I like making risotto as well as eating it. It is a bit like kneading bread dough: there is work to do, and as you do it the material changes its texture. There is a moment when you know that the preparation has come to an end, and that is so enjoyable.
This risotto occurred because I had ingredients that fitted, and heard of a daily special at the restaurant at which I was dining – a risotto with smoked salmon, fennel and dill. I had the salmon and the dill, and mushrooms rather than fennel. OK – let’s adapt. I had some excellent leek, as well, so we’ll use that. And another cheese other than the predictable Parmesan. It worked very well. The following recipe served four adults and two small kids, and we could all have eaten a little more.
You will need:
2 cups of arborio rice
80 g butter
1 cup of finely sliced onion or leek
200 g of smoked salmon pieces
500 g of tiny mushrooms, or of sliced mushrooms
80 g of grated cheese
1 tbsp of dried dill
Half a glass of white wine
4 cups of hot stock
Method: First, cook the mushrooms in a smidgin of oil in your large frying pan; cook them hard and hot so that they brown. When all the moisture has gone, tip them into a container. Now lower the heat, and add the butter. Stew the onion or leek until it is transparent, at which point you add the rice, and stew that mixture until you see that some of the rice is also becoming translucent. Now add the wine, and stir the mixture until the wine has been absorbed. Now add the stock, a ladle-full at a time, adding the next when the first has been absorbed. Keep stirring, drinking a little wine as you do. There’ll be maybe twenty minutes of this. The mixture becomes larger and you will be tempted to stop. Try a grain of rice: if it is hard and dry inside the risotto is not ready. Keep going. Suddenly it will look right. Taste another grain. It is ready when the rice is firm but not hard inside.
Gather the eaters. Keep cooking until there is no moisture on the base of the frying pan. Add the mushrooms, and mix them in. Now add the salmon pieces, which you will have cut into smaller bits (you don’t need a lot, because the salmon has a strong flavour). Now sprinkle the dill and add the cheese. Turn the heat off, mix, pause and serve. Because leek is softer than onion, if you use it the mixture will seem wetter than it really is. The real test of readiness is (i) the grain is not hard inside, and (ii) there is no moisture on the base of the pan. If you run out of stock, just add boiling water.