Every time I mention that I've made risotto for dinner, I get the look that I call "The Fear", invariably accompanied by a comment along the lines of "oh, I'd never be able to make that, it's far too hard and I'd make a mess of it". Don't sell yourself short - risotto is much easier to make than you think. Yes it takes time (about 25 minutes), and there's lots of stirring but open a magazine, pour a glass of wine and the time will fly.
The trick is to have everything ready to go before you start, so all your veggies are chopped, the chicken is cut up and the stock is ready. Use decent wine - if you won't drink it, don't bother cooking with it - and if you want to be extra decadent, stir in some butter at the end for richness and glossiness. This is equally gorgeous made with big juicy prawns and little petit pois - change the ingredients to suit your taste. My recipe feeds two people so it's really easy to double, triple or even quadruple to feed a crowd. Just make sure you use a huge pot. I used chestnut mushrooms here because I love the contrast of the brown skin against the creamy pale interior but you can use mixed mushrooms, plain old button mushrooms or even big portobellos for extra meatiness.
Chicken and Chestnut Mushroom Risotto
1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 sticks of Celery, finely chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced or grated
120g Arborio or Carnaroli Rice
150ml White Wine
500ml Chicken Stock
2 Chicken Breasts, finely sliced
200g Chestnut Mushrooms, wiped & sliced
Salt & Pepper
40g Parmesan, grated
1 tbsp flat leaf Parsley, chopped
20g Butter (optional)
Heat the oil in the bottom of a large saucepan, add the onion and celery and fry gently for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and fry for another minute. Now add the rice and fry for another 2-3 minutes until it starts to pop.
Pour in the wine and start to stir the rice - the rice will start to release its starch and the liquid will go creamy. When it has almost evaporated, add a large ladleful of the stock and keep stirring.
After the second addition of stock, add the chicken and keep stirring. When you add the next round of stock, add the mushrooms. You may use up all the stock before the risotto is cooked, if that happens, add some hot water as there's enough flavour there already to get away with it.
Oh, we added some peas...
3-4 minutes after you've added the mushrooms, taste the rice : there should be a tiny bit of bite there but not enough to jar your tooth. That's known as "al dente" and means it's ready. If it hasn't reached this stage, cook it for another few minutes, checking it every so often to make sure it doesn't hit the mushy stage. Turn off the heat, add the herbs & parmesan and put a lid on the pot (you can add the butter at this point if you want to be really decadent). Leave it for 2 minutes to let the parmesan melt, then check for seasoning - it may be perfect, it may need salt and pepper - it's entirely down to your palate.
Serve in warmed bowls with some shaved parmesan on top. Eat quickly...