Oxtail Ragu

Beefy oxtail ragu makes a delicious rich sauce for pasta. Serves 4 as a main or 6-8 as a starter. Takes a few hours to cook, but not much time to prepare. Great to make the day before needed and this also makes it easier to remove the layer of fat from the casserole before serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 leek if you have it
  • 2 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1kg Oxtail
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig sage with 2 large leaves

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 140C fan
  2. Chop the carrot, onion, celery and leek into a fine dice.
  3. Make a soffrito (Heat the olive oil and add the diced veg and the garlic and sweat them off in a casserole pot till cooked but not browned)
  4. While the soffrito is cooking brown the oxtail pieces in a frying pan with some of the olive oil
  5. Add the browned oxtail to the casserole
  6. Add the herbs and pour in the red wine and bring to a simmer
  7. Put the casserole in the oven and cook for 4-5 hours until there is a rich dark sauce and the oxtail is tender
  8. Once cooked take the casserole from the oven and let it cool enough that the oxtail can be removed to a plate to strip the meat from the bones. Collect the meat in a bowl.
  9. Remove the herb stalks
  10. The casserole of ragu will have a decent layer of fat. Either skim this off with a large spoon and discard. Or, chill the sauce in the fridge overnight and the fat will harden and can be easily removed.
  11. To serve, recombine the pieces of oxtail meat with the ragu in a small pot and heat
Best with a chunky pasta like pappardelle. Serve a portion of pasta in a pasta bowl, spoon over some ragu. Serve with a cheese like pecorino or ossau iraty.
Variant
  • This would also make a lovely ravioli. Perhaps 3 medium sized ravioli with homemade pasta per person. With a some of the ragu, with only a small amount of sauce, for the filling. Use the rest of the sauce to dress the ravioli. Perhaps some sort of creamy horseradish drizzle would lift it to something pretty special.

Risotto Alla Milanese – Great With Osso Buco

Risotto Alla Milanese is a simple saffron risotto often served with Osso Buco.
The texture and wetness of the risotto is important. There is nothing worse then claggy, stodgy risotto. Equally, you don’t want it too soupy, especially if serving with Osso Buco which will have a wet gravy. If, when it has rested it seems too “dry” then adding a ladle of the remaining stock can loosen it up just before serving.
Traditionally this also had some bone marrow in it. I don’t even attempt this, for two reasons. Firstly, it’s much harder to get. Secondly, it’s very rich and if you are serving this with Osso Buco, which is already rich, then it’s all a bit too much.

Ingredients

  • 25-30g butter
  • 1 medium onion very finely chopped
  • Risotto rice, 80-100g per person
  • 100ml of white wine or vermouth
  • A good pinch of saffron
  • About 500ml of chicken stock. You need to vary for the number of portions and rice quantities, but start using boiling water if you run short.
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated, adjust to taste
  • 25-40g cold butter, cubed

Method

  1. To make the risotto start by softening the onion gently till it is soft. This can take 10-20 minutes. You don’t want colour, no golden onions here.
  2. Put the stock pot beside the risotto pot and warm it up till it’s at the gentlest simmer, put a ladle in the pot.
  3. Add the rice and stir until the grains are hot and well coated in the butter
  4. Add the vermouth or wine and let it simmer down, the alcohol will burn off
  5. Add some salt, probably about a teaspoon, you can adjust at the end. Remember the butter might be salted.
  6. Now ladle stock, a couple of ladlefuls at a time, into the rice. Stir the rice more or less continuously until the stock is mainly absorbed, then add some more of the stock, and continue. The stirring brings out the starch and creates the creaminess of texture.
  7. After the first ladleful add the saffron. I put two-thirds in a mortar and pestle and grind it, washing the grounds out with a little of the stock into the risotto pot. Add the remaining threads, these are nice to see in the finished risotto.
  8. You have to test the grains to see if it is ready. Cooking will take 15-20 minutes. When the rice grains are just losing their dry firmness in the centre it’s time to stop.
  9. Now for the “mantecatura”, which is just making it creamy. Add the half the parmesan, and the cold butter cubes. Beat these in with a wooden spoon for a minute or so till all is incorporated and creamy.
  10. Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of parmesan and freshly ground pepper.

