If you asked my family what their favourite comfort foods were, risotto would probably come in the top ten. Risotto truly is the ultimate comfort food, both for eater and cook, as the almost mindless, repetitive stirring can be incredibly soothing after a rough day. It’s also a meal that can be put together from the store cupboard and freezer if you are pushed for time. And there is nothing like something smooth, creamy and flavoursome to eat at the end of the day, whatever kind of day it has been!
For the best risotto, you need to be sure to use a rice specifically made for this dish - a high starch medium or short grain variety as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialoni Nano is best. I get the best results with the latter, but it can be more expensive, and the others do work very well. It’s hard to be really specific about the quantities of liquid, as the amount you need is affected by the vegetables you use, the exact type of rice, and even the weather. You can tell when you have got the correct amount because the rice will be swollen, your risotto will look creamy and when you taste it the rice will be al dente - firm, but soft with a creamy mouth-feel.
This recipe will serve four people, and is lovely served with a basket of hot rolls alongside. (Yes, I know that is a lot of carbs, but sometimes, you know carbs are what your body and soul need...)
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 red pepper, de-seeded and chopped in small pieces
1 cup risotto rice
about 4 cups chicken stock
1 glass white wine
(or about ½ cup more stock if you prefer to leave out the alcohol)
1 to 2 tablespoons sun dried tomato and basil pesto (or another pesto of your choice, although this is scrumptious with the shrimp)
½ cup frozen peas
2 cups large frozen cooked shrimp, thawed, with shells removed
Melt the butter over medium to low heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and sauté gently, stirring often, until it begins to become translucent. Add the red pepper and cook gently for a few minutes.
Stir in the rice, and allow it to get coated in the buttery vegetable mixture. Stir in the white wine until it is absorbed. Now begin adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition until it is absorbed.
When you have about a cup of stock left, add the pesto and frozen peas. Now gradually add the remaining stock, stirring after each addition until it is absorbed, and tasting from time to time until the rice is al dente and tastes creamy. Stir in the shrimp and heat through.
Serve in warmed bowls.