Sunday, 26 May 2013

Rice 'n' Easy

Did you know there are 40,000 types of rice in the world?! I was amazed to find this when I Googled it. Most of these are produced in Asia and 19 varieties are found in most countries. There are 3 main types. Short grain has a high starch content which has a soft and sticky texture when cooked. It is used in Japanese cooking to make Sushi. Medium grain rice is used in risotto and paella and is good at absorbing flavours. Long grain rice has less starch so is firmer in texture when cooked. It is used in Indian and Thai cuisine such as Basmati and Jasmine rice.

Arborio Rice used in risotto is named after the town of Arborio where it is grown. When cooked it has a creamy texture around a chewy centre. One of my favourite quick and easy meals is risotto. It is made in one pan and to the basic risotto mix of onion, rice and stock you can add meat, fish or vegetables of your choice. You can be as creative as you like.

Risotto is often viewed as a hard dish to make. It isn't once you have mastered a few basic principles. Firstly you need to buy risotto rice which you will find in the supermarket called arborio or carnaroli. I tend to use arborio rice and have found that supermarket own brands are just as good as the branded version. You begin by frying a finely chopped onion in a little olive oil or butter (I prefer to use oil) and then add the rice. Once this is coated in the oil you start adding the stock a ladleful at a time. The stock needs to stay on the boil otherwise the risotto will take longer to cook. I have found the best way to do this is to put the stock in a small pan and keep it at a gentle simmer on the hob. This can then be added to the risotto as needed. I always make extra stock than the recipe states just in case it requires a bit more to be cooked. The most important thing with risotto is that it needs regular stirring. You don't need to stir it continuously but it is a dish where you need to stay with it and stir every couple of minutes or so. This helps the rice thicken and cook evenly. I find it is best cooked in a large shallow pan as this helps the rice cook more evenly. 

Three of my favourite Risotto's are Salmon and Pea, Roasted Butternut with Parmesan and Haddock with Butternut. Below is the basic risotto recipe which is used in all three. 

Basic Risotto recipe
Serves 4
1-2 teaspoons Olive Oil
1 onion peeled and finely chopped
300g Arborio rice
1 litre of vegetable stock (you may not need all of it)

Heat the oil in a large shallow pan
Add the onion and cook over a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes
Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil
Add a ladleful of stock and bring to a simmer
Cook and stir until all the stock has been absorbed
Continue to add the stock a ladleful at a time and keep stirring, until all the stock has been absorbed or the rice is cooked. It should be tender with a bit of a firmness in the centre when you taste it
Add the other ingredients and seasoning according to recipes below

Salmon and Pea
1 large tin of red salmon drained
150g frozen peas defrosted
1 tbsp light cream cheese
Stir these into the cooked risotto and heat through

Roasted Butternut and Parmesan 
1 teaspoon of olive oil
500g butternut peeled and chopped into chunks
2 garlic cloves (leave unpeeled and whole)
1 tbsp fresh thyme
40g parmesan

Heat oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6
Place the butternut, garlic and half a tablespoon of thyme in a large roasting pan with a teaspoon of olive oil
Stir to coat in the oil
Cook for 30-40 minutes until tender and golden
Add the rest of the thyme at the same time as adding the rice to the pan
Add the roasted butternut (discard the garlic) and parmesan to the cooked risotto and heat through

Haddock and Butternut
For this recipe use half the amount of roasted butternut and leave out the thyme.
When the risotto is cooked stir through the butternut with 250g of cooked smoked haddock and a couple of spring onions or a tablespoon of chopped fresh chives

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