Osso Buco – An Italian Classic

Raw veal shank slices for Osso Buco
Raw veal shank slices for Osso Buco

Osso Buco is a classic Italian dish. It is slices of veal shin, slow cooked in a wine and stock gravy, with the bone in. It literally means bones with holes. Nowadays you should use high welfare rose veal from the UK.

The quantities suite 4 people, reduce as required. Some recipes have a little tomato passata or puree in them but I don’t think this is required.
The Gremolata is a great addition to the dish because the sauce is rich and buttery. It cuts right through. The lemon zest and parsley gives a fabulous zing. Some recipes have crushed garlic in the gremolata but I omit as I find it can be a bit too raw and electric flavoured. Add what you like. I chop the parsley onto a board and then zest the lemon skin over the chopped parsley, this works well.
Traditionally served with Risotto alla Milanese which is a simple saffron risotto.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 25g flour, to dust
  • 4 pieces of veal shin, about 4cm thick, if you can get them, or if they are thinner that’s fine, they may be slightly quicker to cook. You don’t need to trim any fat from this as it will mostly render down, and the outer ring holds the piece together.
  • 50g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, cut horizontally
  • 2 strips of lemon zest, just slice down the side of a lemon cutting the yellow rind off, about 2cm wide
  • 4 sage leaves, if they are very large then reduce the quantity, sage is a powerful flavour and needs to be in balance
  • 200ml white wine
  • 200ml good chicken stock
For the gremolata
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zest finely grated. If you can’t get unwaxed them just rub and wash a lemon to remove the wax.
  • 3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Method

  1. Use a hob-proof casserole dish wide enough to hold the meat in one layer, over a high heat, and add the oil. Put the flour on to a small plate and season generously, then use to coat the meat. When the oil is hot, add the meat to the pan and brown well on both sides until golden and crusted. Set aside on a plate. You will probably get enough salt from the seasoned flour so don’t add more till you check the seasoning when it’s cooked.
  2. Turn the heat down and add three-quarters of the butter to the pan. When melted, add the onion, carrot and celery, plus a sprinkle of salt, and cook until soft. Add the garlic halves, lemon zest and sage to the pan and cook for a few minutes more.
  3. Turn up the heat then add the wine to the pan. Return the meat, standing it on top of the vegetables, and bubble until the wine has reduced by half. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Turn the heat right down, cover and simmer for one and a half to two hours, carefully turning the meat over every 30 minutes, until it is tender enough to cut with a spoon. Meanwhile, mix together the gremolata ingredients.
  5. Dot with the remaining butter and allow to melt into the sauce, then serve with the gremolata and Risotto alla Milanese or wet polenta.

Tortilla With Chorizo – A Spanish Classic

Tortilla with Chorizo and a Salad
Tortilla with Chorizo and a Salad

Many countries have their own version of an open omelette like this Tortilla with Chorizo. The Italians have frittata, the Spanish tortilla. In France it is Spanish omelette. You can make this veggie by adding more onion and no chorizo. Red pepper could appear, it’s up to you.

The time-consuming part of the recipe can be done in advance. That’s cooking the onion and potato with the herbs. It can be done well in advance, then reheated and cooking the chorizo for a few minutes, before adding the egg and spinach.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g/14oz new (salad, waxy) potatoes, cut into 1.5cm pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 tsp Espelette pepper or smoked paprika, and perhaps some hot paprika or chilli powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 120g cooking chorizo, cut into small dice
  • 15g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 80g spinach, chopped
  • 8 free-range eggs, beaten

