I’m lucky enough that my other half, Alex B, is also a very good cook. There are certain dishes that I will always leave to him, simply because he has the knack of them and does them really well. Also, it means I don’t have to cook every night.
His signature dish is risotto. You can’t beat it. So here I present his recipe, as written by him:
Serves 2 generously
100g streaky bacon or pancetta or lardons, chopped into squarish pieces
100g leftover roast chicken (or raw chicken)
1 red onion, chopped
500ml chicken stock, more or less. Use the best you can get because it’s important in this dish. If you have home-made chicken stock, this is the perfect way of using it.
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
150g risotto rice
100ml white wine
Frozen peas, however much you like
Chop the onion and garlic and bacon into whatever sized pieces you would later like to eat. Chop or tear the chicken into small pieces. In this recipe I have used already cooked chicken, but you could also use raw chicken.
Pour the stock into a saucepan and heat until just about simmering. Leave it on a low heat throughout the cooking.
Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan (some manufacturers call it a saute pan) and gently fry the bacon. (If you are using raw chicken fry this now too.) As the bacon is salty you will not need any other seasoning at this stage. When the bacon is mostly cooked remove it from the pan and put it on some kitchen roll. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and begin frying the onion gently. When the onion has softened nicely add the garlic for about a minute.
After a minute add another drop of olive oil and a small knob of butter. When the butter has melted put the rice in and stir it around to coat it with oil and butter and cook for about 30 seconds. Pour in the white wine and stir. If the wine is cold you might want to turn the heat up to get it cooking quickly – you do not want your rice sitting around in cold liquid. When the wine had reduced to almost nothing begin the add the stock, one ladle-full at a time.
You are now entering the main risotto-cooking process. This can take any time from 15 to 40 minutes, depending on the temperature you’ve got your hob. If the stock doesn’t bubble at all, then it’s not hot enough to cook the rice; if it is too hot then the stock will evaporate without pausing to cook the rice. When you’ve added the load of stock add any herbs you want. I used sage this time, but rosemary and thyme, or any combination of those three, would be good. Add your chicken and bacon now.
Stir the risotto every so often to keep from sticking to the pan (except, see below). Allow the liquid to reduce until you have got a thick, sticky porridge kind of consistency and then add another ladle of stock. Don’t worry about using all the stock, the important thing is to get the rice cooked properly.
Now: sticking. If you don’t stir the rice often enough, it will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan. Stir again and scrape any stuck rice off the pan. This is good, because it releases starch from the rice and helps to make the risotto all creamy and delicious. If the rice sticks too much it will form a sort of burnt layer underneath the risotto, but this doesn’t matter too much.
Continue cooking, adding stock, and stirring, tasting the rice every so often. Risotto rice shouldn’t be as soft as basmati or other kinds of rice. There should still be a bit of bite in it, without actually being crunchy. When the rice is cooked to your taste, add the peas for about 2-3 minutes and turn the heat down. Use as many peas as you would like to eat. Turn the heat off completely and add the grated parmesan and stir it in. Sprinkle some more parmesan over the top if you are greedy (like us).
Serve with some nice bread and salad.