Rachel visited! Yes, the baking angel from 3 posts back. She only did one semester here but clearly can’t live without me (and I can’t live without her either, to be entirely honest) so it was time for a visit. The whole city was in awe of her glorious return, everyone came out for a glimpse of Donna Rachele, and we graced many a bar with her lovely presence. Drinks were offered, accepted, great times were had. We laughed, we danced, we chatted to friends and absolute randomers alike. And we ate risotto, because that’s Rachel’s favourite. And it’s definitely one of my favourites, too.
For ages I didn’t want to cook risotto because chefs and people who write about food tend to present the process of making risotto as an exact science. I quote:
“After a while the grains of rice will look fairly shiny, and as if they are about to jump out of the pan. At this exact moment, not a second later, but certainly not sooner either, add the wine.” (Delicious magazine, translated with artistic liberty by yours truly.)
Furthermore, I’ve read that you can only make a good risotto with a high quality, home made stock, and excellent wine. That you should always stir it from the centre towards the outside. Oh come on, I don’t even know what that means. And who still makes their own stock these days? Also, I don’t feel like chucking excellent and thus expensive wine into a hot pan, evaporating all the alcohol out of it. Excellent wine is for drinking, not cooking. Luckily, I found out a while ago that making risotto is really not that hard. You won’t ruin it by using cheap wine or stock from cubes. Or by adding the wine before the grains look like they’re about to jump out of the pan, whatever that may look like.
You can make risotto with anything you like, my favourite’s with pumpkin. For two:
– some pumpkin (I don’t know, a chunk, depends on how hungry you are)
– risotto rice such as arborio, about 5 fistfuls*
– a clove of garlic
– rosemary (fresh or dried, doesn’t matter)
– white wine (about 1 glass)
– about a liter of stock: I usually use veggie but chicken or another type will do fine. You might not need the full liter but you don’t want to end up with too little.
– olive oil
– butter (real butter, no marg!)
– parmesan cheese
Peel the pumpkin with a potato peeler (it works!) and cut it into fairly tiny chunks. Don’t throw out the skin, use it for the stock. Heat some olive oil and some butter (yes, both!) in a pan, preferably a fairly heavy one with a thick bottom, and chuck in the chunks of pumpkin. Strip the twigs of rosemary if you’re using fresh ones, chop them up a little and add them to the pumpkin. Boil water for the stock, in a pan, not in the kettle, so that you can keep it hot later on, and add the pumpkin peel straight away, add the stock cubes once the water boils, then keep it hot on low fire. Peel the garlic and slice it in half. Throw it it with the pumpkin once that has gone a bit softer, at the same time add the rice. Leave it for a while, occasionally stir.
Once the grains look like they’re kinda greasy and they’ve had the chance to soak up a little oil, chuck in load of white wine. Don’t exaggerate, you don’t want to drown your rice, but make sure all of the rice is covered. Again, stir occasionally. Wait until all of the wine has disappeared, then start adding stock. And again, make sure that all of the rice is just about covered, usually you’ll need to add one ladle of stock at a time. Only add the next ladle when all of the previous stock has been absorbed. Make sure you stir enough so that the rice doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan, but don’t stir continuously since that will make the risotto too sticky (stirring makes the rice release starch). The quantity of stock you need is different every time, so the best thing to do is just taste a bit occasionally. Risotto should be a little runny but not fluid. Once the rice is soft enough to eat and you’re happy about the texture, chuck in another chunk of butter and some parmesan, and stir so that all’s properly mixed. The clove of garlic has really only been there as a sort of teabag, to give off flavour, so by the time you serve up you can take it out. I like to eat it because the heat has made it all soft and mild. But you can also just throw it out. Serve with more parmesan. It’ll take a while, I know, half an hour at least, but it’ll be worth it.
Unfortunately there will be no picture this time because risotto doesn’t look that tasty in 2D.
*Risotto is a primo piatto here, a first course, which is bigger than the UK equivalent of a starter, but smaller than a main. If you cook it as a first course, one fistful of rice per person is enough. If you cook it as a UK standards main meal (which is what I usually do), go for 2 or 2,5 fistfuls.