Simple but delicious recipe for a quick weekday meal
With supermarket shelves emptying and many of us stuck indoors, it seems like a good time to share one of my store-cupboard favourites. I am a huge fan of risotto. For some reason I found them a bit intimidating when I was younger, and people always seem to find them strangely impressive. I said strangely because I think they are honestly one of the easiest things to cook. They’ve become a real go-to for me – they’re easy to adapt for what ingredients you have to hand, they’re simple to adjust for numbers (as easily cooked for one as for eight) and they are enormously comforting. A big bowl of tasty rice is hard to beat. Smoked salmon is one of the most straightforward options, as you can throw it together with things from your freezer, and you end up with a fairly balanced meal. It’s so much easier than cooking a fish from scratch too.
- Olive Oil Doesn’t matter whether you have extra virgin or not
- Smoked Salmon The ‘cuttings’ or pieces are totally fine, as you’re going to chop it up anyway, and are usually much cheaper!
- Arborio Rice Sometimes just called risotto rice
- Vegetable or fish stock Cubes are fine!
- Garlic One or two cloves should suffice
- Lemon juice Fresh is always nicest, but the bottled stuff will do nicely
- Frozen peas Type doesn’t matter much, but petit poi are always sweet
- Cream If you have any. If not, milk (or even none at all) will be totally ok
- Start off by measuring out your rice. I tend to do this by eye as I’ve done it so many times, but there should be guidelines on the pack for you to follow.
- Crush or finely chop your garlic, and add it to a large pan with the olive oil, over a low- to mid-heat. I’m an obsessive wok user, and perhaps controversially, I think a wok is ideal for making risotto. If you like you can leave out the garlic, but I’m of the opinion that the more garlic the merrier, and rarely go without it.
- Add your rice to the pan when the garlic has been cooking for a few minutes. Gently stir the rice around the pan so that it is evenly heated.
- Look out for when the rice starts to go slightly transparent around the edges. Once all the grains are showing this you’re ready to add your stock. Pour in about a quarter to a third of your measured liquid. I’m quite gung-ho when it comes to measuring the liquid. It’s seen as an exact science, but if you’re careful to add it gradually, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting the right texture.
- Keep adding the stock slowly, stirring occasionally, with the rice over a mid-heat. You can also pop in your lemon juice. This is to taste, but you shouldn’t need more than a good squeeze, probably less than half a lemon’s worth. Also add in some cracked pepper for a bit of warmth and depth.
- When you’ve added nearly all the liquid, and the rice is close to an al dente finish, pour in a glug of cream. Adjust the amount depending on the thickness of the cream (you’ll want a bit less double cream than single cream) – it’s more about taste than adding more liquid. If you’re using milk, add about twice as much, earlier in the process. Milk will add considerably more liquid, and will cool the mixture down, so you need to allow a bit more time for it to cook.
- Let the cream cook in, and add small amounts of liquid until you’re getting a firm but not too bitey texture. You don’t want to add to much or you’ll get a soggy and stodgy risotto.
- When you’re pretty happy with your rice, pour in your chopped smoked salmon and some peas. You want this to be as soon as possible before serving. The peas should be at that ‘only just cooked’ point when you eat them. There’s nothing that ruins a meal quite as quickly as overcooked peas. The salmon will cook a little and flake apart nicely.
- Now all you have to do is serve it and eat! You’ll find it hard to resist going back for seconds, or indeed thirds! It will keep all right in the fridge for a day or so, but make sure that you cook it through thoroughly on the hob, not in the microwave, before eating (and expect the texture to be a bit different!).
There’s nothing particularly gourmet about this dish, but it makes a good weekday staple. It’s quick and easy, and you can vary it with different fish, vegetables and so on. It works well with prawns (although you must be careful to cook them thoroughly), and some sprigs of fresh dill (dried doesn’t have the same impact). With just three pretty easy to store base ingredients – smoked salmon, rice and stock cubes – you can make yourself a satisfyingly simple meal.
I hope some of you will enjoy giving this recipe a try! What are your store-cupboard go-tos? I’ll try to post a few more of my regular favourites, but if you’re looking for inspiration you should check out the undisputed leader of the genre: Jack Monroe, of Cooking on a Bootstrap. They’re doing a fantastic thing on Twitter at the moment called #JackMonroesLockdownLarder, with great suggestions as to what to cook during self-isolation, so do take a look!