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C Fan
  2. Heat the oil a medium sauté pan or frying pan with a lid over a medium heat. Gently fry the potatoes, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, Espelette pepper and salt for 13–15 minutes. Stir regularly to avoid any colouring.
  3. Add the chorizo and fry for 5 minutes with the lid on so the flavours mingle.
  4. Pick out the bay leaves any large sprigs of herb, then add the parsley and spinach and stir for 30 seconds. I put the lid on to cause the spinach to wilt down slightly, otherwise, it can be a bit unruly. Remove from the heat, add the eggs and stir until evenly mixed.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into a 20cm non-stick, ovenproof frying pan (or, if it is suitable just use the pan you have been cooking with) and place in the oven for 15 minutes, until cooked. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before turning out on to a board or a large serving dish.
  6. Cut the tortilla into 4–6 wedge-shaped slices and serve warm.
Tortilla with Chorizo offers hundreds of opportunities for interpretation using different vegetables and herbs – be as creative as you like.

Beef Stroganoff – A ’70s Classic

Beef Stroganoff is a really nice dish much maligned by its ‘70s reputation. There are lot’s of variants, but here’s mine. Another tip of the hat to Felicity Cloake.
Key points in this are:
  • You are preparing a sauce for a steak with onion, mushroom, stock and soured cream
  • Then you are essentially cooking a steak to your preference, with seasoning, and letting it rest before cutting into strips
  • Serve the steak and sauce together with rice or frites or sauteed potatoes.
These quantities should serve 4, about half a steak per person. Adjust quantities for your preferences.
Some of this can be made in advance, specifically cooking the onions and the mushrooms. It’s then just a case of cooking the steak and amalgamating all the other ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-sized sirloin steak
  • Salt
  • Ground allspice (I think this needs to be here as a flavour element, but find your own strength preference. I like a light sprinkle on the steak)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 300g white or chestnut mushrooms, left whole if small, or cut in halves or quarters
  • 250ml sour cream
  • 1 tbsp Sarepska or Dijon or English mustard to your taste
  • 150ml beef stock (I find the decent supermarket liquid stocks pretty good and a lot less faff than making your own. They have long shelf lives too. If you have homemade then use it. You also will get something like 500ml in the supermarket stock. Freeze the leftovers in measured amounts, say two bags of 150ml, and they can be used for future adventures.)

Method

  1. Allow the steak to rest out of the fridge for about hour to come to room temperature (you should always do that anyway.)
  2. Melt the butter in a pan and cook the onions gently till they are soft, this usually takes 20-30 minutes
  3. Remove the onions onto a plate to the side and cook the mushrooms to your liking, also removing them when cooked and set aside with the onions
  4. Now add the mustard and soured cream to the empty pan, stirring to amalgamate.
  5. Whisk in the beef stock, slowly at first as this makes it easier to incorporate
  6. Add the onions and mushroom back to the pan and bring back to a simmer. At this stage the sauce is ready and you reduce/taste/season as much as you prefer.
  7. Before cooking season the steaks to your taste with salt and the ground allspice
  8. Now cook the steaks to your preferred amount. I like medium rare.
  9. Let the cooked steaks rest just as you would normally do for about 5 minutes
  10. Just before serving you can cut the steak up. Depending on preference you can trim the fat or leave. Cut across the steak into 1cm wide strips.
I don’t cook the steak further or add it to the sauce as this can make it chewy, in my opinion.
How to serve? It’s up to you. I like it with rice. So I serve in a bowl with plain basmati rice. Then I spoon over the sauce, and then I add the strips of beef on top so they can be seen. You might prefer the beef first and then the stock. It can probably stand a small sprinkle of fresh chopped parsley
Traditionally it’s served with a sort of straw potatoes or frites but this can create quite a bit of last-minute cooking, making chips to be crisp etc. Or buy some frites from M&S. Would also work with some rosemary roasted new potatoes I think.

Sausage Casserole with Tomatoes and Harissa

Cooked Sausage Casserole with Tomatoes and Harissa
Sausage Casserole with Tomatoes and Harissa
Sausage Casserole with Tomatoes and Harissa makes a lovely TV dinner as it can easily be served in a bowl with a slice of crusty bread and butter. The quantities below are enough for two people but can be increased very easily for a larger crowd.

