Easy Oven Baked Risotto
Tue 5th, Aug, 2014
I love risotto. I believe it could be the ultimate comfort food. I know exactly the first time I made it and I know how. It was back in the days when my life was pretty quiet…there certainly weren’t 3 herberts running about waiting to be fed. The young and naked Jamie Oliver hit BBC2 and Mr BC and I tuned in and were hooked by this guy who came roughly from the same area as us, only the other side of the water, and was cooking real food without all that fancy schmancy nouveau stuff that had been fashionable the decade before and was just kinda fun and uber-cool.
I fell hook, line and sinker for the guy from Essex, with his played up barrow boy persona and his passion for food, bought the book and started cooking…it all kinda linked in with the time we started going down to the South of France too, and me starting dabbling in new cooking, recipes and dinner…
One night, standing in my eighties kitchen we couldn’t afford to replace and before the days I became allergic to the things they now shove in wine, I was on a mission to make the risotto…if you are lucky enough, as I am, to own one of those original Jamie books, you’ll know that there is a recipe in there for ‘Basic Risotto’…as a total novice to this, it looks somewhat daunting, it’s a long, drawn out list of steps, which I guess was written to make it look, sound and seem easy to the English people who might then have only been eating meat and two veg every night, but somehow, it managed, before you actually got into it to have the opposite effect.
Anyway, I made it, finger tracing the steps on the book, inhaling the amazing smells coming from the pan and dancing around the kitchen a bit after polishing off the rest of the bottle of wine, added a shed load of knobs of butter once it was cooked, took a spoonful and swooned and became extremely excited when Mr BC came home from work because I thought I was being all, you know, sophisticated and Italian…
Over the months, I went on a journey with risotto, I followed those basic steps written by the man from Essex until it became second nature and I tried lots of different variations of wild and wonderful things to make a risotto sing. After a while though, it dawned on me that the steps were little more than adding the liquid slowly to the pot (duh) and the best results were from not too much fussing around and the simpler the ingredients the better.
Fast forward a few years, hungry children, less time, less dancing and more requirements in my life for recipes that tasted nice but were easy and I came across the baked risotto. Interesting. I tried a few. Very interesting.
I must say there were mediocre results and though I am a lover of risotto, my lovely husband who will eat nearly everything in the world without questioning (sometimes I think without looking) is not a big fan of risotto and so for it to be ok it had to be good. Some of the baked ones I tried were big piles of not good slop. Not really the result I was looking for.
So what I am getting to here is risotto in my opinion is good if it’s simple, basic and made with good ingredients…I have no idea if the Italians think this too, or indeed what Jamie thinks, but in my humble tiny kitchen, where I am the one (and only) person in this old cottage who is taking care of cooking, risottos are better without any fuss.
Which leads me to stock. Stock makes a good risotto. I love stock. It changed my cooking life. Actually I should say the discovery of bouillon stock (cube or not) changed my life…suddenly my feeble attempts at learning to cook turned from blah to nice. Using bouillon in my stews, gravies and generally everywhere I could add it made my food taste good. So I started to make my own stock and failed. For years my stock was like dishwater. I saved bones, I bought bones, I bought old hens, young hens, fish heads and all sorts…what could be so hard about bones, some veg and a stockpot, I didn’t know but something I was doing was wrong, it was ok, but not, you know, putting me up a league, to the fresh stock making league. But for some reason, most unlike me, I did keep persevering. And then one day, I hit the jackpot, all along my water to bones/veg/fish ratio was all wrong – I cut down the water, upped the bits and bobs thrown in, left it bubbling away all day and good stock was mine.
Nowadays I make stock often, I know many people think life is too short to make stock and I totally agree with that in some ways, (and for sure life for me is too short to bake a complicated dessert), but stock I feel is not complicated and has lots of payoffs (hello all the natural goodness in the bones), and I can shove it in a pan and let it sit happily on its own.
But really, even if making stock makes you think you are winning at life, somehow beating the system and you are calm and not running around like a headless chicken, as it does for me, making stock is not always practical in this busy world we live in, and I need it ready-made and to hand in the fridge or cupboard, so I buy it…and good bought stock, in my opinion, is one of the best things since sliced bread.
In a risotto, particularly in a baked risotto I think good stock is key…whether it’s from a bottle, carton or you’ve made it fresh, stock will make this sing.
For this risotto recipe I used ready-made stock from the Woolworth’s Gold Range – Woolworths recently contacted me to invite me to try some of their Gold range and see how it could slot into deliciously simple fresh dishes. Hmm. OK, in for a penny in for a pound and when the stuff from the Gold Range arrived, I spied the stock and thought I know what that lovely free range stock is going to be tried out on…perfect for the simple risotto I throw in the oven on a busy day…oh and it so didn’t let me down.
This stuff was delicious, better than I thought, but then when you look on the back of the packet it’s pretty easy to see why. I’ve experimented with quite a lot of bought stocks, from fresh to cubes and there can be a whole lot of nasties around. I’ve learnt to look out for the least ingredients as possible and no e-thingies or scary numbers on the back of the packet…this one has the simple basics, slow cooked and made from Australian produce, just how I like it :)
Baked Risotto Recipe with Bacon & Peas
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 cups hot stock (I used Woolworths Gold Free Range Chicken Stock)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion sliced very finely
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 rashers bacon chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen petit pois
1/2 cup (or so) Parmesan
lots of freshly grated black pepper
1. add the oil, garlic & onion to a heavy based pan with a lid that can go in the oven & soften for a few minutes
2. add the bacon
3. once the bacon is browned add the rice and stir to coat for a couple of minutes
4. turn the heat right up to high and add the cup of wine and reduce
5. add the hot stock and then the frozen peas
6. pop on a lid and into a 200C oven for 20 to 30 minutes (check it at 20 minutes, my oven is temperamental and sometimes I swear when she’s in a mood she cooks things faster, this time I made this it was 30 minutes for a good but still firm creamy yummy risotto, other days it seems to be less)
7. stir in 3 or so knobs of butter and the parmesan, taste, add more cheese or butter if you like and lots of black pepper
serve with a very simple salad of just green leaves (I like little gem lettuce with this) and, of course, if you need a few more carbs in your life, a loaf of crusty bread goes down mighty well at the same time
notes* this is good for lunches too – the leftovers I like to pop in the bottom of a container (mason jar works well if you’re safe with that) and then layer up the salad on top, seal it tightly and it’s good in the fridge for a few days. *if you are coming in from a busy day and want to limit standing and chopping time, sometimes I prep the onion, garlic and bacon and keep in the fridge, measure out the rice and then there is no brain power involved when you start it, the other bits like the cheese and butter and wine you can’t really get wrong…
Let me know if you try this risotto recipe, trust me it won’t let you down.
if you’d like a chance to win a Woolworth’s Gold hamper full of goodies, pop over to abeachcottage on instagram – all you have to do for a chance to win is like the recipe post over there, you can go to @abeachcottage or check out the hashtag #WoolworthsGold – just like the picture & you’ll be in the running :)