Tag Archives: risotto

Mamma Mia! Pea Shoot Risotto

OK, mamma mia indeed.

I can imagine Italians out there rolling their eyes as yet another cook thinks this is a way to jazz up a risotto, and how odd to do it with an ingredient as English as pea shoots. I, of course, being Scottish, would be outraged at that suggestion. Just kidding! Bring on the creativity.

Now, let’s start by admiring the grace of the pea shoot. Very art nouveau, isn’t it?

The idea for this risotto came to me from seeing quite a few recipes recently for pea shoot pesto. Now, I flatter myself that I can make a pretty darn good risotto anyway, and I make a version with peas and mint that is usually very well received. So it was not much of a mental hop, skip and jump to combine pea shoot pesto and my risotto. Literally – make the risotto as usual, but stir in the pesto right at the end, so that the intensely fresh “pea” flavour of the shoots is retained.

I ummed and aaahed a little about how to approach the pea shoot pesto.

I had initial plans to make something involving olive oil, cashew nuts and Parmesan, but I did not want to detract from the delicate flavour of the shoots. So instead I added the pea shoots to a blender with a little water, and blitzed them to a puree. I left this mixture to drain in a strainer – the liquid that drained off went into the pot early to give the rice a jaunty green colour, and the now-slightly-drier puree went in at the last minute.

The result was a brilliantly green risotto – bring, fresh and very spring-like. A nice counter-balance to all those chocolate eggs and hot cross buns we’ve been eating of late.

To serve 4 (or 2, with lots left over):

For the risotto

• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped (optional)
• 250g arborio rice
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 120g peas (fresh or frozen)
• 50g Parmesan cheese, grated
• handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons cream

For the pea shoot paste:

• 100g pea shoots
• cold water

Start by making the pea shoot paste – rinse the shoots, then put most of them in a blender with some water (keep a few for decoration) and blitz until smooth. Transfer to a sieve and allow to train (reserve the liquid).

Next, start the risotto. Melt the butter and olive oil in a pan over a low heat. Add the onion and fry gently until translucent. Add the garlic (if using) and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add the rice, raise the heat to medium, and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the wine, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rice seems “oily”. Add the black pepper, the liquid from the pea shoots and the stock (one ladle at a time, stirring well after each addition). Add more stock when the previous addition has almost evaporated.

Once all the stock has been added, add the peas and cook the risotto to the desired consistency (some like it runny, some like it thick). Add the Parmesan cheese, stir well, and remove from the heat. Stir in the cream, chopped mint and pea shoot paste, then and allow to sit for two minutes with the pot covered.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan and an artfully arranged pea shoot.

Worth making? If you are a risotto fan, this is a great version for spring time. The result is impressive and looks stunning on the plate, and all for not too much effort.

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Oh, mon amour! Risotto aux betteraves rouges

Ah, ’tis nearly Valentine’s day! Blink, and you might miss it. Seem like only yesterday that all the Christmas decorations were up(*) but the local stores are already awash with chocolate Easter eggs. I am constantly amused how you can check the time of the year by the range of sweets and goodies on offer at the till.

Now, I could have made some form of heart-shaped biscuits or chocolates, or a red cupcake, but that would be (1) predictable, and (2) against the spirit of blogging more savoury dishes. Not to miss out on the luuuurve that is in the air at this time of year, I’ve produced something that is perfect for a romantic dinner with that special someone, and also keeps the red theme going. Just be sure that the relevant special someone likes beetroot.

This really is just a simple risotto, but chopped beetroot goes in with the first ladle of stock to make sure the colour is a vibrant dark magenta, and a few tweaks at the end of the cooking process to play on the flavour and colour of the beetroot.

The key thing is to use fresh beetroot, rather than the stuff that comes preserved in vinegar. I feel that it’s almost too obvious to point out, but something that has been sitting in acid for weeks and weeks is not going to be your best friend in a risotto. I appreciate that I am not speaking from experience here, and by all means give it a bash if you think that it would work, but it strikes me as a flavour combination I could happily miss. And really – who serves their beloved a plate of vinegar? But…that being said…a slight sharpness does work with beetroot, so I actually add a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar at the end, just to add the tiniest hint of sharpness. Just a touch though!

But let’s face it, the reason for making this is just the fantastic colour. It looks utterly stunning, and quite amazing to think this is completely natural. When I add the beetroot, I chop into a combination of larger and smaller pieces, so that you can still see the darker beetroot (which ends up looking like the dish is studded with garnets) next to the vibrant red rice. If you prefer, grate the beetroot – you’ll get more colour, but you’ll also have pink juice everywhere. Up to you…

To top this, I add a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese (not too much, don’t hid the colour), plus some toasted pumpkin seeds and a little chopped chives. Their green colours contrast with the redness, and the flavours play well with the beetroot. However, toasted pine nuts and/or a light sprinkling of fresh dill would also work well.

(*) In fact, a certain house down our street seems to be stuck on 24 December, with the plastic tree still in the window…I’ve checked, and there are people alive in there, so not to worry.


