Making risotto can seem a little intimidating. With the constant stirring, the gradual addition of piping hot stock and knowing when it’s hit that al dente spot – just one slight glitch and all your wonderfully orchestrated efforts could easily lead to disaster.
However, I find it’s in this methodical approach that makes it one of the most rewarding meals you could whip up for dinner. Who knew a bit of rice could be so fancy, and not to mention utterly delicious. As long as you prepare all your ingreients in advance, you’ve got the stock gently simmering and you’re happy to rhythmically give the rice a stir; it’s dare I say it, quite easy.
This recipe is inspired by the very first risotto I ever attempted – a lemon risotto by Nigella Lawson. It’s simply flavoured with fresh rosemary, zesty lemon and sharp parmesan. It’s the ultimate comfort food to come home to, and in true Nigella fashion, the indulgence factor goes through the roof with the addition of egg yolk and double cream. In my version, I’ve included the egg and cream as optional decadent additions, should you so wish to indulge. Otherwise, it’s just as delightful (and less guilt-inducing) without the extras!
Creamy Chicken Risotto
- 2L chicken stock
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 300g chicken thigh fillets, diced into 2cm cubes
- 60g butter
- 1 tablespoon extra olive oil
- 100g button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 sticks celery, finely diced
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 500g risotto rice
- 2 litres chicken stock
- ½ lemon (zest and juice)
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 120g grated parmesan
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 egg yolks
- 120ml cream
- Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan (and keep it at simmering point).
- Dice the zucchini into small cubes, about the size of a pea. Sprinkle liberally with salt, toss into a colander leave to drain for 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients (the salt will extract any bitter zucchini juices).
- Wash the asparagus and trim the woody ends. Slice off the tips at a diagonal, and then slice the remaining stalks into 1cm rounds. Set aside.
- In a separate medium saucepan, heat the tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add half of the cubed chicken, and brown on all sides for 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
- In the same pan, heat the butter and extra olive oil over medium heat until the butter is bubbling. Add the onion, celery and thyme and sweat off for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. At this stage, rinse the chopped zucchini of the excess salt and set aside with the asparagus.
- Add the rice to the saucepan and stir to coat each grain well in the butter and oil mix. Add the chopped mushrooms and stir through. Pour a ladleful of the hot stock onto the rice and stir constantly until the stock has been absorbed. Continue to add the stock one ladleful at a time, stirring continuously and not adding more stock until the previous addition has been absorbed. After adding about 4 ladles, add the browned chicken, zucchini and asparagus and stir to combine. If using the egg yolk and cream, mix together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Continue adding more stock and stir, until the rice is al dente (it should no longer be chalky, but still have some bite – the best way to tell is to taste!), then take it off the heat. You may not need all of the stock, and likewise, you may need to add hot water from the kettle.
- To finish, remove from the heat and add the lemon zest, rosemary, lemon juice, parmesan and pepper to the risotto. If you’ve chosen the optional extra – pour in the egg and cream mixture. Give it a final stir to incorporate and have a taste to check for seasoning (add more grated parmesan if needed). Then serve immediately. Bellisimo!