Man Food by Mark Hix

Risotto Nero

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I love making risotto. There’s a real sense of achievement when you begin with relatively few ingredients and end up with a delicious rice dish. Risotto is all about the stuff you put into it, and it’s not the sort of dish you can just bung together and hope for the best. Firstly, you need the correct rice. With its high starch content and firm texture, Carnaroli rice (my choice) keeps its shape better than the likes of Vialone Nano or Arborio. 

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A good stock is also crucial as your risotto should taste of the main ingredient, not just rice. If it’s butternut squash, for example, make a good vegetable stock using the squash trimmings and skin. If it’s a mushroom risotto, then flavour your vegetable stock with a few dried porcini and button mushrooms. Likewise with fish or meat.

The more you make risotto at home, the faster you will master the art of producing silky rice with that perfect, just-cooked-enough consistency. Stodge has no place in a good risotto. Timing is crucial, and you can’t go off and watch Newsnight halfway through, I’m afraid. You need to stick with it until the bitter end; you absolutely must keep stirring, no excuses. That said, if some know-it-all instructs you to “only stir it one way”, make sure you tell them to bugger off.

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1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g Carnaroli rice
25g (3 sachets) squid ink, available from good fishmongers
A good-sized knob of butter
100g cleaned squid, roughly diced into 1cm pieces
1tbsp chopped parsley
Risotto stock (see below)

For the stock
1—1.2ltrs fish stock
25g squid ink (3 sachets)
Half a glass of white wine

Serves 4 as a starter
This is one of my favourite risottos, ever. I remember early holidays in Spain where a lot of restaurants served it, but made it grey — not black as it should be. You’ll find squid ink in good fishmongers, or Italian delis. It’s always useful to have a few sachets in your freezer when you feel an ink risotto moment coming on.

Begin by mixing the fish stock, squid ink and wine together and bring to the boil. For the risotto, heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, add the rice and stir on a low heat for a minute without allowing it to colour. Add the remaining squid ink, stir well then slowly add the hot stock, a ladle or two at a time, ensuring all the liquid is absorbed before adding more, stirring constantly.
When the rice is cooked, add the butter and a little more stock if the risotto seems a bit dry: it should be wet but not runny. Meanwhile, fry the squid in the butter and scatter it over the risotto with the chopped parsley to serve.

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