Risotto, is it a pasta or rice based dish? That’s for you and your eating companions to debate over as feast on this scrumptious, classic Italian dish.
For me, risotto is wrongly stereotyped as a complicated, precise and time-consuming meal that should be saved for dinner parties in order to impress your guests and earn extra culinary brownie points. Yet, for me I don’t see what could be so daunting about this perfect one pot family style grub. It requires no unpronounceable ingredients, minimal kitchen utensils what’s more I would argue its near impossible to get risotto wrong. If you think its too runny simply allow it to cook away a little longer. If you receive that inconvenient phone call in the middle of cooking dinner or, you suddenly remember that vital email you were meant to send to your boss then returning only moments later to find and overcooked stodge perfect to cement bricks together well, don’t fret, simply add more stock to thin out the risotto and bring it back to life.
Risotto is a wonderful hearty supper for those days when you’re craving something a bit more wholesome and comforting. It’s rich and creamy without being laden with fat from the parmesan and butter like traditional risottos sometimes are prone to. My plant based version replaces parmesan with nutritional yeast. This magical gold dust is packed full of B vitamins, fibre to regulate blood sugar levels for sustained energy and is a key source of protein great for those of us on a plant based diet who may sometimes struggle to get those vital proteins that some would argue you could only get from animal products.
If you’re still not convinced on making risotto what about the fact that you can experiments with almost any sorts of vegetables that are in season. For this recipe I have chosen courgette and mint simply because they’re summer vegetables which were growing in our garden and I was inspired to add peas as the fields around my house are blanketed with pea plants, the smell of sweet, fresh baby peas floats through our village as lime green peas lay nestled in their pods under the warming rays of the english sunshine. However, if you don’t have these herbs and vegetables on hand you could just make a plain but flavour packed risotto with lemon, chilli and garlic or you could try making a roasted red pepper, butternut squash, asparagus or rocket risotto instead.
I know many find it rather tedious repetitively pouring in stock and stirring slowly whilst standing over a hot stove after a long day but, I find something rather relaxing about the mindless rhythm of pouring and stirring. That 20 or so minutes of peace I find is great after a busy day just to collect my thoughts and get ready to relax for the evening.
(This recipe serves 1 but can easily be doubled etc to serve more people)
- 1 courgette (roughly cubed)
- 15ml olive oil
- half an onion (chopped)
- garlic clove (finely chopped)
- chilli flakes (generous pinch)
- 70g risotto rice
- 500ml vegetable stock
- 5-10g nutritional yeast
- 80g peas (fresh/frozen)
- 4/5 mint leaves (finely chopped)
1. Heat 10ml of oil in a frying pan before adding the diced courgettes frying them until golden. Leave them on a medium heat for about 5 minutes tossing the pan occasionally to ensure they brown evenly on all sides. The longer you fry them the crispier and less watery they become so you can adjust the timing to suit your tastes. When cooked pour the courgettes into a serving plate and leave to one side until later. Try and reserve any left over oil in the pan if possible.
2. Add the final 5ml of oil to the pan and allow it to heat through briefly before adding the chopped onion. Fry on a low heat until soft and then add in the garlic, chilli and risotto rice. Stir well so that all the grains are coated in oil and leave to cook for about two minutes.
3. Time to test your patience! This portion of risotto rice will take about 20 minutes to cook if you’re are doubling or tripling etc the recipe you will find the risotto will probably take longer to cook anywhere up to 40 minutes. Little by little pour some vegetable stock into the pan. It will fizz quite seriously the first time round. Stir regularly until the liquid has been absorbed before pouring in another slosh of stock.
4. When the last bit of stock has been added to the pan scatter over 5g of nutritional yeast and stir until well incorporated. Finally add the peas, mint, seasoning and courgette and allow everything to heat for 30 seconds or so. Taste the risotto to see if you need to add more nutritional yeast, mint or seasoning, before serving. Patience has paid off… tuck in!