This version doesn’t skimp on flavour – it contains butter and parmesan, and is cooked how risotto is typically cooked; but I’ve played with a few elements.
The vegetable content is dialled up (leeks, mushrooms, peas and spinach!), to help you leap bounds towards your 5+ a day. I’ve also included cooked chook, to bump up the protein; leaning to a more nutritionally balanced meal.
Risotto, cooked correctly, has a rich and creamy consistency, despite cream not making an appearance – all thanks to the starchy nature of the grain.
It Ain’t No Risotto Without A Bit of Starch
The rice best to use is a high-starch, white, round and short grain variety. While there are a few types of rice available, with slightly differing culinary properties, the one you’ll often find at the supermarket here in Kiwiland (and perfect for this dish!) is called arborio. Keep an eye out.
Before beginning, do not prewash, boil or drain the rice – the starch will wash away…and we need it for the next few steps.
Begin by cooking the rice very briefly in a bit of olive oil and sautéed leek, coating the grains in a film of fat. Then add stock – gradually – while stirring constantly. As the stock soaks in, add a bit more, until eventually the rice is cooked.
When cooking the risotto, constantly mix, mix, mix. It’s a labour of love! The grains will rub up against one another, getting nice and cosy. As they do, they’ll release starch for the outer grain into the stock…creating a creamy-textured consistency.
Risotto requires a little time, effort, care and attention; but it’s worth it! Enjoy this warming hearty gluten-free dish for winter. Lighter fresh salads or dishes just aren’t going to cut it right now.
Line a tray with baking paper. Set oven to bake 200 degrees Celsius.
Remove chicken thigh from packaging. Wash and pat dry with paper towel. Place on tray and drizzle with oil, sprinkle over salt and pepper (a few good turns or grinds of the shaker), and dried oregano and rosemary. Toss well. Place tray into the oven for 20 minutes, or until cooked. Once cooked, remove from oven and keep aside.
Meanwhile, finely slice the white part of leek and some of the green (discard tougher green part near top of leaves). Finely slice mushrooms. Grate garlic, or finely slice.
Heat a large deep fry-pan or a soup pot with a good drizzle of olive oil over a medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until they’ve shrunk a fair bit. Set aside in a dish.
Wipe down fry-pan, add a drizzle of oil and heat. Add leek and garlic. Cook over a medium heat for five minutes, or until the leek has softened.
Add rice and sauté over heat for a minute, or until you get a nutty smell coming from the rice - be careful not to burn it!
Add ½ cup of stock, stirring almost constantly until the stock absorbs - this will take a bit of time (labour of love!). The heat should be medium with a slight simmer, and you want the mixture to be cooking, but not boiling. Continue to add the stock, ½ cup at a time, until the rice is “al dente” – cooked through but not mushy. If you run out of stock before it’s cooked, or it gets a bit stiff, just add a splash of boiling water instead.
Mix through the spinach, peas, cooked mushrooms and finely sliced parsley or basil. Slice chook and add. If you have any chicken juices or liquid in the pan the chook cooked in, tip it not the risotto and mix - this will add lovely flavour! Add butter, parmesan cheese and a few good grinds of the salt and pepper shaker. Taste test and adjust salt until it tastes seasoned to you. Feel free to add more cheese if desired!
Vegetarian? Trade out the chook for a tin of drained and rinsed butterbeans. No leek?Trade for a brown onion.