Risotto

I love risotto.  However, I have never made it the “professional” way.  This recipe stems from my stint in the UK in the late eighties, where I watched one of my flatmates make it.

In those days I could cook, but I had never had risotto before, nor heard of the way it should be cooked, i.e. adding liquid bit by bit and stirring all the time.  I prefer adding all the liquid at once – for reasons of laziness and because it’s how I learned to cook it – , although you do have to stir this version quite a bit, too, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  My experience is that once it sticks to the pan, the remaining rice will not cook and soak up the liquid because the bits sticking to the pot start to burn and won’t let the heat through.  This is not a scientific explanation, just my observation…

I’ve had this risotto in my repertoire for a long time now, and it’s always a hit with the guests.  You can serve it to friends as a hearty no fuss meal, or spruce it up in pretty little dishes as a starter – not that I’ve ever done the latter, the thought just came to me as I was typing, so I’ll have to try that.  I always serve it with a little grated Parmesan on top, and with a blob of either crème fraîche or crème légère.  What I also like to add when I’m cooking for myself is some fresh chili, cut into itsy-bitsy pieces.  You can, of course, leave out the wine – I mainly add it to use up my wine cubes, leftover wine frozen into ice cubes.

Risotto

1 cup risotto rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 stock cube
tomato purée
salt
freshly ground pepper
dried mixed herbs
pinch cayenne
red wine
½ aubergine, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 can miniature mushrooms
50 g frozen peas

To serve
grated parmesan
crème fraîche

Serves at least 2

Heat oil, add onion and fry until soft.  Add the rice and coat in oil.  Add 2 cups of water, stock cube, salt, 1 – 2 tbsp tomato purée, and wine.  Stir, add crushed garlic, mixed herbs and cayenne.  Cook without lid, stirring occasionally.  Add water if it gets all soaked up before the rice is done.

After about 10 minutes, add the diced aubergine [I tend to dice it quite finely so it won’t take too long to cook.]  After another 10 minutes, add the peppers, mushrooms and peas.  Cook until the liquid is soaked up but the risotto isn’t completely dry, and the vegetables are cooked but not mushy.  Add freshly grated pepper.  Serve with grated parmesan and a dollop of crème fraîche.

Most people raise their eyebrows at the crème fraîche, but once they’ve tried it they won’t eat it without.

In summer I add fresh zucchini, and if fancy strikes, I make little meat balls and serve them separately.  I guess you can vary the ingredients to your heart’s content…

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