Man Food by Mark Hix

Peasant Risotto

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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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2tbsps olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 stick of celery, peeled if necessary, and diced into 1cm pieces
60g diced pancetta or bacon
A pinch of saffron
2tsps tomato purée
200g Carnaroli rice
1.5ltrs chicken stock
100g chicken livers, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
120g wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut evenly into bite-sized pieces
2tbsps chopped parsley
100g butter
60g freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Serves 4
Years ago, I went to Parma with my favourite Italian food writer, Anna Del Conte, and we discovered this incredible risotto. I have made it loads of times since, purely to use up bits and bobs from the freezer. It’s delicious. Just don’t throw any old rubbish in — as I mentioned earlier, quality ingredients make quality risotto.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion, garlic, celery and bacon for 2–3mins until soft. Add the saffron, tomato purée and rice and stir on the heat for a minute. Gradually add the stock, a ladle or two at a time ensuring it’s absorbed before adding the next. Meanwhile, melt a little of the butter and fry the livers and mushrooms for a minute or so, seasoning as you cook, and put to one side. When the rice is almost cooked, stir in the mushrooms, liver and parsley and continue cooking, adding stock until the rice is just cooked. Stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan and season to taste.

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