June 12, 2013

Fresh Green Vegetable Risotto

I've seen good risotto and I've seen bad risotto. Hopefully, you'll see a good risotto today! This risotto is packed full of bright green vegetables, crispy pancetta, fresh basil and grated parmesan. Real tasty summer eating. 

You'll find risotto rice in every supermarket and you'll find two varieties: arborio or carnaroli. Risotto rice is an oval shaped grain and requires gentle, easy cooking over a low heat. You add individual ladles of hot stock to the rice which gets absorbed as it cooks. This creates a creamy texture. 

Sometimes risotto can get a bad name for being stodgy and heavy. A well cooked risotto is one of my favourite things to eat. It shouldn't sit on your plate in one big clump, it should slightly relax and ooze on the plate. 

Generally risotto can be quite calorific with cream, butter, cheese and white wine in the recipe. This one however is not. No butter, no wine and no cream. 

It does have cheese though, risotto has to have parmesan cheese! We can make room for it since we don't have cream, butter and wine! 

This risotto uses pancetta in the recipe. If you are vegetarian, leave it out. It will still be delicious. 

I served the risotto along with some grilled chicken as we are a house of meat eaters!


Holly, x

Gather your ingredients: pancetta, white onion, garlic, risotto rice, asparagus, sugar snap peas, fresh basil, stock, fromage frais and grated parmesan. 

I decided to use a mixture of both vegetable and chicken stock. Feel free to go all chicken stock or keep this risotto vegetarian by using vegetable stock and leaving out the pancetta. 

Start by finely dicing the onion and garlic.

Heat olive oil in a pot and cook the pancetta until lightly crispy. Turn down the heat and cook the chopped onion until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir through the garlic for just 30 seconds so that it does not burn. 

This step can do done as you are cooking the pancetta, onion and garlic or before. It can even be done the day before. 

Bring a pot of water to the boil and tip in the sugar snap peas. Bring the pot of water just back to the boil and wait for 10 seconds before plunging the vegetables into a bowl of iced water. 

Do the same with the asparagus.

By plunging the cooked vegetables into iced water you are stopping the cooking. This keeps the vegetables bright, green and crispy. 

Once the vegetables are chilled, slice them into two or three pieces on the diagonal. Set aside. 

As I've said, you could cook the vegetables the day before and keep the vegetables in the fridge. 

Back to the risotto: stir the risotto rice around in the pancetta/onion fat for 1 minute. 

Ladle by ladle add the hot stock, make sure to only add one ladle at a time. Gently stir the stock around in the risotto until it has been absorbed before adding the next ladle of stock.

This process will take 15-20 minutes.

As the risotto cooks it will become creamy and starchy in texture. 

Is the rice cooked?  Taste it. It should be soft but with a slight bite.

Once the risotto rice is cooked, stir in the cooked vegetables and heat for 1 minute until warm.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the fresh chopped basil, fromage frais and grated parmesan cheese. 

Serve with extra grated parmesan on top, if you dig that!

Recipe, Serves 4-6

500g Risotto Rice, e.g. Arborio or Carnaroli
1.5-2l of Hot Vegetable or Chicken Stock, or half and half
125g Pancetta
1 Medium White Onion
3 Cloves Garlic
180g Sugar Snap Peas
125g Asparagus
Handful Fresh Basil
50g Grated Parmesan Cheese
3 Tablespoons Fromage Frais
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Bring a pot of water to the boil and set up a bowl filled with ice and cold water.
Once the water is boiled, toss in the asparagus, bring the water back to the boil, wait 10 seconds and plunge the asparagus into the iced water.
Repeat this process, in the same pot, with the sugar snap peas.
Once cooled, chop the vegetables in half on the diagonal. Set aside.
Finely dice the onion and garlic.
Heat up the stock and once boiled, turn down the heat to low and keep the stock warm-do not allow the liquid to evaporate.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pot and cook the pancetta until lightly crispy.
Add in a little more olive oil if needed and sauté the chopped onion over a low heat until soft and translucent-about 4 minutes.
Stir in the chopped garlic for 30 seconds.
Pour in the risotto rice and stir to coat in the pancetta/onion oil for 1 minutes.
Add in one ladle of stock, turning down the heat and stirring very gently.
Once the stock has been absorbed add in one more ladle,  stirring very gently until absorbed.
The rice will begin to turn starchy and creamy as you continue to add ladles of stock and slowly stir it in. 
Continue stirring gently and adding stock, making sure the stock is being absorbed as you go along. This will take about 15-20 minutes.
Is the rice cooked? Taste it and continue adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. At this point check for seasoning.
Once the rice is cooked stir in the cooked asparagus and sugar snap peas for 1 minute until warm.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the fresh basil, grated parmesan and fromage frais.
Serve with salad and/or grilled chicken. 

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