Have you ever wondered why you are only meant to add stock by the ladleful when making risotto ? Why not just add it all at once and let it boil down like most other rice cooking methods? Well the answer has to do with achieving a perfectly creamy consistency. Making a good risotto is all about extracting the creamy starchiness from arborio – or carnaroli, vialone nano, baldo if you are feeling adventurous – in order to create a tasty slush of gooey, creamy deliciousness.
One of the ways of achieving this – other than selecting an appropriately starchy short grain – rice is to add the stock a tiny bit at a time. Why? Because if you add all of the cooking liquid at once, the rice disperses in the liquid and the grains don’t touch each other enough. However, if you add just a little liquid at a time the grains rub together as you stir, which releases more starch. This, along with a delicious stock, a lot of butter and some grated Parmesan is the absolute foundation of a creamy, flavoursome risotto.
The Perfect Risotto & Risotto Pie
For all Risottos
- 1 cup of arborio rice
- 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 leek or 1/2 onion
- 4 tbs olive oil (other oil is fine too)
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 knobs of butter or more!
- A lot of freshly grated Parmesan
Optional ingredient ideas
- Asparagus, lemon zest, parsley and chicken (optional)
- Mushrooms, thyme, lemon zest, truffle oil (optional) and bacon (optional)
- Roasted pumpkin, pine nuts, thyme and pancetta (optional)
- Peas, mint, lemon zest and lamb (optional)
- Rainbow chard and goat’s cheese
- Beetroot, goat’s cheese, rocket and orange zest
- This method is for cooking all risottos, so bear in mind that there may be extra steps depending on what ingredients you choose to add flavour.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot and add the leeks (or onions) and garlic. Add any other extra ingredients you think need to be added i.e. spices, woody herbs, meat and some types of veges. Sauté on a medium heat until the onions turn translucent. Make sure they don’t brown too much – if this starts happening turn the heat down immediately and take the pan off the heat for a few moments to cool it a little.
- Add the arborio rice and fry gently until the rice turns from white to clear. This should only take about 1 minute. Now start adding stock by a ladleful at a time – you will need to add a few ladles initially. Keep adding stock as the rice dries out and keep stirring. You may need to add some ingredients at certain points in this process i.e. some vegies or meats. The rice should take about 20 minutes to cook. Be patient. Turn on some opera music and sing Pavarotti at the top of your lungs if need be!
- Once the rice looks close to being cooked – it should still have a little bite to it – add in some more stock, put in the knobs of butter, grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese into the pot, stir a little, turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Leave it to sit for a few minutes. You want the rice to be quite sloppy in consistency. Of course this is a personal preference thing but risotto should be quite gooey and similar to the consistency of porridge. There should be a creamy white sauce surrounding the rice.
- Take the lid off the pan, taste the risotto – add some more butter and/or Parmesan if you think it needs it and then and only then season it. Serve on a plate and grate more Parmesan and add lemon zest on top with some sprinkled herbs (optional) and a dash of extra virgin olive oil.
- This is so easy it only needs one paragraph to explain! It is also super delicious! So next time you make a risotto make sure you make way too much.
- Put yesterday’s cold risotto into a pie dish. Push it down so that it is reasonably compact. Taste your cold risotto first to see if it needs more seasoning. Grate a generous amount of Parmesan cheese on top. The more the better! If you are worried about the cost of Parmesan simply supplement or substitute with another cheaper cheese. The more cheese (especially Parmesan) you add on top the tastier the pie will be. Also sprinkle over some bread crumbs and a little olive oil. Bung it in an oven heated to 200°C for about 15-20 minutes or until the cheese top has turned golden brown.
I guarantee you won’t be left with pie on your face – you will eat every last morsel left on your cheek!