Friday, June 22, 2007

Pea and blue cheese risotto

My most recent New Statesman column concerns risotto. Here is a very rich version, with cream and blue cheese complementing the green vegetables. I have recommended peas; you might use broad beans, or asparagus tips, or broccoli. This is a generous portion for 2.

I onion, finely chopped
Knob of butter, or a little more
200 g Italian rice (see the article)
1 litre chicken stock, brought to a simmer in a pan next to your risotto pan
2 handfuls frozen peas
100 g blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola (Stilton is also possible)
6 tbsp double cream

Soften the onion in the butter, over a very gentle heat, in a heavy saucepan. You need to stir it regularly; you may need to add a little water, to stop it catching. The onion should reach almost a melting consistency, so that it does not give any harshness to the dish. The process may take 15 to 20 minutes.

Tip in the rice, and turn up the heat a little. Stir the rice to coat the grains. As I say in the piece, I am not sure why this stage is important: coating is protective, but the method of cooking risotto is designed to encourage the rice to release its starch. Nevertheless, it is helpful to get the contents of the pan hot, particularly if you want to add a little wine (about a third of a glass) at this stage: bubble it until it evaporates before adding the stock.

Now start adding the hot stock. I sometimes pour in more than a ladleful at this stage, submerging all the grains so that I can leave the pan briefly to make a salad, or to carry out some other bit of kitchen business. The contents of the pan should simmer gently: you do not want a fierce heat, or you will need a lot of stock -- because it will evaporate quickly -- to make the dish, which will have too chickeny a flavour. Once the stock has been absorbed, add another ladleful, and stir the contents of the pan regularly until that portion has been absorbed. Repeat.

Meanwhile, pour a ladleful of stock over the peas in another pan, bring to the boil, simmer for a couple of minutes, and drain (pouring the stock back into the stockpot, rather than down the sink). Keep the peas warm in the pan, covered.

After somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes, you will notice the rice plumping up.
Stir in the drained peas. Taste a grain or two of rice. The grains should give, but have a firm (though not brittle), chalky centre.

The trick is to get the dish to the desired consistency at this point. It is another reason -- in addition to creating a creamy starchiness -- why you add the stock ladle by ladle. You want a risotto that is a coherent, moist mass, and not soupy. If it is soupy when the grains are cooked, you may risk overcooking them if you try to reduce the liquid further.

Turn off the heat. Stir in the cheese, cut into small pieces (if you can do that with creamy Gorgonzola), and the cream. Cover the pan. After a minute, stir again, and serve.


Chick said...

Yup, excellent recipe - thanks v much! I added chicken and crispy bacon bits because a) I had them left over in the fridge and b) I am a pig ;-)

Nicholas Clee said...

Glad it worked. I like to add/substitute ingredients in recipes too -- it's a greedy cook's trait.

Ryan said...

That was excellent. Used broccoli as we didn't have peas handy, but i imagine you could use a whole variety of green vegies. Followed the measurements exactly and it was perfect. Thanks for the recipe.

Nicholas Clee said...

Thank you, Ryan. It's always a pleasure, and a relief, to hear that a recipe has worked. Different cooks work in different ways, and items of equipment vary, so that you sometimes need to adapt. One thing that always works, though, is the combination of blue cheese and green veg.

Lindsay said...

I am making this tonight! Recently I have become a HUGE blue cheese fan and I have been trying it with everything. Nothing starts a weekend like blue cheese risotto and primerib steak shared with your boyfriend. ^_^ thanks for the recipe!

Nicholas Clee said...

I hope you, and boyfriend, enjoy it, Lindsay.

The Health Care Blogger said...

Looking forward to trying this blue cheese risotto dish!