I must have been 48 when I ate my first risotto, even then it wasn’t a proper risotto because it was made with pearled spelt rather than risotto rice. I have no idea why it took me so long to try risotto, I have yet to meet one that I didn’t like.
Perhaps because I came to the party so late, I’m no purist. I’m happy using pearl barley or pearled spelt, which make wonderful winter risottos of mushroom and squash, or any of several different types of risotto rice (though Carnaroli is my favourite). A new twist (for me, anyway) is the baked risotto – doing away with the need for standing over the pan stirring for 25 minutes. I actually quite like the stirring, but there are days when you need to get other stuff done, and this is perfect if you’re busy but are keen to impress.
To make it suitable for a vegetarian, use a light vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.
Serve alongside an apple and celery salad, the perfect accompaniment.
RECIPE – Serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
25g unsalted butter
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
3 medium leeks, halved down their length and finely sliced
2 fat garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp coarse sea salt
2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
250g risotto rice (Carnaroli is best I think, though Arborio is fine)
850ml hot chicken stock
120g soft goat’s cheese, rind removed and crumbled/chopped
50g finely grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 200C/ Fan 180C/ gas 6.
In a risotto pan, or very large frying pan, melt the butter and oil, then add the onion, leeks, garlic and salt and saute gently for around 5 minutes to soften them.
Add the chopped rosemary and rice, stir thoroughly so everything is coated in everything else, and cook on for a further minute, stirring constantly. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the goat’s and Parmesan cheese. Stir thoroughly, cover and bake until the rice is al dente. This may take up to 25 minutes, but keep checking after 15 minutes have elapsed.
Remove the lid and place the pan under a hot grill for 5 minutes until the top is golden. Just before serving, sprinkle a little more chopped rosemary over the top, if liked.