I adore risotto: I don’t know many people who don’t but boy, can it be done badly. I do think the secret is stirring, and I do think the other secret is butter and parmesan: don’t be shy with either. The fennel salt on this takes it to another level: trust me on this one. However, if you are using ham or gammon stock, as I did with this risotto, don’t use pure stock: rather use approximately 500ml of the stock, and then 300 ml water, as the gammon stock contains a lot of its own salt, and obviously, the pancetta does too. I use any white wine here: whatever I have to hand in the fridge, which is generally a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon: I do think a dry white needs to be used, not a sweet or overly wooded white.
Serves 4 hungry people.
2 cups Arborio Rice
2 white onions, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, microplaned
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
2 cups broad beans (I used fresh, because they were in the garden, but really, the frozen type, defrosted, are fine too)
800ml liquid: gammon stock and water, chicken stock, or even 2 tablespoons of Marigold Bouillon added to 800ml of water. I do however feel that proper stock does make a difference.
2 TBSP olive oil
50g salted butter
½ cup dry white wine
For stirring through at the end:
1 cup grated parmesan
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Small handful finely chopped basil
For the Fennel Salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp Maldon salt
Firstly, make the fennel salt: pop the seeds and salt into a pestle and mortar, and grind until a dusky, sandy dust forms: you don’t want any hard fennel bits left in the salt: it’ll take a few minutes to do this properly, but please do so, as it is worth it. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, or pot, fry the onion, garlic and pancetta in the olive oil and butter, for about 15 minutes, until very soft: be careful not to burn the onion. Then, add the rice, and keep stirring, until the rice is well coated with the oil and butter. Continue doing this for about 5 minutes, until the rice starts to almost stick to the pan, then add the wine. Stir vigorously until the liquid has evaporated, and then start adding the stock and stirring: this is the process that does take some time, but is worth it. Add the 800ml stock about a cup at a time, and stir until each cup is incorporated. This should take about 35-40 minutes from the start of adding the stock: I always test a few grains, as I do believe that some rice varieties are different: I like the risotto slightly al dente,your preference may be for it to be softer, in which case simply add a little bit more stock and water.
Add the broad beans and peas, and stir through for about a minute: you really want these to be as fresh as possible, not cooked at all. Just before serving, stir through the parmesan, butter, basil and lemon juice and zest. Serve in large bowls, and let everyone sprinkle on their desired amount of fennel salt on the risotto.
I don’t serve the risotto with anything else: no salad, no leaves, no anything. It is just perfection on its own.