risotto rice, stir and cook for one minute, then pour in the white wine and bring to a simmer. Cook for two minutes, until the white wine has evaporated.

Pour in all of the hot chicken or vegetable stock, whichever you are using, season again, and bring to the boil. Then cover and put in the oven for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. At an angle, cut the top 3cm of the spear off, then slice the rest of the stalk, also at an angle, into pieces about 1cm long. Repeat with the rest of the asparagus.

When the risotto has cooked for 7 minutes, take it out of the oven and stir in all of the sliced asparagus, cover again and cook for about 7-9 minutes, until it is almost cooked. Next, stir in the peas and return the saucepan to the oven for just 2 more minutes. Once the rice and the peas are cooked, use a wooden spoon to vigorously beat in the grated Parmesan and the butter.

Taste for seasoning, then serve on warm plates with the soft goat's cheese crumbled over the top.

 

Tomato and rosemary Risotto with meatballs

Rachel Allen 2 .jpg

Serves 4-6

For the meatballs, you will need:

450g (1lb) beef mince or pork mince

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 egg, beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1-2 tablespoons olive oil for cooking the meatballs

For the risotto, you will need:

3 tablespoons olive oil

175g (6½oz) onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

400g (14oz) risotto rice

150ml (5fl oz) white wine

2 x 400g (14oz) tins of chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons sugar

1 litre (1¾ pints) seasoned chicken or vegetable stock

3 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped

25g (1oz) butter

150g (5oz) Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving, finely grated

 

First, make the meatballs. In a bowl, mix together the beef mince or the pork mince, whichever you are using, the thyme leaves, the crushed garlic and the beaten egg, Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix everything well together. Fry off a small amount of the mixture in a frying pan and taste for seasoning. Using wet hands, form the mince mixture into 16-20 tiny meatballs, each about 2cm in diameter, then place in the fridge (for up to 24 hours) or store in the freezer (defrosting well before use), until you are ready to cook them.

To make the risotto, preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Put the olive oil in a saucepan on a low-to-medium heat, add the finely chopped onion and the crushed garlic, and season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook over a medium heat for about 7 or 8 minutes, until the onion and garlic are soft and a little golden.

Add the risotto rice, increase the heat to medium and cook for 1-2 minutes, until it starts to crackle. Add the white wine and simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tinned chopped tomatoes and the sugar. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the rice is almost soft. Next, stir in the seasoned chicken or vegetable stock, whichever you're using, and half the chopped fresh rosemary. Bring to the boil, then put in the oven for 10-12 minutes. While the risotto is in the oven, cook the meatballs. Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the meatballs and fry for 10-12 minutes, turning regularly, until they are evenly browned and cooked through. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Remove the risotto from the oven and, using a wooden spoon, vigorously beat in the butter and most of the grated Parmesan.

Divide between four to six bowls, top with the meatballs and sprinkle over the remaining grated Parmesan and chopped fresh rosemary.

 

Risotto verde

Serves 6.

Rachel Allen 1.jpg

You will need:

 

4 tablespoons olive oil

250g (9oz) peas , fresh or frozen

100g (3½oz) spinach (de-stalk if the leaves are large)

1 litre (1¾ pints) vegetable or chicken stock

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

350g (12½oz) risotto rice

150ml (5fl oz) white wine

100g (3½oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated

50g (2oz) butter, cut into cubes

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in an ovenproof saucepan, add the fresh or frozen peas, whichever you are using, and the spinach and cook, stirring all the time, for 2 minutes, until the spinach wilts. Add about 50ml of the vegetable or chicken stock, whichever you are using, and puree in a blender or a food processor. Set aside.

In the same saucepan, heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil, add the finely chopped onion and the crushed garlic, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover with a lid and sweat over a gentle heat until the onion and garlic are soft but not coloured. Add the risotto rice and stir it around in the saucepan for a minute, then add the remaining stock and the white wine. Stir and bring it up to the boil, cover with the lid and place in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is just cooked and all of the liquid has been absorbed. Using a wooden spoon, vigorously beat in the spinach-and-pea puree, the grated Parmesan and the butter, then divide between six bowls and serve.

 

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

Promoted articles

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice



Also in Life