There’s no doubt in my mind that first and foremost I’m an Italophile (yes it’s a word – I checked). Forget France or Spain – It’s got to be Italy every time, for so many reasons: the people, their innate style, the organic (and terrifying) approach to driving, the lack of cynicism and abundance of friendliness, the ability to enjoy life without doing so in a state of inebriation and, most of all, the best food in the world. By far. For me, it’s the way Italian dishes employ ingredients in such an incredibly simple, sympathetic way and with great respect. No fuss. No mess. No overly rich sauces. Food where everything on the plate contributes to making the dish perfect, with nothing in there that doesn’t need to be. I’m actually salivating right now (although maybe that’s because someone just shoved a chocolate brownie under my nose).
Anyway, I recently started regularly cooking risotto and after a few attempts, I think I just about have it down. To be honest it’s not so difficult, just more time consuming than you would expect. Here goes…
You need a litre of good chicken stock for this dish, which I suggest you make, but if you have to you can buy ready made.
Start by chopping a few handfuls of whatever mushrooms you fancy (I used organic chestnut mushrooms) and take a small handful of dried porcini mushrooms and pop them in a glass of hot water for a little while. Fry the mushrooms in butter with plenty of salt and pepper and set aside for later.
Next, finely chop an onion and a clove of garlic, and fry gently without taking on any colour in butter and a little olive oil. Once softened, add your arborio (risotto) rice (a mug of rice should be enough for two people) and completely coat it in the oniony oil. Add a glass of wine to the pan and gently stir as the liquid reduces. Then add a ladle of the chicken stock and continue to stir.
Each time the liquid reduces, add another ladle and keep stirring. Now just keep doing this until the rice is almost cooked (but still has a bite) and the whole dish starts to look a little creamy. Add seasoning as necessary, remembering that the chicken stock already will have been seasoned.
Stir in all your mushrooms and keep on the heat for a few more minutes before grating loads of good parmesan into the pan, followed by a handful of chopped parsley.