Risotto is one of my absolute favourite dishes to rustle up in the kitchen and nothing in my humbled beats the combination of chicken, bacon, mushrooms and leeks as a flavour base in this deliciously comforting offering … okay, well, maybe perhaps roasted butternut squash and asparagus … and roasted red pepper and prawn … cue endless list!!
Risotto comes with all those fussy kitchen misconceptions that put most off making it at home! It’s expensive, it takes ages to prepare and make, you have to have stock simmering away, you have to sit and watch it cook (a watched kettle never boils!) – no, as in life, a risotto is the sum of its parts and you can put as little or as much effort into making it.
Like most of the great rice dishes, think paella, jambalaya, pilaf, biryani, jollof, and dare I say it, that most British of dishes, rice pudding, they utilise what is known as the absorption method – put simply, a defined amount of rice grain simmered in a more or less define amount of liquid until the rice grain has cooked through. Risotto is just one of those many fantastic rice dishes that use the absorption method.
With all that useful nonsense aside, let’s get into the nitty gritty – this is how I make my synfree chicken, bacon, mushroom and leek Risotto. Before you start though, a tip an actual chef friend of mine gave me: “make sure that your pan is never too hot so as that it causes the rice to catch on the bottom of the pan and you’ll be just fine”.
You will need the following (serves 2)
- 1 large chicken breast, halved then cut into bite sized chucks
- 4 lean bacon medallions, thinly diced. This can be smoked or unsmoked (I prefer smoked) and if like me you haven’t won the lottery, I buy a standard pack of bacon and prepare the medallions myself.
- 200g of sliced fresh mushrooms of your choice, chestnut are good here.
- 1 medium leek (approx 160g), topped & tailed, rinsed, halved length wise then cut into half centimetre moons.
- 150g risotto rice. Again, through the lack of a lottery win I use arborio rice but carnaroli rice is an EXCELLENT choice.
- 1 concentrated stock cube of your choice, I use chicken (if using OXO, you will need 2 cubes).
- 700ml boiling water from a recently boiled kettle.
- 1/3 cup of frozen peas. These are optional but add sweetness to the dish.
- A good handful of fresh chopped parsley (3tbsp approx). If you don’t have fresh parsley to hand, you can use 2tsp dried parsley but for the love of everything holy, don’t use it to garnish with!).
- Salt & Pepper to season.
- Fry Light.
- 60g finely grated grana padano or parmesan cheese (optional).
What you will need to do with the above
1). Get everything above prepared and close to hand then grab a high sided sauté pan or large frying pan, place onto a medium-high heat, spritz the base with a few sprays of Fry Light and then add the bacon and the chicken. Cook the chicken and bacon for around 5 minutes or until the chicken starts to colour slightly.
2). Now add the chopped mushrooms and leeks to the pan, add a pinch or two of salt and cook through for a further 5 minutes or until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the the leeks have softened. In the meantime, pop the stock cube into the boiling water and stir through to dissolve.
3). Add a good splash (3tbsp approx) of the prepared stock to the pan and then add the rice. Stir throughly for a minute or two to separate and cover the rice grains in the pan liquid and for them to heat through slightly.
4). Lower the heat of the pan to medium-low and then add the optional peas, and dried parsley (if using) and pour in 1/3 of the prepared stock and stir continuously to make sure that everything is coated in the stock. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook through for roughly 5 minutes, you should notice that the rice has started to absorb the stock and the pan is starting to look a little dry.
5). Now add 2tbsp of the chopped fresh parsley (if using), together with a large pinch or liberal grind of black pepper to the pan and add the remaining stock in smaller quantities, a good splash a time, continually stirring, allowing the rice to absorb the stock before adding more. After 10 minutes or so, taste the rice – you are looking for it to have a slight bite with no crunch. Dependant on the rice, you might not need to use all the stock or you could need more liquid – if the latter is the case, just add a splash or two or water from a recently boiled kettle and continue to cook through until the rice has cooked to a bite texture.
6). Once the rice has cooked through, take the pan off the heat and then stir through half the grated cheese, season to taste and serve immediately. Garnish with the remaining fresh chopped parsley and grated cheese.