As I mentioned in my first risotto recipe, this seemingly intimidating way of cooking rice is actually very easy and also very versatile. I had a vegetarian guest for dinner, so I had a look around for an alternative to the more commonplace mushroom risotto and settled on this unusual combination, unusual for risotto at least. The lemon cuts through the richness of the creamy risotto and adds an edge which makes you feel like you are eating something far more virtuous and healthy.
I accidentally made way too much for the two of us so I had lots left over which was fine with me as I have long been intending to make arancini, which are fried rice balls made from yesterday’s risotto. I usually never have enough left over to make them. More on that later.
Trust me, don’t be afraid of risotto. All it takes is a little patience. Nothing about it is difficult and it might just impress friends you are having around for dinner. It does demand almost constant stirring though, so if you have guests, you might not see them for 20 minutes unless you have a kitchen cum dining room!
Even though this risotto felt very healthy it is still a rich and heavy meal. The amounts given here were supposedly for two but would easily stretch to three or even four if you have some other bits and pieces to feed your guests. Or you can just make arancini the next day!
Lemon and Courgette Risotto
- A good knob of butter 30 or 40 g if you must
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 large or 2 smaller cloves of garlic minced
- 200 g arborio or other risotto rice
- 1 litre of vegetable stock made with a cube
- The zest and juice of 1 lemon
- A pinch of thyme
- One large courgette roughly 200g, diced
- A good handful of parmesan or pecorino cheese
- Salt and pepper
- A tablespoon of creme fraiche or more butter
Melt the butter in a large saucepan or deep frying pan, add the onion and gently fry until soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and stir in and fry for a minute or two.
You should have your vegetable stock simmering away in another pot by now.
The rice goes in next, stir it around so it gets coated in buttery goodness. Add the juice of the lemon and half of the zest. Add a ladle of the veg stock and watch as it sizzles and the rice absorbs it. Season with salt and pepper and keep stirring to prevent the rice from catching or sticking to your pan. This is the only tiresome part of risotto, you really have to be vigilant and while you don’t have to stir constantly you do have to stir frequently. Keep adding the stock a ladle at a time and stir it in, it will be worth it in the end.
When you have used about half of your stock stir in the chopped courgette. It will depend on how finely you have chopped it actually. My pieces were fairly chunky so I put them in at this stage, if yours are smaller you can wait a little longer as you don’t want the courgette to turn to mush and disappear into the mix. I guess this bit is something you can only learn with a little experience, and it doesn’t really matter if your courgette disappears. Anyway, keep adding the stock until it is gone and the rice is nicely cooked, fish a little out and check it is cooked through but still retains a little ‘bite’. If the rice is not cooked and you need more liquid then just add a few more glugs of hot water straight from the kettle, conversely, if the rice and courgette are cooked before you have used all the stock then don’t feel compelled to add the rest.
When it is all looking just about ready stir in the parmesan cheese and creme fraiche or butter, just to give it that extra little richness and creaminess.
Garnish with the remaining lemon zest, serve immediately and enjoy.
I entirely forgot to take pictures of this so you’ll just have to use your imagination!