The sauce is quite liquid because of the stock but this works well, especially if you use bread to mop it up.

For the harissa, you need to find the level that works for you. I like it to have a mild harissa flavour and a little spicy heat, but not too much.

I generally use Cumberland sausage, but any could work. I don’t think I’d like anything too strongly flavoured or conflicting to allow the flavours of the spicy tomato sauce to shine through. Avoid creating a competing flavour dimension because that won’t work so well.

Based on a Nigel Slater idea. There are hundreds of sausage casserole recipes and it’s hard to go wrong if you vary the ingredients a bit. Have fun experimenting.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 large sausages
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2-3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2-3 tsp harissa (I often have rose harissa and this works fine)
  • 4 medium tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 200ml of chicken stock

Method

  1. Brown the sausages in an ovenproof dish in some of the oil. Turn them regularly so they brown as evenly. Set the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Remove the sausages once browned.
  2. Add the remaining oil and the onion to the pan and cook till it is slightly softened and golden
  3. Add the finely chopped leaves from the rosemary sprigs to the onions with a pinch of salt
  4. Add the Harissa and the roughly chopped tomatoes, cooking them for a few minute to soften them
  5. Add the beans and the stock and bring the mix to a boil
  6. Put the sausages back in the pan, season with some salt and pepper
  7. Bake in the oven for a further 25 minutes

 Variants

  • Add any root vegetables you prefer, you might want to reduce the beans a bit: potatoes, carrot, parsnip, turnip, fennel
  • Other vegetables could make an appearance eg. some sweet red pepper
  • Stir in some baby spinach when you remove the casserole from the oven. It will incorporate in a minute or two.
  • Some herbs might work well, specifically flat leaf parsley, perhaps some oregano.

Aloo Gobi – A Lovely Vegetarian Dish

This Aloo Gobi is based on a Felicity Cloake recipe. It’s fabulous.
You can get harder to find ingredients here Spices of India. This is where I buy less common spices and I bought my Methi and Nigella Seeds.
Generally, I make it with tinned tomatoes though fresh ones might be nice if you can get good ones in summer. Because of the tomatoes, it is slightly acidic. Felicity Cloake suggests adding the juice of half a lime at the end and I omitted as I felt it wasn’t needed. Your mileage may vary.
Cooking the potatoes well before adding the cauliflower is an important point, as the potatoes take a good bit longer to cook. Otherwise, the cauliflower florets can really break up before the potato cooks.
With a decently sized cauliflower, I had a good bit more cauliflower than potatoes, but this was no bad thing. That made me add some more tomatoes and some extra methi etc to balance it out the sauce. I think the quantities flex pretty freely without destroying the recipe. So, if you like it more “saucy” then increase the tomatoes, onion and spices a bit.
I like it quite “hot” and used red Kashmiri mirch chilli, it’s very good. Serving with some nice yoghurt can cool it down and the yoghurt works well with it anyway.
The methi is essential to the Aloo Gobi, the recipe usually suggests adding it at the end. Despite this I do think the curry benefits from being allowed to cool and rest in the fridge overnight after adding the methi; it really seems to develop the flavour.
The Aloo Gobi is delicious served on its own with some bread – your choice – naan, chapati, etc. Or, it is a great side dish for a wider Indian meal.
Though it’s not traditional I liked some frozen peas added for 5-10 minutes at the reheating stage.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp nigella seeds (though these look like Onion Seeds, they ain’t – they are different.)
  • 350g waxy potatoes, cut into 2cm dice (remember the larger the potato pieces the slower they are to cook. I think the smaller ones are better too.)
  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets slightly larger than the potato
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes, or 5 chopped medium fresh tomatoes and 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted in a dry pan and ground
  • ½-1 tsp chilli powder (I used 1 tsp of Kashmiri mirch, a hot powder, which also gives a reddish colour)
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2-4 small green chillies, slit along their length (I left the seeds in)
  • 1 tsp salt (the potatoes, cauliflower and tomato can all stand salt so taste at the end as you may need more.)
  • 1 tbsp methi (dried fenugreek leaves – these are an essential flavour component in my opinion.)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped, for serving
  • Yoghurt for serving if preferred

