Risottos prepared in restaurants are magical dishes. They are creamy and so packed with flavour. However, whenever I have tried to recreate this amazing experience at home, I always seem to fall short. The dish never has that rich creamy texture and always seems to be lacking flavour no matter what I do. This all changed after one trip to Milan!
While on holiday in Milan with a friend, we booked a cookery class and meal at a little restaurant on Lake Como, an hour’s train trip north of the city. We wanted a little food adventure while on the trip. We went expecting to learn how to make pasta and pizza, but mostly to just enjoy some good Italian food and relax. It was completely different. Everyone else relaxed and chatted, while I desperately took notes of what the chef said. He showed us how to cook a splendid rump of beef with herbs. He demonstrated how to make one of the best tomato sauces I have ever tasted, which I now always use at home. And he showed us how to make the best risotto.
The key is butter! Adding butter to the rice before adding any liquid and toasting it allows the grains to acquire a nutty warm taste and makes the finished dish that much more delicious. He said that you should listen to the grains of rice. If you lift them up and then drop them back into the pot, they should sound like small stones falling, to know that they are done. He said that a classic mistake that most people make is adding chicken stock, which overpowers the more subtle flavours in the dish until you can only taste chicken. Another mistake that many people often do is not let the white wine be properly absorbed before starting to add the stock. He said that you should wait until it starts to smell sweet before adding in the stock.
We ate all the dishes that he made for us and afterwards my friend and I could do nothing more than go home and fall into a food coma, we were so full. I wanted to marry that Italian chef so I could eat his food for the rest of my life. Sadly he was already married, but he did have some sons, so there is still a chance that I could enjoy his food for the rest of my life (Wink).
I have made a few adjustments to the recipe that he gave me, but this will ensure that you can recreate a risotto fit for a fine dining restaurant with little fuss.
Time: 1 hour
1 butternut squash
40ml olive oil
Salt / Pepper
175g risotto rice
2 cloves of garlic
50ml white wine
600ml vegetable stock
150g goat cheese
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Peel and chop the butternut squash into small bite sized chunks.
- Toss in oil and seasoning, then place in a non-stick tray. Add more olive oil if needed.
- Cook for 40 minutes until tender and the edges start to turn dark gold.
- Chop the onions and garlic finely and place in a large pot along with about 10g butter and thyme. Cook for around 3 minutes on a low heat until soft.
- Add the risotto rice and add another 30g of butter. Keep stirring the rice on a medium heat for about 5 minutes.
- Tip in the white wine and continue to stir until the aroma coming out of the pot starts to smell sweet.
- Add the vegetable stock a bit at a time, making sure that most of the liquid has been absorbed before adding the next lot.
- Continue this process until either all the stock is gone or the rice is almost cooked through. It should still have a little bit of bite to it.
- Add the last 10g of butter and stir vigorously. This will break up the starch and make the risotto creamier.
- Chop the goat cheese and add to the risotto. Mix in and then add the butternut squash.
- Taste and adjust seasoning before serving warm.