Risotto is made from special short grain rice such Arborio or Carnaroli which release their starch during cooking to give the dish a creamy, semi liquid consistency. It takes about 20 minutes to cook. The more it is stirred during cooking, the creamier the consistency of finished dish. This is not time wasted. Stirring food rhythmically at the stove is time during the day when you can still your mind and be peacefully getting ready to eat.
Once you have mastered a basic risotto you can experiment with your own combination of ingredients to add to it.
Other combinations of ingredients to add to risotto are:
chestnuts, roasted butternut squash and sage; red pepper and goats cheese; young spring vegetables such as broad beans and pancetta.
Smoked salmon and lemon risotto; takes 5 minutes to prepare, 20 minutes to cook
2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra for the dressing
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 stick celery, finely chopped
300 g risotto rice
1 small glass of dry white wine or dry white vermouth
1 litre warm stock (either vegetable or fish)
a handful baby spinach leaves
1 lemon, grated rind and juice
60 g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
150 g smoked salmon, cut into strips
a few sprigs of lemon thyme, leaves picked (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
small bag rocket
small fennel bulb, cut into very thin papery slices
1 small orange, peeled and sliced very thinly
Pour a little olive oil into a large saucepan or deep frying pan and sweat the onion, garlic and celery for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the rice to the pan and stir it in with the other ingredients ensuring the grains of rice are coated with a little of the oil. Continue to cook for 5 minutes until the rice just begins to brown.
Add the glass of white wine, or vermouth, and allow this to evaporate before gradually adding the warm stock a ladleful at a time.
Stir the risotto continuously with a wooden spoon until the rice is soft but still has a slight bite (this will take about 20 minutes). Add the baby spinach and continue cooking for a couple of minutes to allow the leaves to wilt. Stir the grated lemon rind and Parmesan cheese through the risotto and add little lemon juice to taste. Continue to cook the risotto for another few minutes before stirring in the smoked salmon. Do this at the last minute as it is important not to over cook the salmon. Check the seasoning.
Dress the rocket, fennel and orange with a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss well before serving. Serve the risotto with the salad and more grated Parmesan cheese.