Risotto is easy. It is not difficult at all despite some competent cooks being afraid of it. All it takes is a little patience. The only thing to remember is you have to stir regularly as the stock has to be added to the rice slowly and stirred frequently. Some people hate this idea of being trapped by your hob for 20 or 25 minutes but I enjoy hovering and adding another glug of stock and stirring every 2 or 3 minutes, I find it strangely calming.
This recipe is from The Student Cookbook, a very handy book aimed at people with limited or no cooking skills. I picked it up when I was already in my forties and was being given cookbooks written by ‘proper’ chefs who were using all kinds of obscure ingredients and techniques that made me think I knew nothing at all about how to prepare food!
But I digress, risotto is easy. The wonderful Jack Monroe claims rice is rice and you can use any old rice you have to hand, and she is probably right, but I do use arborio rice as it is cheap and easy to find these days, it’s another store cupboard staple of mine. With rice and some stock you have a risotto. You can add practically anything you like to it and it will still be risotto. The very first one I made was with freshly picked peas which were passed on to me by my mother that she got from a farmer neighbour. It was as simple as can be and completely delicious.
This recipe supposedly feeds six people but I think they’d still be hungry if you split it 6 ways. It would probably satisfy 4. I usually half the ingredients and eat it over the course of two days.
Chicken and Broccoli Risotto
- 40 g butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or the equivalent amount of diced chicken pieces
- 1/2 an onion or a large shallot
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1 large fresh red chilli. Deseed it if you prefer but I like the heat from the seeds
- 500 g risotto rice. Arborio and Carnaroli are the ones you are most likely to find
- 1 litre hot chicken stock. A cube is fine but it’s better if you get in the habit of making your own chicken stock, it’s easy and keeps in the freezer forever.
- 250 g broccoli florets fresh or frozen
- 3 tablespoons of grated Parmesan or the slightly cheaper Pecorino cheese
- Salt and Pepper
A heavy based saucepan is useful here as the rice is less likely to catch (stick to the bottom of the pan), but don’t fret if you don’t have one, you’ll just need to be a little more vigilant. You’ll also need a small pan of boiling water on the go for your broccoli and another pan to keep your chicken stock simmering nicely.
Melt a third of the butter with the oil and add your chicken pieces. Fry over a low heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and fry until they have softened. Now the business of making a risotto starts. Add the rice to the pan (risotto rice does not need to be washed by the way), stir it for a minute or two until all the rice has picked up some of the oil and the edges of each grain go a little translucent.
Add a glug of the stock (about half a soup ladle) and stir. Many people say stir constantly but I can’t be bothered with that and often wander away to do something else for a minute and come back to add another glug and stir again. In between stirrings I grate the parmesan and put the broccoli on to boil.
Keep adding the stock a little at a time and stirring it in trying to avoid the rice sticking, don’t panic if it does, it’s not the end of the world, just scrape it off the bottom, once it hasn’t actually burned it won’t affect the taste. Keep going until the rice is cooked through or until your stock is gone. If you run out of stock and the rice is still too firm just use some hot water from the kettle to keep going.
Be sure you don’t overcook the the broccoli (about a minute on the boil will do) as it will fall apart as you stir it into the risotto if it is too soft. Again, not the end of the world but coming across a nice firm chunk of broccoli in your creamy rice is part of the charm of this dish. Now I think of it, if you have fussy children (or adults for that matter) who refuse to eat broccoli, you could deliberately overcook it to sneak it in there!
When you are satisfied with the consistency your risotto (it should be a nice creamy gloop like a very thick soup) add the broccoli and parmesan and stir through the rice. Add salt and pepper to taste and throw in the rest of the butter to add a nice sheen to everything.
Serve immediately. The original recipe recommends a glass of cold, dry white wine to accompany your meal and I can’t argue with that!