Risotto is the epitome of Italian Home cooking and comfort food. You’d think by the fear of God that Gordon Ramsey puts into his Hell’s Kitchen Contestants when they get it wrong, and the amount of issues that are dramatised with Risotto making on almost every reality Cooking TV Show/competition, that making a good Risotto is almost impossible. But it’s not. In reality it’s relatively easy and within everyone’s grasp. All it takes is patience, good seasoning and remembering to taste before you finish cooking.
Rice and I don’t get on. I have always had issues cooking it, it never goes fluffy, it either under cooks or over cooks, and I still get varying results (but not as bad) in my rice cooker. Because of this I decided to stay WELL AWAY from the trouble called Risotto. I basically avoided it at all costs, loved eating it, NEVER made it. That was, until I bit the bullet and tried it a few years ago, and frankly, now I don’t understand what the big deal is about.
My Number one tip: Don’t even try to attempt to make a risotto if you’re in a hurry!!
Risotto needs love and attention much like a newborn. You need to have the time to, and want to be attentive, give it some TLC, caress it, it’s not a dish to attempt if you are trying to multitask.
You need a good 20-30 minutes (depending on the serving size) from start to finish to stand and stir, add liquid and stir again.
I tend to vary between a few different flavor combinations, admittedly I haven’t strayed too far from my narrow path, but there are a myriad of flavors to try. Stick to the classics, cheese, mushroom or invent something new!
Qualities of a great Risotto; it should be smooth and creamy, oozy even, and NOT thick and stodgy.
There are many ways to make risotto, none probably as authentic as the stove-top method, but some turn out with surprisingly good results. Donna Hay has quite a few recipes for baked risotto, which works well, give it a good stir afterwards to release and enhance the starch in the rice, and Bob’s your Aunty. I admit that this is the way that I made my first Risotto, it’s great if you are starting out and don’t yet have the confidence or don’t have time to faff around.
- Use Arborio Rice (or risotto rice) – don’t substitute
- Prepare everything before hand, have it all ready to go.
- Use a wooden spoon to stir the rice, it won’t break down the grains (gently does it)
- Fry the rice off for a minute before you add your first amount of liquid, keep an eye on it though, as the rice should not brown. This coats each grain, allowing the rice to slowly absorb moisture and resulting in a creamier risotto.
- If you’re adding wine, add this BEFORE the stock, cook off the alcohol, the wine enhances the taste of the risotto
- Use the best quality stock you can find (chicken, fish or veggie), better still, make your own!!
- Heat the stock before adding it, this keeps the cooking temperature at a reasonably constant level
- Add only a ladle (or cup) of stock at a time, wait for this to FULLY ABSORB BEFORE you add any more liquid. The liquid will absorb fast at the beginning, but will take a lot longer towards the end – be patient, you don’t want soup.
- Keep stirring, this releases the starch in the rice and helps the risotto get that lovely creamy texture. So much so that they rice should already be creamy before you add any cheese to finish. The cheese will give it the OOZ.
- Don’t forget to taste before you finish cooking. Check for seasoning and most importantly to make sure that the rice is cooked perfectly. It should be al dente when done, with a little bit of bite, but not crunchy.
- Cover and leave to stand for 2 minutes before serving, this makes it beautiful and creamy and crazy oozy. Eat as soon as possible, the rice will keep its awesome texture.
Get creative, give it a go, hey, if I the rice-fail queen can master it, there is hope for everyone!