Risotto isn't everyone's favourite and it pains me so much to hear! It can be very 'hit and miss' and there is nothing more disappointing to my food-soul than ordering a risotto and being presented with a plate of sloppy, overcooked rice drowning in a tasteless, watery soup. That is not a risotto. If you can't get what you want, make it yourself! With a bit of patience, risotto is easy. A rich and satisfying dish that starts with a creamy 'risotto bianco' base, adapted to showcase your favourite flavour combinations throughout the seasons.
In this recipe we'll combine salty pancetta to give bite with rich porcini and wild mushrooms, balanced with the fresh aroma of thyme.
Serves 4. Prepare your ingredients in advance. Finely dice 2 celery sticks, 1 medium white onion and crush 1 large clove of garlic. Heat 2 pints of veg or chicken stock. Grate 100g of Parmesan cheese. Pick the leaves from 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme. Rehydrate a handful of mixed wild and porcini dry mushrooms in a bowl of hot water, then add the liquor to the stock. Cube 80-100g of pancetta. Measure 285g Arborio rice. Fill a wine glass with dry Martini. Quarter a lemon. Chop a handful of flat leaf parsley.
- Gently heat a good tablespoon of olive oil with a knob of butter in a heavy base frying pan and add the veg, stirring frequently to make a 'soffritto'. The veg should gently sweat but not colour (10-20 minutes). in a separate pan fry off the pancetta.
- Once the veg has softened, turn up the heat and add the rice, STIRRING CONSTANTLY. After 1-2 minutes the rice will turn slightly translucent, at this stage add the dry martini. It will boil up and bubble which is fine, keep stirring. Wait until the harsh alcohol smell has burnt off then reduce the heat slightly and add the first ladle of stock.
- Move the rice around the pan whilst it absorbs the stock. Once the stock has absorbed, add the next ladle. Keep massaging the rice, adding each dose of stock in turn. TIP: Don't stop stirring! The rice must keep moving or it will stick to the bottom of the pan and ruin.
- Add the mushrooms to the pancetta and fry off for 2-3 minutes, add the majority of the thyme and season with salt and pepper.
- Once you have added all the stock to the rice, tip in the pancetta mix and stir throughout the risotto. Add the grated Parmesan, chopped parsley and remaining thyme with a healthy dose of fresh ground pepper and stir through. Taste before adding salt as the parmesan/pancetta and stock are all quite salty. Remove from the heat.
- TIP: To make the risotto super oozy and rich, finish by adding 2-3 knobs of butter, a squeeze of lemon and allow the risotto to rest covered for a few minutes before a final good stir before serving.
- Garnish with shaved parmesan (use a potato peeler!) and a few twists of pepper, a good glug of your best oil and maybe a few rocket leaves. Further the indulgence with a chilled glass of your favourite white wine and enjoy...