Valentine’s Day – something and nothing?

saffron

For a keen ‘risottista’ it certainly is a something. Making risotto is a love affair. From the moment you drop the onion soffritto into the pan of gently melting butter to the final shower of parmesan and a slow scarpetta around the plate to make sure you haven’t left one last grain, it demands your constant devotion.

There are rules to abide by, time and patience to be given and undivided attention to the task is required. Above all, things must never be rushed. So take yourself a recipe; Saffron risotto would be my choice, simple, rich, elegant and delicious. Pour two deep glasses of Amarone for yourself and let’s call them X. Gently dice, ladle, measure and melt according to the recipe. Let X do the talking and refilling while you dedicate yourself to the highest quality ingredients slowly adding and gently stirring to turn them into a warm creamy, golden dish.

Lay out a wooden board of thinly sliced salumi, a bowl of peppery leaves tossed in a light fresh olive oil. Take the lid off the risotto after the allotted three minute ‘sit’ and spoon it into large bowls. Spread the grains to the side, or let it cool and eat as it has fallen into the bowl, spoon it, fork it, or as its Valentine’s Day… well, I’ll leave it to you as to you as to how you devour your feast!

Saffron Risotto or Risotto Milanese

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 85g Parmesan cheese
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 85g butter
  • 350g Vialone Nano or Carneroli rice
  • Half a glass of dry white wine
  • 12-16 saffron threads
  • Salt & pepper

Cooking instructions

In a saucepan, bring the chicken stock to the boil and down to a simmer. Melt half the butter in a deep heavy-bottomed pan with sloping sides over a medium heat, then saute the onion until translucent. Add the rice and continue to saute stirring to coat with the butter and onion mixture and being careful not to brown by using too high a heat. It is at this point that you should hear the rice clicking against the side of the pan as you stir. Add the wine and boil for a minute stirring all the time.

Add a ladleful of simmering stock and stir until it is absorbed. As soon as it is, add another ladleful and continue to repeat this process until the stock is nearly finished. Throughout the cooking of the rice, you must stir constantly, being sure to push the spoon firmly – but not roughly – against the sides and base of the pan to prevent any rice from sticking.

After 15 minutes, add the saffron threads and the remaining stock. Taste; the rice should be al dente, ie tender but firm to the bite but not chalky. If insufficiently cooked, add boiling water a ladleful at a time until it is.

When you are satisfied that the risotto is cooked, draw the pan off the heat and stir in the remaining butter and the Parmesan. Season, if necessary. Cover and leave to stand for 2-3 minutes. Stir once more just before serving.

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