I make risotto a lot in our house. It’s a good standby dish when we have people over because I can make a huge pot of it and feed an army and I also really like it because it’s an excellent carrier dish. There are so many things that can be put into a risotto so I can make it to use up all the odds and ends rattling around in the fridge.
I know that doesn’t sound appealing to everyone. I was actually an apprentice chef for the better part of a year when I first left school and I know that there are risotto purists out there because I worked for one of them. But I am not a purist. I make risotto my way and I put whatever I want in it. I use red wine when I run out of white. I use chicken stock when I should use fish stock. Heck, I don’t even make my own stock. Sure I would love to make a mushroom risotto using hand-foraged fungi sourced from the foothills of the Swiss Alps and drizzled with with first cold pressed EVOO (what the?) but sometimes all I have are some puckered old button mushrooms, a carton of shop bought stock and some leftover wine in the fridge (a rare occasion I must say). What I mean is, there are times when you can devote all your resources to an exquisite risotto and there are times you can make a hearty bowl-fullo-rice dish that is satisfying and tasty and you wont have to spend all day at the farmers market. Or the Swiss Alps.
This particular risotto came about because I had an empty fridge but a freezer full of mussels, fish and peas. It was so good I’ve made it a few times since.
2 cups Aborio rice
1 cup white wine
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
500ml hot fish or chicken stock
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 cups diced fish (I use Rockling, a good, thick, meaty fish) (can be frozen & thawed)
8-10 mussels (can be frozen & thawed)
Dried dill tips
About 40g cold butter, cubed
Salt & pepper
1/2 tbsp freshly chopped parsly
Lemon wedges and zest of 1 lemon
Kettle of freshly boiled water
Put the white wine in a small saucepan and heat it up to a ‘just before boiling’ state then add the mussels and a pinch of dried dill and cook until the mussels are just cooked through (about 2 minutes). Don’t worry if they aren’t completely done as they will finish in the risotto. Take mussels out of the pan and set aside and keep the wine.
In a large, deep and heavy-bottomed frying pan sauté the onion and garlic in about a tablespoon of olive oil on a medium temperature until translucent (about 4-5 minutes).
Add the rice and stir non stop until the rice is well coated in oil and had a chance to fry a little (2-3 minutes) and then add the wine from the mussels. Stir until the wine has evaporated and while stirring use the spoon to scrape bottom of the pan to get all the yummy caramelised oniony bits into the wine. Add a ladle full of hot stock and stir the rice until the stock has evaporated. Stir well but be gentle. The stirring releases the starch from the grains, which is what gives risotto its creamy texture, but you want to keep the grains whole, not crush them.
Continue adding a ladle of stock, stirring until evaporation and so on until there is no stock left and test your rice. It should be about half way done, soft on the outside and hard in the middle. Add a ladle ful of hot water from the kettle in place of the stock until the rice is al dente or just a tiny bit underdone.
Add the fish and peas and more water if necessary and keep stirring. Once the fish has cooked (about 2-4 minutes, depending on the fish) add the mussels and stir until heated through.
Turn off the heat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add the cold butter and lemon zest and stir until the risotto is glossy and ready to eat. Serve with lemon wedges.
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