It's risotto time this week - as spring is drawing to an end here in Australia the rest of the world is plummeting into Winter. It means for us the evenings can still be a little cooler and the rest of the world are simply bloody cold! Risotto is the key to theses temperatures. Hold a bowl of delicious pea & bacon risotto in your hand to warm them up or simply sit opposite family & loved ones with this fresh feeling pea risotto that is topped with delicious peas & salty bacon - cause bacon just makes everything better 😉 Read on to see my top tips on making risotto and how garnish plays just as important role too.
WHAT IS RISOTTO
Heaven in a bowl. Risotto originated in Northern Italy and is simply put a rice dish that is cooked with a broth. The beauty of risotto is it can come in all sorts of forms. Plain, pea risotto, mushroom risotto, crab risotto, beetroot risotto, pumpkin risotto - the list goes on. The base for making risotto is the same. You need rice, shallot (or brown onion), garlic, stock, butter & parmesan cheese. After that, it's a dish that serves as a great vehicle to experiment with toppings/fillings. This is where you can really come into your own BUT if you are new to the risotto game then keep scrolling and check out my other ideas at the bottom!
Arborio rice is rice that originates from an area in Italy called, guess what. Arborio! The town is located in the North of Italy close to Milan. Arborio rice is a short-grain rice that is high in starch. Primarily used in making risotto the higher amounts of starch are released during the cooking process giving risotto is delicious creamy taste. It is a little more costly than regular rice but so worth it. Once you dive in to this pea risotto you will see why!
CAN I USE OTHER ANOTHER RICE?
Technically yes. Other types of rice are less starchy and therefore you may need to add cream to get the desired creamy consistency to your risotto you can definitely substitute other rice. Just don't tell your Nonna!! Heck, these days people are using cauliflower "rice" to make risotto too. You see risotto IS primarily made with Arborio rice but it's actually a way of cooking so, therefore, you can substitute other types of rice. Just don't expect the EXACT results you would get from Arborio rice.
TIPS FOR COOKING RISOTTO
Here are my top tips for cooking risotto. Follow these and you will be making my delicious pea & bacon risotto on the regular!
- Have all your ingredients on hand.
- Keep your stock on a low simmer when making the pea & bacon risotto. Adding cold stock to the rice will prolong the cooking time and make your rice all mushy.
- Stir the risotto, stir it gently so it doesn't stick and so that you release the starch from the rice BUT if you are like my wife and like to stir like crazy you will cool the rice down, break the rice and end up with a gluey risotto.
- Add the stock gradually - don't just chuck it all in. Add a soup ladles worth, allow the rice to soak it up and once it's nearly gone then add the next ladle
- Using a wide pot is essential BUT make sure it fits your burner ring as if it's too wide then you will have uneven cooking
- Adding cheese/butter is done at the end. Once your risotto is pretty much cooked, remove it from the heat and stir the butter/cheese in gently. Doing so too quickly will mean the fat will separate under the heat leaving you with a not so pretty looking risotto
- Garnish. For me I love some fun garnishes on top - they had texture, freshness, flavour and bright pops of colour too
Check out the full recipe below, follow these tips/tricks when making risotto and you will be an expert. So much so you will be whipping up this pea & bacon risotto on the regular!
CAN I PRE-COOK RISOTTO
You sure can. Do you think the average restaurant starts to cook risotto from scratch when you order it? Imagine how many pots would be on the go and how long it would take to get your food out? Truthfully, you can make risotto in about 30 minutes if you are well organised but the way that restaurants make it work and you can too for a dinner party is pre-cook the rice.
To do this basically follow all the steps below in cooking the risotto EXCEPT only cook the rice 1/2 of the way. Once cooked, pour onto a baking tray immediately and make a criss-cross pattern on the risotto. This releases the heat and stops the cooking process quicker. Store it in the fridge and when you are ready to serve just start where you left off!
I briefly touched on the garnish above. For me, the garnish is something that makes the risotto have that visual appeal when served to your guests. Not only can it be visually appealing but it's a great way to add freshness, texture and quite simply that WOW factor. Here I keep the pea theme going by slicing sugar snaps finely and also some pea shoots. I reserve the bacon to sprinkle on top to add that crispy texture too. You will see in my other risotto dishes below I add spring onions to the mushroom risotto for some freshness and pumpkin seeds to my pumpkin pork risotto too.
This week we are back at one of my fave wineries over in South Australia - Heirloom Vineyards. You will have noticed that I have done quite a few recipes with these guys lately. Their wines are top-notch, very approachable for drinking now but also for cellaring for the next 5 years too. This week we are pairing their delicious Assens's Fortalice Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.
Chardonnay is my go-to white wine, I am a huge fan of it and given there are so many great options in Australia these days my collection is growing and growing every day! Heirlooms Chardy is one I am glad I have a few to see how it evolves over the next couple years. The wine has nice salinity along with peaches & nectarine on the nose. The palate offers similar fruits, solid length, balanced acidity and decent length too. The pairing is beautiful - rich and fruity chardy with some creamy risotto, fatty bacon. At 7.34am as I write this I'm thinking I'd love some for dinner tonight 😉
OTHER RISOTTO RECIPES
Excited by my pea & bacon risotto and looking for further exciting risotto recipes? Then check out these ones to keep your homemade risotto juices flowing 😉
Wild Mushroom Risotto by Yours Truly
Beetroot & Goats Cheese Risotto by Gabby Campbell of 'Sustainable Urban Table'
Pumpkin Pork Risotto by Yours Truly
Risotto alla Milanese by Marcella Cantatore of 'Marcellina in Cucina'
Baked Sage & Veggie Risotto w/ Cheats Pork Meatballs by Kylie Archer of 'Kidgredients'
Happy Cooking & Happy Eating Friends!
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1 shallot diced
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 litre stock veg or chicken
- 75 ml white wine
- 100 g butter 75g & 25g
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 200 g frozen peas
- 4-6 slices streaky bacon sliced into lardons
- 1 handful mint
- 3 sugar Snaps sliced finely lengthways
- 1 handful pea shoots
- Place hot stock in a saucepan on low heat to keep hot
- In a saute pan on high heat cook onion & garlic in olive oil & 25g butter – 2 minutes
- Add rice, stir and cook for a further minute
- Add white wine and cook for a minute stirring regularly
- Fry bacon until crispy in separate frying pan and set aside – 5 minutes
- Add stock to rice, one soup ladle at a time and stir regularly until you have one ladle left
- Once you add the last ladle of stock, add peas and cook until ½ of it has reduced. Then stir in 75g butter and ½ cup of parmesan *see tips*
- Remove from the heat, stir in bacon leaving a little to garnish the top of risotto
- Top with mint, pea shoots, bacon & sliced snow peas. Sprinkle with a little more grated parmesan and enjoy!
- chopping board
- chef knives
- saute pan
- sauce pan
- cheese grater
- wooden spoon
- frying pan
- soup ladle
- always start with the stock hot. If you add cold stock to your rice not only will it take AGES to cook but your rice will turn to mush
- I always make a little extra stock just in case. You need to taste the rice for doneness as it may take a little more or less liquid to cook the risotto. Cooked risotto will taste slightly al dente but you may want a softer risotto so before adding the last ladle grab a spoon and taste!
- risotto can be made in advance too. If you cook the risotto about ½ of the way and then remove it from the heat and spread it out onto a sheet tray to cool you can then finish it within 5-10 minutes when guests arrive.