Creamy mushroom and asparagus risotto
This was the first risotto recipe I ever made, and while I have done many more since, this delicious combination has stood the test of time.
My first attempt was back when I was a 23-year-old sub-editor working the 3pm to 12am shift at a daily newspaper in a country town in New South Wales. Boredom and loneliness was often an issue for me, so I used to entertain myself by cooking up heaps of different dishes. I didn’t have to worry about feeding someone else and what their likes and dislikes were. I didn’t have to stress if the dish took forever, I was on my time, no hungry people (other than my tummy) hovering around. As a tribute to my solitude, I went a little crazy with my culinary experiments. The best part for me was that if one of my far-fetched dishes turned into an inedible mess, I would be the only one going to bed hungry.
So, I headed to the shop, brought a packet of alborio rice, and looked at the back of the packet to find this very recipe (which I have since adapted). I then proceeded to walk around and around the supermarket, finding the bits and pieces I needed. One thing I discovered about myself during this lonely phase (I learnt a lot, actually) was that without a little direction – I get totally lost and distracted in supermarkets. I used to go from the freezer section to the deli and then up to the biscuit isle, before realising I forgot the parsley in the fruit and veg section. I’d then think; “ice-cream, would be nice …” so off I’d go to the other end of the shop.
My fiancée would attest that I’m not much better when accompanied by someone willing to carry my basket of goodies – but I do try to stay focused!
Anyway, I digress – back to the risotto.
I cut up all my ingredients (something I recommend doing when cooking any dish for the first time, especially when using a new technique – it keeps things a little more organised and helps with timing) and I got underway. I added rice and wine and stock and stirred it round and round as I did so. I got a little bored with the stirring, so I phoned a friend, holding the phone with one hand and my wodden spoon with the other. We had a good old chat!
In the finish, it came out ok. Although it was a bit dry, and it got stuck to the bottom of the pan.
But I pressed ahead and served my little experiment into a nice bowl. I then took up my position on my old, uncomfortable futon couch, in my holey, but very comfy PJs you would never let a boy see you in for how unsexy they were. All this was completed with a nice drop of wine in my very best coffee mug, perched on the floor beside me. Upon the first bite, I discovered I had produced a meal that was, well, quite uncooked. Ok, it was crunchy. I obviously hadn’t persisted long enough with the ladelling of stock and stirring of rice.
But, the flavours were all there – it was just the texture that was wrong. I did eat it all too. I was hungry and it was too cold and too late to head out for Maccas.
I bet you aren’t keen to try this recipe now – but you really should. Honestly! Learn from my mistakes and you’ll do as well as my second attempt – which turned out fabulously well!
Tips to perfect risotto:
- Taste the rice before you decide it’s ready, and continue to ladel and stir until you get the right texture, which is soft with the subtlest bite to the rice – it should be creamy and loose.
- Heat your stock in a pot beside your risotto pan – it takes less time for the rice to absorb hot stock then cold, making it much, much quicker.
- Use a non-stick frypan – trust me, this is a good idea!
- Cook the risotto at a high heat and don’t stop stirring! The stirring releases the starch from the rice, making the risotto creamy.
- Always check your seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
- The other trick I discovered was that it’s worth getting someone to give you a hand with the stirring – this means employing a spouse, friend, teenager etc to do this for you. Best idea ever!
Creamy mushroom and asparagus risotto
Tandoori Chicken Risotto
- 600gm of chicken thigh fillets, cut into 2cm cubes
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1/4 cup of pancetta, diced
- 200gm of alborio rice
- 1/2 a bottle of white wine
- 4 portabelo mushrooms (or whichever ones you like), sliced
- 1 litre of chicken stock (you will probably use less than this, but best to have it on hand)
- 3 bunches of asparagus, trim away the woody bit, leaving the spears
- 2 handfuls of grated parmesan (a good quality one)
- 3 tbs of thickened cream
- salt and pepper to taste
Put the chicken stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil before turning right down.
Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick pan and cook the onion over a low heat, until it is beginning to soften. Add the panchetta and cook for a further two minutes or so.
Turn up the heat and add your chicken. Cook for about five minutes, then add the alborio rice.
Stir so that all the grains are coated and really hot, but don’t burn them. Add all the wine. It will bubble a lot (if it doesn’t, your stove isn’t hot enough). Stir until the wine has absorbed.
At this point, start ladelling your stock in. Put one ladel full of stock in at a time and stir each until it has absorbed into the rice before adding the next. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes. Ensuring your stock is hot before adding it will quicken the process.
After about 10 minutes (so the rice should be half-cooked) add the mushroom and asparagus.
The only way to tell that it’s ready it to taste it, as mentioned previously. Make sure the risotto is nice and lose and creamy – it shouldn’t be dry and stodgy.
Finish with the cheese and cream. Once you have stirred it through, you might like to add a touch more stock, as the cheese can thicken the risotto.
Whether you have tried cooking risotto before or not – this is a great recipe and I promise, as long as you taste and stir, it will be lovely, creamy and comforting! Why not make it the next time you have an afternoon free, your next anniversary dinner when the kids are elsewhere or for your next dinner party.
This recipe really isn’t one to freeze. You can if you want, but the texture will change. Add some water when reheating if you’d like to try it.
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