Anybody who has spent a not-insignificant amount of time in the kitchen already knows that learning to nail a tasty risotto is one of life's great challenges, but a skill that will reward you forever.
Much like pasta, arborio rice is one of those pantry staples that has the power to turn your leftovers from drab into fab, IF (and only if) you know what you're doing with a ladle.
Risotto is also one of those dishes that keeps on giving.
Not in the sense that it has magical powers to regenerate itself, or that it somehow expands in the fridge, no—we mean in the sense that you can turn the leftovers into that exalted prince of fried canapés: the arancini ball.
With a coating of panko crumbs and a pan of hot oil, yesterday's delicious starchy dinner becomes today's starchy (and somehow more delicious) snack.
If you're new to the whole risotto thing, be aware that to nail the perfect consistency usually takes a few tries.
But don't let that turn you off. Much like a good golf swing, or getting air on the perfect wave, it is absolutely worth the trials and tribulations to enjoy this seriously yummy dish, which doesn't take too long to prepare and has enough variants that you'll never be bored.
This recipe here, from Aussie chef Joel Bennetts, combines the simple pairing of mushrooms and parmesan with some aromatic herbs for a dish that will impress anybody.
Oh, and it's veggo too, so you can dust it off whenever you need to satiate a visiting vegetarian without forgoing flavour.
This recipe makes enough for about four people (or one with a giant plate of arancini the next day. Nobody's stopping you, champ).
Joel's top tips for the perfect risotto:
- Use a really good arborio rice. If there's one in your local deli for twice the price as Coles, with an unpronounceable name, that's probably the one.
- I say this every time but USE REALLY GOOD QUALTY OLIVE OIL!
- Only stir or fold with wooden utensils. Metal ones will make it go mushy.
- Remember not to overcook it. When you bind it at the end with the butter, it will continue to gently soften for a couple of minutes. Nobody whats a stodgy bowl of mushroom porridge.
First thing's first, get about 1.5-2 litres of stock simmering on the stove (veggie is good, chicken is better, literally any stock works and if your pantry is completely bereft you can cheat with water—just add a pinch more salt later on).
Then get a big pan and chuck in about 50mL of EVOO and 75gm of butter. Get it on a medium-high heat until it's bubbling, then throw in half a kilo of mushrooms, as well as a good pinch or two of salt and pepper.
Whichever mushrooms you choose to use is up to you, but Joel recommends a mixture of enoki, Swiss brown & button. Make sure that you slice the bigger ones!
Cook these suckers about three quarters of the way through (a little brown on the edges is a good indicator) and then remove from the pan and set aside (we'll throw them back in later).
In the same pan, heat another 50Ml of EVOO and the same amount of butter in a pan and add one chopped brown onion, five or six decent garlic cloves (crushed, chopped, grated—whatever. Just not whole), and a few sprigs of thyme, as well as more S&P.
Get these ingredients nice and soft. It should take about ten minutes, and you don't want them to get any colour.
Once soft, add 400g of arborio rice. Keep the heat on, stirring (or doing that fancy Jamie Oliver flippy thing) for about three minutes (until the rice is nice and hot), then add 200mL of white wine.
It could be a cooking wine, or the fancy plonk you plan on drinking with the dish, but make sure you only add it once, at the start, otherwise the booze won't cook off in time for you to enjoy your noms.
Once the wine has mostly cooked down, you're ready to start ladling your stock into the rice. Add a ladle at a time and keep stirring/flipping as the rice gently cooks and expands.
This is where risotto can go wrong: it's important to be patient and to gently add the stock one ladle at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. You don't want the rice to be gloopy and stuck together, but you do want it to have a nice silky texture with the outside of the grains a little bit sticky.
After about six or so ladles (and about 10 minutes), your risotto should be ready for the mushrooms. Re-incorporate most of these into the mixture, along with about 60g of nutritional yeast (it's vegan parmesan, and it's really fucking good for these recipes: don't be afraid of it).
After one or two more ladles of stock, once the rice no longer has any bite or crunch to it, but before it gets too soft, she's ready to serve. Fold about 75g of butter and a goos squeeze of fresh lemon through to bind your risotto before plating.
Plate up with some fresh parsley, EVOO and of course the rest of the mushrooms, and grate some real parmesan over the top for extra flavour.
And that's it. It's not the easiest recipe, but it's also far from the hardest, and your tummy and guests will all be suitably impressed with your delicious risotto skills.
And what if you fuck it up? Try again.
There are a few simple ways for a risotto to go wrong, but it's always worth another shot. As we said, once you've mastered this skill, it'll serve you for life.