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a wide, lidded pan over a medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the cumin and nigella seeds and cook for a few seconds until they pop, then add the potatoes and sauté until golden. Scoop out the potatoes with a slotted spoon and then repeat with the cauliflower, then scoop this too out into a separate bowl.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add a little more oil if necessary, and add the onion. Cook until soft and golden but not brown, then stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes. Tip in the tomatoes, ground coriander, chilli and turmeric and cook, stirring regularly, until the oil begins to pool around the side of the pan.
  3. Add the potatoes back in along with the fresh chillies and salt, bring to a simmer, turn down the heat, cover and cook for as long as it takes to cook the potatoes.
  4. Add the cauliflower only once the potatoes are cooked, and add a good splash of water, cover and cook until both are tender, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick and adding more water if necessary. Don’t overcook the cauliflower or it will disintegrate. If you think you will be re-heating then just leave it slightly al dente.
  5. Take off the heat, stir in the methi and garam masala and leave for 10 minutes
  6. Either serve the Aloo Gobi right away with coriander and yoghurt, or cool and fridge overnight, or freeze, all work well. (I really think leaving at least overnight helps massively. The methi seems to work its magic if left for a while.)

Apple Tray Bake

A nine year old harvesting apples by climbing the tree
Harvesting Apples

I always think of Apple Tray Bake as a lovely Autumn comfort treat. Basically, it is a sponge with chunks of cooking apple baked in it. The sweet warm sponge with contrasting slightly sharp apple is fabulous. We get a small glut of Bramley apples from the tree in our garden. First get a nine-year-old to climb the tree to pick the apples….

Serve this as a warm treat with your afternoon cup of tea. Or serve in portions with some warm custard on the side. Sure, you can make your own custard, but there’s not much wrong with the supermarket chilled stuff. Or, I grew up with custard made with Bird’s custard powder and until I was an adult I had no idea it could be made any other way. I loved it.

An old family recipe book.
Our old recipe book

This is one of these recipes that gets handed down. Our original version as written in our old recipe book shows its age. It’s all in ounces and tablespoons. And it uses margarine instead of butter. I grew up with pretty much all baking made with margarine but nowadays I tend to use butter. Also, I tend to use grams instead of ounces nowadays.

Times are changing. I grew up with pretty much all baking made with margarine but nowadays I tend to use butter. Also, I tend to stick to grams instead of ounces. Though I still use tablespoon and teaspoon measures. For temperatures, I use Celsius rather than Fahrenheit.

Ingredients

  • 110g Butter at room temperature
  • 110g Sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 220g Self-raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • about 300g Cooking apples
  • 80-90ml cold milk

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160-170C fan
  2. Look out a tray or ceramic dish. The one we use is a rectangular ceramic dish that is about 5cm deep and 25cmx17cm in size. Anything around this size will work. Lightly butter the dish.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon or a mixer
  4. Peel and chop the apples. Make them about 1cm thick and about 2-3cm in size. You need chunks so they don’t disappear into the sponge in the cooking.
  5. Beat the egg into the mix
  6. Sieve the flour and salt into the mixture
  7. Mix in the milk until there is a workable sponge mix, quite thick and not too runny
  8. Add the apples and stir them through
  9. Scrape the mix into your tray.
  10. Bake in the oven for about 40-50 minutes. We test it with a skewer to check it’s cooked. It will depend on the shape and depth of your tray.

Variations

  • You could reduce the apples a bit and add some blackberries, a classic combination, and the lovely purple-red staining from the berries will make it visually interesting too
  • Vanilla, it always splits opinion, you could a teaspoonful

We let the Apple Tray Bake cool till warm in the tray and then cut it into a grid of portions (they need to be a decent size, in my opinion!) and eat some warm with a cuppa. You will want to have it later for pudding, served with your favourite custard. If you have leftovers for the following day they really benefit from 15 seconds in the microwave.

