I never quite understand the apparent general reticence about making a risotto, there seems to be some fear you have to stand over it stirring like crazy until it’s perfectly cooked! Of course that is nonsense, a good risotto does require a little bit of TLC, but nothing too terribly strenuous!
I think a scrummy risotto is one of the very easiest things there is to make, there are innumerable options, and recipes. It’s a one pot wonder dish!
I have been happily munching and testing few risotto recipes over the past month finding my very favourite ones online; I also share below my tried and trusted recipe for a tasty and hearty butternut squash and chicken risotto.
I admit, I was first drawn to this recipe because the ingredient list is cheap and easy to obtain (see below for cheaper option to parmesan), it is light and extremely tasty, courgette can often be a bit player so its rather nice seeing it in a starring role. The basics of all risotto is the same – risotto rice, stock, parmesan cheese, its the ingredients you use to flavour the risotto that makes all the difference.
This recipe calls for chicken stock, which you keep simmering, I am too lazy for this, and as I use homemade chicken stock i simply heated it up in the microwave and used it warm from a jug.
Perfect as a main meal with crusty bread, but also it looks good enough and is certainly fresh and light enough to make in small portions and serve as a delicious starter.
Nigella has come up trumps yet again with this recipe, don't be put off by the apparent non-cooking of the egg yolks, your risotto will be more than hot enough to make sure it is cooked enough. A few notes on the ingredients – fresh rosemary is called for, whilst fresh is of course best, dried rosemary isn't too bad at all! The salt is also specified as 'Maldon Seasalt', now whilst I agree that table salt really isn't good enough, ANY sea salt will do the job perfectly (and in reality i suspect should you use table salt no one will actually spot it)!
This recipe gives enough for just two, which is rather nice and a change up from the usual 'serves 14'! Light, fresh and lemony, I served it with some roasted chicken thighs, and a watercress salad, and I am happy to report it was utterly delicious!
Risotto does need to be stirred a lot, but if you get on and do other things at the same time, you truly wont ruin it, just ensure you only add enough stock in at a time for the rice to easily absorb and never ever take a recipe's stock amounts as a set in stone, you may need a little less, or a little more, just remember to keep tasting.
After the relative frugal'ness of the above recipes, i had to finish off my online recipe finds with a little bit of shameless expense and luxury. I have only made this risotto once (and I bought the fish stock)! it really is shockingly delicious, Jamie Oliver does, I think, have a tenancy sometimes to have long (and expensive) recipe lists, and whilst this risotto doesn't differ from that, rather than specifying the fish and shellfish needed for the recipe, leaves it to you to source and buy what you can – when i made it, i used Cod, Mussels, Prawns, Hake and Squid (previously frozen).
It isn't hard to make, and if all your fish is ready to go, its a doddle, fish stock is fairly easily available, but Jamie's recipe does give all the instructions to make your own (which would no doubt taste nicer).
Don't overcook your fish and shellfish, i cannot bear prawns so well cooked they taste like rubber, risotto lends itself to seafood, almost better than meat and Jamie Oliver's recipe is a little bit special, but also a little bit delicious. Special occasion food at its very best!
It wasn't until I had eaten the very last mouthful of this risotto that I realised I had forgotten to take a picture! If I eat it in the next few weeks a picture will appear, if not – its a bowl of rice; you get the gist.
This recipe evolved because my default recipe of pea and spring onion risotto (which complements poached or baked salmon perfectly) was banned from the house as I cooked it too much, so I made this risotto to be as far away from that as possible.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Chicken Risotto
- 400g risotto rice
- 1.5 pints (approx) chicken stock (fresh really really tastes better see below for recipe, but a cube is just fine!).
- 1 onion
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 medium carrot
- Olive oil
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- A good shake of chilli flakes
- A handful of fresh parsley (or a decent pinch or two of dried)
- Parmesan* cheese (about two to three tablespoons when grated)
- Chicken – I use cooked chicken – normally the Sunday roast leftovers (the chicken carcass makes the stock) – about one large chicken breast or the meat from two thighs is the right amount.
- Peel the butternut squash, chop it into two – one piece about two thirds the other a third.
- Take the larger piece, and chop into decent sized chunks – steam it for about 6 minutes, and then place in oven proof dish, season with salt and pepper, drizzle over olive oil and pop in a hot oven for about 20 – 25 minutes to roast.
- The rest of the squash cube into a small pieces about 1.5 cm in size – do the same with the carrot.
- Peel and slice the onion
- Peel and finely chop the garlic.
- In a large pan add a very generous amount of olive oil, throw in the garlic, onion and risotto rice, cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes (cooking the risotto rice like this before you add any stock will help it keep a little bit of bite).
- Throw in the cubed butternut squash and the carrot and cook for another few minutes.
- Then you can start adding your stock (which should be warm), pour in the stock bit by bit and keep stirring as you do, for the first five minutes keep at it, adding a little stock and stirring and not adding more until it is all absorbed by the rice. After the first five minutes you can be a little more relaxed, keep adding stock fairly slowly and stir at least once a minute (or so, I am guilty of leaving it longer).
- As you are doing the above, add in the chicken (precooked so you need to ensure it is hot right through and I find by adding it quite soon into the cooking it breaks up a little and complements the rice), add the chili flakes (to taste more or less according to how much heat you like).
- Keep adding the stock and stirring, it will probably take about 20 minutes for the rice to totally soften enough (keep tasting you will know when its cooked – but take it off the heat when you think it just almost but not quite done as it will continue to absorb liquid for a few more minutes and you should get it perfect – ensure your butternut squash and carrot are cubed small enough to be cooked in this time with just a little bite left in them).
- Finally, if you are using fresh parsley stir it in now (if you are using dried add it when you the chili), stir in the parmesan cheese (leaving a little for the top).
- Serve in bowls with the roasted squash from the oven on the top, sprinkle with the rest of the cheese) – eat and enjoy!!
My Chicken Stock
- 1 chicken carcass – I prefer the flavour from a precooked bird, and also that is what I will generally have – Sunday roast chicken. NOTE: although of course you will strip the chicken and take most of the meat, to make good stock there needs to be some meat still on the bird, by this I just mean don't pick away every last morsel not leave a leg on!
- 1 large onion peeled and quartered
- 1 large carrot peeled and chopped into large pieces
- 3 large garlic cloves – peeled
- herbs – dried are fine for stock its going to cook for hours.
Put all of the above in a large saucepan, cover with cold water almost to the brim of the saucepan, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 3 hours.
Strain when cooled slightly through a colander
If you want a fine stock with some of the fat removed – strain for a second time laying kitchen paper in the bottom of the colander – its a phaff and you will need to regularly change the kitchen roll. I rarely bother, for my soups, gravies or risotto a bit rough and ready is ffone.
NOTE: My dog thinks she had died and gone to heaven when i add the carrots used to make the stock onto the top of her dinner.
*Parmesan cheese undoubtedly makes the best risotto – however Tesco have recently started selling a Everyday Value Hard Italian Style Cheese – it lacks the depth of nutty flavour a good parmesan has but for everyday, if you want to save a little money I doubt anyone would notice!