♥ 80g of arborio risotto rice per person
♥ a ball of mozzarella
♥ a few slices of parma ham per person
♥ a jug of vegetable stock at the ready
♥ a knob of butter
♥ a couple of cloves of garlic
♥ a red onion
♥ a bag of spinach
♥ a cheeky dash of white wine
♥ as much parmigiana reggiano cheese as you fancy
this is probably one of my favourite meals so far. i came across it in a restaurant in prague last easter and instantly wanted, no needed, to recreate it.
the key to a good risotto is preparation. you need to have all your ingredients chopped, boiled, grated and on stand by to avoid any disastrous consequences. rice stuck to the bottom of a pan is just never good in the washing up pile. and it doesn't taste half as good either.
so for this recipe, begin by putting the kettle on to make the stock. there are no rules on how much to make, but as i said you don't want any unexpected rice-sticking situations so go for one cube and the biggest jug you can.
next chop up your onion and garlic. you also need about two handfuls per person of roughly chopped spinach, but keep some if you want to decorate with afterwards. plus the spinach leaves taste AMAZING with the parma ham parcels.
you also need to chop the mozzarella into slices. i'd say you get about six to eight per ball. wrap the parma ham around the slices and arrange on a tray to grill later. this is something i sometimes leave to do whilst the rice is absorbing the stock, just so i don't get too impatient. though this is with experience. well, i say experience, more just overdosing on risotto.
you will also need to grate some parm reg. this may seem like a lot of prep, but think how excited you'll be will all the little bowls of ingredients around you. it'll feel like masterchef. maybe even invite a bald cockney and a dr fox lookalike round to taste and judge your masterpiece.
okay so now you can start. begin by throwing the knob of butter into a pan (literally if you like, everyone loves an ainsley harriott) followed by the onions. keep it on a low heat as you only want to soften them. if it starts looking like the onion grill/pit at a fast food van, stop and begin again. the better you do the onions, the nicer the risotto will be. if they are burnt then you will really taste it later.
next add the chopped garlic. again make sure they do not go much more than a golden brown as if they do your risotto will have a bitter taste.
drum roll please. you are now ready to add the risotto rice. add the rice to just the onions and garlic at first to lightly toast and infuse the rice. then after no more than a minute, add a dash of the stock.
then next part is a waiting game. keep adding the water bit by bit over about half an hour and stirring to keep the rice moist. nurture it as it were your child. no walking off to check your facebook feed or re-organise your blackberry contacts, oh no. you may also add a little wine or black pepper to taste.
about five minutes before you think the risotto is ready, put the parma ham parcels under the grill on a medium heat. at about the same time, stir in the chopped spinach to the mixture. and lastly, stir in some grated parm reg to taste. the more you put in the creamier your risotto will be. i would say less is more, as you could add more cheese on top later.
these last few steps should mean that your risotto and parcels are ready at the same time. the risotto will be ready when the rice has softened and there is no watery stock left in the pan. the parcels will be ready when they look crispy and the cheese is melted, as in my picture.
serve and arrange with the parcels and a few spinach leaves on top. perhaps a crunchy twist of black pepper and a sprinkle of parm reg to finish. and then, enjoy!
oh, and if you need any more convincing of how amazingly tasty this dish is. i actually spent an extra ten days in prague due to the icelandic volcano flight cancellations. and this, my friends, is what got me through.