This recipe was taught to me when I lived in Leichhardt in Sydney. It’s a risotto-base to which you can add whatever ingredients you like at the end. There are many risotto recipes, this is mine.
There is no TL;DR version.
- Unlike other rice recipes, you mustn’t wash the rice for a risotto. Doing so gets rid of the starch that sits on the outside of each grain. That’s right, the starch is on the outside. The reason for this is that losing the starch also loses that slight stickiness that you want.
- You’re looking for a finished dish that is creamy and has a nice sheen to it.
- Make sure your stock is warm before you start. This is important if you don’t want to make the cooking of the rice incredibly arduous as you cool it down and bring it back to heat.
- (Have some boiled but now warmed water on hand in case you run out of stock, well not “on hand” obviously, but in a pot)
- When you run a spoon from one side of the risotto to the other, it should part and then come back gently and slowly. The risotto should have some body. It’s not soup.
- Salt – I love salt. However, if you’re using a lot of cheese (yes!) then that can do a lot of the work of seasoning.
- Ideally you’re going to want to use a high-sided, long-handled pan. But frankly, you can use a frying pan if that’s all you’ve got. The result might not be as creamy.
- A pan for your stock.
- A ladle (or jug)
- A wooden spoon – because I’m old-fashioned. Use anything to stir your risotto except your finger.
- A good stock, like this one.
- Rice (a handful per person or more depending on the size of your hand and of the people) – ideally Carnaroli maybe Arborio or Bomba. But in these times of Covid food shortages, go with whatever you’ve got as long as it’s not flavoured (e.g. no Basmati).
- A medium sized onion, finely chopped to flavour your oil.
- Garlic – go with your gut – finely chopped to flavour your oil.
- Dry white wine.
- Butter. In fact you can go with any olive oil or any veg oil. Between you and me, I’ve used chicken fat or even lard before.
- Cheese – ideally Parmesan but also pecorino or any hard cheese. I’ve used old cheddar before.
- Optional Ingredients
- OK, this a personal preference but… a small amount of soft goats cheese.
- Basil – ideally fresh, in which case lots for the end. If you’re using dried, then use it sparingly.
- Method and Reasons
- Grate your cheese. Lots of it.
- Grate more cheese.
Flavour your butter by adding your onion and garlic to it and warming it in your pan until the butter froths Don’t burn the garlic. Dark garlic is lovely in some recipes but horrible here, it will make you sad. Once your onion is softened, you’re good to go.
Now, at this point I was taught at remove the onion and garlic and butter from the pan and reserve it in a warm spot. You don’t have to do this.
If you do this, however, add your rice to the still warm pan and turn the heat up a little. Make sure you have a layer of rice covering the entire surface of the pan. You’re looking to toast the rice for an additional, nutty flavour. However, this also heats the starch, which is useful for processing it later.
Once you can see the tiniest bit of brown on the rice, add in your white wine. Frankly, there’s probably a really good science to this (like deglazing the pan) but for me it’s about adding a little more flavour and freeing the starch to start mixing. Let most of the booze exit stage up as condensation. You cannot get rid of all the booze no matter what anybody tells you.
(If you’re a non-drinker, try adding some lemon juice here.)
Now, the methodical, relaxing, pleasurable bit begins: stirring.
The trick here is to add your warm stock so that it covers but not drowns the rice.
Add the stock, stir gently until the level of stock drops slightly as it is sucked up by the rice.
Add more stock. Stir.
Have a glass of wine while gently stirring.
To test as you go: try biting into a grain of the rice. If it’s too hard in the middle, it’s not soaked up enough stock.
Run your spoon, or whatever you’re using to stir, through the rice and stock. If the mix looks soupy or if your spoon doesn’t leave a “path” through it, if it comes back to quickly then keep stirring gently.
Once you’ve used up your stock – or as soon as the spoon path is visible and your rice is slightly soft in the middle, you can add in that warm butter, garlic and onion mix if you want more flavour. If not, then fry bread in it. Keep stirring.
Now add half your grated cheese and stir it in.
Add some torn-up basil leaves.
Stop doing anything. Turn off the heat. Leave the cheese to do its work. Say about four minutes.
Taste. Add salt and pepper if you feel like it.
Hell, add some peas and warmed chicken. I don’t care what you add, just make it tasty.
There you go.