Risotto: Perfection on a plate

Making smoked salmon and chorizo risotto

Making smoked salmon and chorizo risotto - Credit: Archant

Risotto is one of Italy’s culinary classics and for good reason. This famous rice dish embraces many flavours and additions but the rice and technique remains the same to produce the finished masterpiece that is risotto.

To start, a soffritto is made by sweating onions and maybe some garlic in butter and/or olive oil. The rice is then added and coated in the fat to allow each kernel to remain separate for cooking. I always add a glass of wine for depth of flavour. Then a good stock is used in small additions to cook the rice. The stock must be simmering throughout in a separate pan, so as it is added it doesn’t cool the starch in the grains of rice.

The final step to making risotto is called mantecare, which means to vigorously beat butter and cheese into the rice to give it a creamy texture. Last but not least, risotto is always made with a wooden spoon. In Italy, risotto is often served as a first course or as an accompaniment to meats or fish. It needs to be served in a warm dish and eaten immediately. It will not reheat and must be made at the last minute. The short, plump, creamy grains of arborio rice are what make risotto so special. The near constant stirring brings the starch out of the grains to produce the creamy, saucy consistency we expect from risotto. Any cold leftovers can be made into small balls, which can be pane, a French cooking term which means to coat with seasoned flour, beaten egg and white breadcrumbs. These work really well as a starter or as a canapé.

? This weekend, April 13 and 14, I will be demonstrating in the cookery marquee at The Suffolk Food, Drink & Music Festival at Framlingham College. I’ll be there at around lunchtime: let’s hope for good weather.

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