Out of the Frying Pan

Three different kinds of frying pans
Three different frying pans

If you cook for yourself a reasonable amount then I think you need three different kinds of frying pan. I have six frying pans, only because I have two sizes of each type. They can be remarkably inexpensive. Or, you can spend a fortune, but I’m not sure it will make any difference to your end result.

I own three kinds of frying pan, cast iron, non-stick, stainless steel. Here’s what I use them for and this will explain why I have three types. The duplicates for size is for larger and smaller quantities, fairly self-explanatory. I use all three frying pan types very regularly depending on what I am cooking.

Cast Iron Pan
Cast Iron Pan

Cast Iron

I’ve had this pan for about twenty years. I bought it from the back of one of those old style ironmonger and hardware stores you just don’t seem to get any longer. It cost me £10. It has a thick gauge and a good heavy base. This makes it heavy to lift. But it holds a lot of heat and is fabulous for cooking things that need a good hot pan, typically steaks or searing a joint of meat, or pan frying a fish to get a nice crisp skin. Like all cast iron pans, you must look after it. It needs to be seasoned before first using, which is basically just burning a film of oil onto the pan with as much heat as you can muster (like putting it in your oven turned up to the maximum.) After seasoning, it builds up a non-stick coating.

A well-seasoned pan can easily cook things like fried eggs with no sticking.  Always wash your cast iron frying pan with hot water only. This maintains the slightly oily non-stick effect. In practice, I find washing the frying pan is very easy. Putting it in the dishwasher, or using detergent, would ruin it and you would need to start seasoning it again. It’s also unsuitable for cooking liquid type sauces that would degrade the coating. A tomato sauce will cause the seasoning to be degraded because it is quite acidic. That’s why I have a stainless steel pan.

Thick Stainless Steel Frying Pan Base
Stainless Steel Frying Pan Base

Stainless Steel

This is the pan I turn to for cooking things that have sauces that will otherwise degrade the seasoning on my cast iron pan, eg. tomato-based sauces. I cook all my wet sauces in this pan. The pan has a good heavy base and also a lid. It works really well when softening onions, or making a soffrito. I can safely put this pan in the dishwasher and it saves a lot of effort. I know that some people will season these and you can get them fairly non-stick. But if it’s non-stick I need I either use my non-stick pan or my cast iron pan.

Non-Stick

Non-Stick Frying Pan
Non-Stick Frying Pan

I think everybody needs a non-stick frying pan. It’s not something I use all the time but, for those essentials, like an omelette, they are indispensable. I have two sizes and I usually cook my fried eggs in them too. Anything that might stick a bit to my cast iron pan, like a skinless wet fish fillet, get’s the non-stick treatment. If you use wooden or plastic utensils, and don’t overheat the pan, the non-stick coating lasts a while.

My other strategy is to buy a medium quality pan. The really cheap pans often lose their coating very quickly and then they are only fit for recycling. Equally, I think that some of the very expensive pans don’t really last much longer than the medium quality pans. So my approach is to buy a reasonably durable medium priced pan and be prepared to simply replace them when they start to fail every few years. The fact that they just slot into the dishwasher nicely is another virtue.

