I have a theory though that risottos are popular because they fall into that category of foods that can be eaten with just a fork, one handed, shovelled in. It's both comfort food and indulgence (and saves on washing up…knives). The other bonus of course is they are a piece of cake; not hot cake mind – that, as mentioned earlier, is something I wouldn’t know about.
They are the plain white T-Shirt of cookery; you can dress them up, make them casual, make them classic. They are the perfect vehicle for showcasing an ‘in-season’ ingredient.
Now all risottos start off life in the same way: finely chopped onion and garlic, sweated in butter, rice chucked in, wine follows that. Then add flavour in the way of stock and by other ingredients and stir for about the next 20 mins, then finish it with a load of butter and parmesan.
A few key points before we begin:
Don’t attempt to make a risotto with anything other than a risotto rice, there are a few to
choose from, but don’t get bogged down deliberating between which does what best, go with Arborio and you can’t go far wrong.
The onion is not the star of the show – chop it small. Very small.
Clearly homemade stock would be preferable, but don’t beat yourself up for using a stock cube, making a proper stock can sometimes be a faff too far…I understand, it’s OK.
You mustn’t skimp on the butter and Parmesan – if you’re watching your weight, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Yes you need to keep stirring - medium grain rice like Arborio positively benefits from being stirred and moved about as the friction generated by stirring rubs off the outside of the grains, which in turn dissolves into the stock and creates the creamy effect typical of a risotto – which is why you can’t make a risotto with any other type of rice.
1 pot of mixed crab meat (approx. 200g half and half)
350g risotto rice
250ml white wine
1L fish stock
100g finely grated Parmesan
50g butter, cubed
Separate the white crab meat from the brown, put the white back in the fridge for now. Mash through the brown meat with a fork to break up any large pieces.
Start by melting a large knob of butter with a dash of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic and sweat it gently over a medium low heat. (Sweating = like frying but without browning or colouring.)
About 10 minutes later when the onion is soft and translucent, add the rice. Stir the rice into the onion making sure every single grain of rice is coated in the butter, then add the white wine. Again get the rice moving so you feel every single grain gets washed by the wine, keep stirring until the wine is absorbed and you no longer have puddles of liquid anywhere in the pan.
Add the brown crab meat and without dilly-dallying, add a generous glug of stock to the empty crab pot, swirl it around to wash off any remaining crab and tip this into the risotto. Stir it around, evenly distributing the crabbiness amongst the rice.
Now add the remaining stock incrementally, enough each time so as to have excess liquid sitting above the rice, and get it moving. Keep adding the stock in this way, you may not need it all, check after about 15 mins, the rice will have increased in size, not quite doubled but not far off – the only sure fire way to check is to pick out a grain or two and eat it.
We all know a risotto should be served ‘al dente’ – the rice is 85% fully cooked but still has a firm-ish centre. Bear in mind though that it doesn’t stop cooking just because you moved it off the stove. Once you do turn off the heat, add the white crab meat, parmesan and the butter, and stir that in evenly. Season it with salt and pepper, how much will depend on what stock you’ve used, so go a little at a time and check it.
I serve this with a handful of dressed pea shoots, stuffed into a crisp Parmesan basket perched on top…. the downside to this is you will now need to use a knife as well as a fork.