My first taste of risotto was in a way side cafe in Florence, Italy. My family i.e. mom dad aunt and uncle were on this 3 nation Europe tour and by the second country, Italy, we were tired of eating bread and sandwiches. As an Indian and that too a Bengali, you are bound to crave for rice sooner or later. So having flown in form London, the Mediterranean coast looked gorgeous, colourful and sunny, but that did little to put our minds of rice and home cooked lentil soup.
So there we were in one of the most artistic cities of Europe and all we could think of was home cooked food, which was, sadly 10 more days wait. So for dinner we settled for a roadside cafe on Piazza della Signoria just off Uffizi Gallery. The waiter who took our orders recommended risotto, and I had never heard of this dish before. For me Italian food was all all about pasta and pizza and by pasta, I mean the creamy ones. This sounded like a new thing. Except the waiter explained the whole thing in Italian and we did not understand a word of what he was saying. With a little help from the dictionary and a very helpful waiter we could make out that risotto was made from rice and that was good enough for us.
I do not remember what happened that evening, was it the ambiance of the piazza or the peach flavoured wine, all I know is that I took one bite rather one spoonful of the risotto and I was in food heaven. I lost all sensation of my upper body, I felt like I was floating, comfort food personified sort of like a big bear hug. That night I fell in love with risotto, nothing fancy, yet a touch of elegance, old world charm and ever since risotto has continued to top my chart of favourite food.
But mind you risotto and healthy eating do not go hand in hand. It is rich creamy, liberal doze of wine, all that you should avoid if you are a health freak, but meh!!! who cares, in my world once in a while, risotto gets the upper hand. However, over the years I have made many different kinds of risotto but a few months back I came across a risotto recipe by Chef Vikas Khanna and he used Basmati rice instead of the traditional shot grain arborio rice. The best thing about this is that it is lower on carbohydrates, makes you feel less heavy yet it tastes as good.
- 1/4th cup of good quality olive oil
- Unsalted butter 2 table spoon
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper chopped ( you can use any colour)
- 1 cup rice
- 1/2 cup white wine preferably dry
- A pinch of saffron threads
- 4/5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 10/15 thinly sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup of grated cheese ( hard cheese that is ) Parmesan or Romano or Gouda
- black pepper crushed
- lime juice
- Start by warming 1/4th cup of milk with the saffron and set it aside. Next in a flat heavy bottom pan or deep pan skillet heat the olive oil and the butter and add the shallots and garlic to it. Saute, till the garlic turns golden and the shallots are pale pink in colour. Make sure you do not burn them.
- Now add the bell pepper and the mushroom and saute until they are tender but not brown. Next add the rice and cook till it is opaque.
- Right about now add the wine. When the rice has absorbed the wine add the saffron milk and enough broth to cover the rice ( about a cup)
- Continue this process till the rice is tender and cooked but not mushy, this should take about 20-25 mins. When the rice is cooked it should be saucy. Right about now add the grated cheese ans stir gently, till the cheese has melted and blended properly with the rice.
- Transfer to a serving dish and finish it off with coarsely ground black pepper lime juice and chopped parsley.
- If you are using arborio rice the cooking time may be slightly longer say add an extra 5-10 mins more
- If you like the rice to be even more creamy , you can add 1/2 cup of heavy cream ( I skip this step) when you add the cheese
- Pair it with a Peach wine.