Chicken Risotto – A Simple Italian Classic

This is a really fabulous Chicken Risotto. It’s worth taking the effort to cook a whole chicken and use the stock and meat to make the risotto. It’s not really that much work and depending on the number of portions you need you might have a left-over poached chicken breast for a fabulous sandwich on the following day.
In my opinion, you want to avoid strong partner flavours for this Chicken Risotto to allow the chicken flavour to shine through. Some folks think there is cream in the risotto but this would be a crime. It’s the mantecatura that makes the difference.
The texture and wetness of the Chicken Risotto is important. There is nothing worse then claggy, stodgy risotto. Equally, you don’t want it too soupy. If, when it has rested it seems too “dry” then adding a ladle of the remaining stock can loosen it up just before serving. Risotto really must be made and served as soon as it has rested for 5 minutes. If you keep it hanging around the rice will overcook, and absorb more liquid, and “dry up”, becoming a fairly unpleasant sticky, claggy, mess. Likewise, it’s not much good for leftovers that can be reheated.
Ingredients
  • A small to medium chicken
  • Some carrot, celery and onion to add to the chicken stock
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaf
  • 1-2 tbsp Olive oil, I just use plain olive oil, again to keep the flavour simple
  • 1 medium onion very finely chopped
  • Risotto rice, 80-100g per person
  • A glass of white wine or white vermouth, I generally use Noilly Prat
  • The chicken stock, there should be enough, but start using boiling water if you run short.
  • 100g frozen peas (optional)
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated, adjust to taste
  • A decent bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped just before you use it
  • 25-40g cold butter, cubed
  • The cold chicken meat, torn by hand into decent sized chunks. The chicken pieces need to be small enough to eat in one bite but should be as large as can be managed. Small shreds will just get lost and also be a bit fibrous to eat,
Method
  1. First, cook the chicken. Do this on the morning of the day you will have the risotto if you can, or the previous day if you chill the chicken and the stock in the fridge after cooking. Put the chicken in a pot or casserole suitable for the stove top. It should be tight fitting. You should add some carrot, celery and onion, a bay leaf, and some sprigs of thyme (a few peppercorns won’t go wrong.) Then top it up with water to just cover the chicken. Do not season at this stage. Bring it to the boil and poach at a very gentle simmer for between 60-75 minutes to cook the chicken.
  2. Cool the chicken, till it can be handled, in the stock to keep it moist
  3. Remove the chicken to a work board to pick the meat off the chicken, storing the cooked chicken in the fridge. Keep the breasts whole, you can tear them apart later when you put in the risotto.
  4. Drain the stock through a sieve into a pot. You will use the stock to cook the risotto, giving the chicken flavour to the cooked risotto.
  5. To make the risotto start by softening the onion gently till it is soft. This can take 10-20 minutes. You don’t want colour, no golden onions here. I don’t add celery to this risotto to keep the flavour simpler.
  6. Put the stock pot beside the risotto pot and warm it up till it’s at the gentlest simmer, put a ladle in the pot.
  7. Add the rice and stir until the grains are properly hot and well coated in the oil. You don’t want to brown them, but this tostada stage is important. They will begin to feel like they are sticking to the base of the pan and it’s essential to keep them moving. Once they are nicely hot then move on.
  8. Add the vermouth or wine and let it simmer down, the alcohol will burn off
  9. Add some salt, probably about a teaspoon, you can adjust at the end. Remember the butter might be salted.
  10. Now ladle stock, a couple of ladlefuls at a time, into the rice. Stir the rice more or less continuously until the stock is mainly absorbed, then add some more of the stock, and continue. The stirring brings out the starch and creates the creaminess of texture.
  11. You have to test the grains to see if it is ready. Cooking will take 15-20 minutes. When the rice grains are just losing their dry firmness in the centre they are ready.
  12. If using frozen peas add them now and stir for a minute or so till they are heated
  13. Now for the “mantecatura”, which is simply making it creamy. Add the half the parmesan, the parsley and the cold butter cubes. Beat these in with a wooden spoon for a minute or so till all is incorporated and creamy. Remember that you don’t want to overpower the flavour with parmesan, too little is better than too much.
  14. Stir in the chicken and set the pot somewhere warm to keep hot for about 5 minutes.
  15. Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of parmesan, parsley and freshly ground pepper.
Some folks add finely chopped celery at the onion cooking stage. I prefer a slightly less intense flavour to allow the chicken flavour to shine. If I was making Porcini Risotto I would probably add finely chopped celery alongside the onion. You can add more chopped thyme with the rice if you like a more herby flavour. The peas are fine because they maintain their shape and are lightly cooked so become little pea flavour pods in the finished Chicken Risotto.
For a nice textured Chicken Risotto with lumps of chicken, stir the chicken in last to avoid breaking it up by the mantecatura stage.