I am, as the Chinese have a habit of saying, a fan tong (rice bucket). Rice is probably my favourite carbohydrate, and at least one meal of the day has to have rice in it, otherwise I'll feel ill. Some people, however, despite liking rice, are not fond of risotto, usually because they don't think it's real rice. This puzzles me, as the same people are usually more than happy to eat both noodles and pasta. In any case, despite my liking for the substance, I've never actually cooked risotto before, usually because it requires slaving away over a hot stove, and the chances of landing up with overcooked sludge seem very high.
Due to a friend (who is not as helpless a cook as he claims) going on and on about his midnight risotto-making, however, tempted me into cooking risotto for lunch this afternoon. After a few references to Bill Granger, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay's cookbooks, I decided all risotto recipes were basically the same, and didn't look that difficult.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
500ml chicken stock
1 glass (200ml) of white wine
100g risotto (I used Carnaroli)
25g of butter
1/4 onion, finely chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 chilli, finely chopped
5 asparagus spears (more or less depending on taste)
5 medium-sized prawns, peeled (more or less depending on taste)
Parsley, to garnish
1. In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, so that your risotto doesn't cool drastically when you add the stock.
2. In a separate saucepan, lightly pan-fry your chilli, prawns and asparagus with the garlic in some olive oil until they are just cooked, then remove them and keep warm.
3. In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil and half the butter. Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the chopped onions, and cook till they have softened, but not browned.
4. Add the rice, letting the oil and butter coat the grains with a film of fat. Make sure your onions do not burn.
5. Pour in the white wine, which should sizzle satisfyingly as the alcohol cooks off. The wine will be absorbed quite quickly by the rice as you stir it.
6. Once the wine has been absorbed, add a ladle of hot stock to the rice. Stir the rice continuously on low heat to allow the starches to be released.
7. Once the stock has been absorbed, add another ladle of hot stock, and stir continuously over low heat.
8. Repeat this process, adding a new ladle of hot stock once the previous ladleful has been fully absorbed. It takes about 20 minutes before the rice becomes rich and creamy, so you should keep tasting as you go. You'll know when you're getting close, as by the fourth or fifth ladle the absorption rate of the rice falls dramatically, stirring requires much more effort, and the individual grains seem to merge into one another. What you're aiming for is a soft, creamy texture, and a "give" (not a crunch) when you bite into a grain.
9. Once the rice is cooked (but remains al dente), take it off the heat, add in the cheese and butter to enrich the risotto, and let it rest for two minutes to let the flavours develop.
10. Meanwhile warm your prawns and asparagus back up (in the empty saucepan that used to hold your stock), and squeeze a liberal amount of lemon juice over them.
11. Plate up by stacking the prawns atop the asparagus, and garnish with some roughly-chopped parsley.