In search of the perfect risotto

In anticipation of my work experience, I’ve been trying out recipes from this month’s delicious. magazine and can highly recommend every single one I’ve made. The most life-changing recipes – and I don’t use those words lightly – are definitely the risottos used making a soup-base instead of a stock-base. Back when my cooking was a little more eccentric, when adding halloumi to a soup didn’t seem like an unreasonable idea, I used to cook risottos at least twice a week, each time adding some other strange ingredient and making it taste weird. The whole experience rather scarred me, and I haven’t really touched a risotto since.

I did have the occasional amazing risotto, particularly after following Jamie’s basic risotto instructions and adding something special, like chestnut mushrooms from the farmer’s market simmered in red wine. The phrase ‘massaging the creamy starch out of the rice‘ in particular is key to a nice creamy consistency. But even having mastered the creaminess – and holding myself back from over-experimental ingredients – there’s no getting around another fundamental flaw of my risottos: the stock.

I’ve already mentioned my futile dreams of becoming a Martha Stewart-style domestic goddess, surrounded by homemade cheeses and preserves, expertly throwing together elaborate meals with ease. Probably with vegetables from the back garden. But at the moment I’m still rather far off. Although I’d love to say I throw odds and ends into a stockpot, freezing batches into ice-cube trays on one of those mythical days where I have nothing to do – it’s just not true. Bouillon powder is often an adequate substitute, but when it comes to risotto the stock is so key that I find it often ends up tasting…well, tasting like bouillon.

The finished Jerusalem artichoke risotto, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fennel seeds

What these recipes in delicious. do is bypass this stage completely. Whizzing up a soup takes no time at all (obviously a blender helps), and using this in the place of stock guarantees the rice will absorb all the flavour, leaving you with an even creamier risotto in which your choice of vegetable – or meat – takes centre stage.

I just can’t get over what a good idea that is. Since making it, I have found myself drunkenly ranting about it on more than one occasion. If that’s not the mark of a good recipe, I don’t know what is.

The first I tried was the Jerusalem artichoke and fennel seed risotto. I’d never had Jerusalem artichokes before and I even had to look them up on google images while standing in the greengrocers.

Jerusalem artichoke

I don’t know quite how to describe their flavour, but vegetable-wise I’d say they’re most similar to celeriac. This risotto was absolutely perfect – one of the best things I’ve ever cooked. I didn’t feel the need to alter the recipe in any way.  I tried the butternut squash one too, which was lovely, but could probably have done with some blue cheese to balance out the sweetness of it.

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