Yesterday there was a glimmer of change in the weather – finally. Today, not so good. But anyway, while the momentary warmth was here, I celebrated with a chicken risotto. It’s the perfect dish to make if you have leftover roast chicken to use up and/or not a huge amount of culinary motivation after a busy day. Stirring stock into rice is an almost meditative activity and it is so satisfying to watch the grains swell and metamorphose into something creamy and luscious. I’m still having to stick to this dairy-free gig so I omitted the usual finalé of adding a good chunk of butter and some grated parmesan (and actually didn’t miss them), but I certainly recommend putting them in if it’s richness you’re after.
1 tablespoon olive oil
half an onion
1 carrot, peeled
1 stick of celery
200g arborio rice
small glass white wine (+ one for the chef)
1 pint hot chicken stock (from a cube is fine)
a couple of handfuls of shredded cooked chicken
a couple of handfuls of oyster mushrooms (optional), sliced or torn and briefly sautéed in a little butter or olive oil
large knob of butter (optional)
handful of finely grated parmesan (optional)
lemon wedges, to serve
First, set up your hob. You want a large, heavy-based saucepan for cooking the risotto, plus a pan in which to keep your chicken stock barely simmering alongside it. You will also need a ladle.
Finely chop the onion and sauté in the olive oil until softened but not browned. Top and tail the carrot and celery and cut into tiny dice, add to the onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir constantly for a couple of minutes, until it starts to become translucent. Pour in the wine and simmer, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed. The alcohol isn’t essential but it really helps to lift the flavours; any dry white wine works well, or you could also use vermouth if you have some handy – maybe mix yourself a pre-dinner martini while you’re about it…
Once the wine has disappeared (don’t you just hate it when that happens?), begin adding ladlefuls of stock to the pot, stirring after each addition and waiting until it has been fully absorbed before adding more. The rice will gradually start to ooze and take on a beautifully tender consistency; you want it to retain a little bit of bite (the al dente stage) and not slump into sticky oblivion – we’re probably talking about 20-25 minutes in total to get it just right. Stir in the chicken and mushrooms for the last few minutes of cooking, just to heat them through.
When the risotto reaches the peak of perfection, turn off the heat, put the lid on the pot, and leave it to rest for a few minutes (take some time to finish off that martini you made earlier). This is also the moment to add butter and parmesan if you’re using them – just throw them in, give everything a good stir, and put the lid on. When you remove it you will have the most unctuous and comforting simple supper. Serve with lemon wedges to cut through the creaminess, especially if you’ve gone down the lactose-rich route.
Serves 2, with a little left over for lunch the next day if you’re lucky.