Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Posh Lugaw

Risotto Primavera

Okay okay, so my risotto needs some more sauce. Well actually lots of sauce. But I was mighty pleased with my first try in cooking this much celebrated (hyped?) dish. The rice grains came out perfectly cooked with an al dente centre and not mushy at all. All I need is more stock in it!!

I've always been intrigued by risotto and as more cookbooks and magazine articles I read lauding its virtues I was actually intimidated. I had to get a very precise recipe to guide risotto newbies like me. Luckily, I just got Angela Nielsen's The Ultimate Recipe Book from where I adapted this recipe.

Lesson learned: use a heavy, wide pan. Mine was heavy but it was a pot not a wide pan. Therein lay my main problems, I found it hard to stir towards the end. Actually I used a cast iron pot so when I finished and turned off the heat it still had lots of residual heat that dried out my risotto. So probably next time I'll just settle for a thick bottomed wide pan.

My primary objective here besides having a go at cooking risotto is to use seasonal ingredients. Asparagus season here in UK is quite short. It starts from late April up to June-early July only. Many regard British asparagus as one of the best in the world. They even have an asparagus festival at the Vale of Evesham late this month which I hope I can attend just to satisfy my curiosity. Peas, one of my fav vegs, are also in season so that gets my nod in here. But not broad beans, I've not been fond of them types, so I omitted that in my risotto.

Well, what do I think of it? I love it! Especially when eaten with the crunchy asparagus and wholesome peas. It's already a complete meal so you can perfectly eat it on its own though I'm thinking of what meats I can serve it with if ever. That said I don't think I can eat more than a big bowlful of it because I find it quite rich. Maybe I should reduce the cheese or mix the stock with some water?

I can't help comparing this with lugaw, that rice comfort food loved by Filipino. It's not far off to be honest I'd like to think risotto is the posh, more upscale sister of lugaw. :) For me, the main difference is in the cooked grains. The risotto's grains retains its shape thereby avoiding it being mushy while lugaw is meant to be mushy and more porridge like. I wonder if I can cook the malagkit rice variety like a risotto and retain its shape. Abangan ang susnod na kabanata! Wait for the next installment.

Risotto Primavera

1 Tbsp olive oil
65 g  [1/4 cup] butter
1 garlic clove - minced
3 spring onions - finely chopped
4 shallots - finely chopped
350 g  risotto rice (Carnaroli, Arborio, Vialone)
1/2 cup white wine
200 g  shelled fresh peas (or frozen ones - thawed)
250 g  asparagus
100 g  parmesan cheese - finely grated
5 1/2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  1. Snap the woody bases from the asparagus and slice each into 4 diagonal pieces.
  2. Put the stock in a pot and bring to a simmer. Keep this simmering while cooking the risotto.
  3. In a thick bottomed wide pan (beside or close to the simmering stock), heat olive oil and 2 Tbsp of the butter until bubbly.
    Saute the onions and garlic on medium heat for about 3 minutes until soft.
  4. Stir in the rice and cook while stirring often for about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the wine and keep stirring until almost all the wine has evaporated.
  6. Put the timer on for 20 minutes.
  7. Add 1 big ladleful of stock to the rice and bring to simmer (do not boil; you may have to lower the heat) while stirring constantly until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  8. Repeat adding ladleful of stock and stirring when the previous amount has been absorbed.
  9. After 14 minutes (meaning 6 minutes left in your timer), add the peas to the rice.
  10. At the same time drop the asparagus in the stock. Let the asparagus simmer for 4 minutes while you're stirring and adding stock to the rice. After 4 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon add it to the rice mixture.
  11. At this point you should taste the rice, it should be soft but still with a bite in the centre. Also add seasonings if you think it needs some.
  12. The timer should have gone off by now and you should have the desired texture. If not, continue adding stock and stirring until done.
  13. Take the pan off the heat then add half the parmesan and the rest of the butter plus a little of the stock to keep it moist.
  14. Cover the pan and let it rest for about 3 minutes.
  15. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan on top.

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