To serve 4 (or 2, with lots left over):

• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 250g arborio rice
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 300g beetroot, boiled, peeled and finely chopped or grated
• 50g Parmesan cheese
• 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
• 2 tablespoons cream

Warm the butter and olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry gently over a low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the rice and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the wine, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rice seems “oily”. Tip in the beetroot and black pepper, and add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add more when the previous addition has almost evaporated. The rice will start as light pink, but will change to a deep reddish-pink towards the end.

Once all the stock has been added, cook the risotto to the desired consistency (some like it runny, some like it thick). Add the Parmesan cheese, stir well, and remove from the heat. Stir in the cream and balsamic vinegar and allow to sit for two minutes with the pot covered.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan and a scattering of toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, and a scattering of chopped chives or dill.

Worth making? I love risotto anyway, but this one looks stunning on the plate and has a fabulous flavour. The beetroot and dill make it a little more unusual, but I think this is a great combination.

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Mushroom Risotto

On last weekend’s Saturday Kitchen on the BBC, Heston Blumenthal made his “perfect risotto”. This involved different varieties of rice (aged, of course), with a home-made stock, acidulated butter blah blah blah. All well and good, but I usually want a dinner to be cooked in an hour, and I am an unashamed user of stock cubes and just of the one variety of rice, and I happen to think my risotto is pretty darn good.

In response to his quest for perfection, I made my mushroom risotto. For me, getting great results is just a matter of time, as the ingredients are pretty ordinary. Allow the onions to cook gently in butter and olive oil until translucent, fry the rice, then add the stock a little at a time.

I know there is a bit of disagreement as to whether the little-by-little approach to adding the stock really matters (Heston says no), but I find it is a useful way of controlling the liquid in the risotto. I like it to be creamy, with cooked but firm grains of rice, but not wet or soupy. If I am making just a mushroom risotto, then I like to use fungi that have a little more flavour, and usually go for brown chestnut mushrooms. This makes the resulting risotto a rich, warm purple-grey with flecks of brown. I know “grey” is not something that usually seems appealing in a food, but trust me, it works here. If you fancy something a little more decedent, then add one spoon of truffle-infused olive oil. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and you can see how a dish as simple as risotto is truly wonderful.

But did any of Heston’s magic rub off on me? While I find his programmes entertaining, I don’t see myself making many of his dishes. I might pick up a tip here or there, but no more than that. Which is exactly what happened. Rather than serve risotto in a heap, aim for an elegant appearance by placing said heap on a plate, then tapping the bottom with your hand. The risotto will settle down to an even layer. Imagine if you made saffron risotto like this? Serving up a giant disc of gold. Now that would be presentation to be proud of.

To serve 4:

• 250g arborio rice
• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 50g Parmesan cheese
• 300g mushrooms, finely sliced (I used chestnut mushrooms for better flavour)
• 2 tablespoons cream
• 1 tablespoon truffle-infused olive oil (optional)

Warm the butter and olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry gently over a low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the rice and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the wine, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Start to add the stock, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add more when the previous addition has almost evaporated.

With the last of the stock, add the mushrooms. Allow this to cook, again until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the Parmesan cheese, stir well, and remove form the heat. Stir in the cream and truffle oil, and allow to sit for two minutes with the pot covered.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

Worth making? Love mushrooms? You will love this. Warming, comforting, elegant and sophisticated. It also adapts easily for a starter or a main. So simple and easy, this is one of my favourite suppers!

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Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Risotto – simple ingredients, so it should be easy, yes? But my experience is that all too often, it is just not quite right, and the worst offenders are often restaurants. I’m looking for good flavour and nice texture, not porridge made with rice.

After lots of practice, I think I’ve nailed it. Here are my tips. If you disagree, let me know, but I think this works well: first, make sure you use arborio rice. I shudder when I think of my early student attempts using plain long-grain white rice! Second, actually follow the recipe and make sure you add the stock a little at a time – it makes a real difference. Third – cheat and keep it “dry” towards the end, then add a couple of spoons of cream at the end for a luxurious, creamy result.

For the risotto:

• 150g arborio rice
• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 50g Parmesan cheese
• 100g mushrooms
• 100g asparagus
• 2 tablespoons cream

Gently fry the onion in the olive oil and butter for 5 minutes. We want the onion to be lightly coloured. Once ready, add the garlic and cook for another minutes.

Now add the rice and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time (if you don’t, the rice will burn). Add the wine, and it will bubble up. Reduce the heat, and allow most of the liquid to evaporate – you know it is gone when it looks “oily”. Now add to stock, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition, and allowing the risotto to cook and, in each case, only add more stock when most of the liquid has evaporated. This should yield a creamy risotto with defined grains of rice, rather than a rice “porridge”. Check the rice – it should be almost cooked (firm, but yields when you bite it and no hard centre).

With the last of the stock, add the mushrooms and the asparagus. Allow this to cook, again until most of the liquid has evaporated (you will find a lot of liquid comes out from the mushrooms). Add the Parmesan cheese, and cook for a further minute. Remove from the heat, stir through the cream, cover the pot and allow to sit for two minutes.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan.

Alternatives: this recipe is quite adaptable. You can add anything you want in place of the mushrooms and asparagus – truffle oil works well, as do peas and mint, or just a good measure of saffron for a brilliant sunset yellow risotto.

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