This is my first attempt at a risotto – I’ve always avoided them as they make me feel stodged out just thinking about all that white rice. But, a rifle through the store cupboard gave me some inspiration and I have mixed arborio rice with soup broth grains, in this case pearl barley and pea mix from Sainsburys. This contains pearl barley, green split peas, lentilles verde, dried onion and dried tomatoes. The green and red flecks given by the peas and tomatoes bring pleasing festive colours to this but whatever your broth mix may contain will be fine for this dish.
Do check your grains before cooking as some need to be soaked overnight.
This concoction is bliss to prepare after a “meh” working day – you can hover over the hob with a glass of wine, directing the children as they whizz in and out, slowly stirring and watching this comforting and nutritious dish come to life. It is a marvellous by product of a roast chicken supper – I made the stock from the bones, and shredded the remaining leftover chicken into chunks to mix with the creamy rice and vegetables.
Keep your stock simmering in a saucepan next to your risotto as you will need to continually ladle it in throughout, good and hot.
As this was my first risotto, I found this link really useful to test the arborio grains.
These quantities serve 4/5 plus more for the freezer. Or, eight around the table.
2 tbsp Carotino or olive oil
3 large cloves garlic
2 x large shallots finely chopped/ 1 x onion
300g arborio rice
I x glass good white wine
150g broth mix (pearl barley, split peas, lentils, etc.)
2 litres hot chicken or vegetable stock
150g button mushrooms, finely sliced
250g approx of leftover chicken, or cooked chicken thigh fillets, shredded or chopped
125g Grana Padano or parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 x slivers of smoked pancetta per serving or chopped crispy smoked bacon
Start with heating your oil in a large, heavy based saucepan and then add the garlic and onion, sweating them off gently until soft and fragrant. Add the rice and grains to the pan, coating them with oil and stirring them for a minute of two.
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Pour the wine in and reduce until it is absorbed into the grains.
Then, add the stock a couple of small ladlefuls at a time, only adding the next when the liquid has been soaked into the rice. Keep adding until most of the stock has been absorbed. This whole process should take about half an hour.
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Add in the chicken, cheese and mushrooms, stirring gently until evenly combined. Add more stock if it’s looking too dry, or water if you’ve run out of stock. The texture should be creamy and glossy. Check the grains using the smear on the counter test (like this).
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When the grains are cooked, its ready for the table.
If you need to hold it until later, take it off the heat and cover. It will revive if heated gently, possible adding some more stock or water to it to make sure it maintains a creamy consistency. Or, covered in a microwave works well on a medium heat.
When ready to serve, either grill or pan fry your pancetta until crispy – this usually isn’t very long. Drain on kitchen paper ready to crumble over the plated risotto with some freshly ground pepper and parmesan.
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