The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
Risotto, huh? Risotto was actually the very first thing I ever posted to this blog. It’s something I make on a semi-regular basis, so to be honest, I didn’t find this challenge all that challenging. The only thing I’d never done before was make my own vegetable stock. Making vegetable stock is not difficult, it just takes a bit of time and patience.
Before making my stock, I read a whole bunch of posts online with various recipes for making it. Some roasted the vegetables before making the stock, some didn’t. Some included a lot of herbs and spices, some didn’t. I went with my own variation on the theme.
I started with a good sized red onion, a bunch of cloves of garlic (at least half a head, if not the whole thing), some baby-cut carrots I had left from another recipe, and several ribs of celery. Cut the celery and onion into chunks, but leave the garlic cloves whole. Put everything into a pan and lightly coat with some oil (I used safflower) and salt and pepper. Then roast at 375C for about 30 minutes.
After it’s roasted, put all the vegetables into a large pot. Cover with enough water to completely cover the vegetables; at least 6 cups. Add in a bay leaf, some thyme (fresh thyme sprigs would be best here, but I didn’t have any) and a few peppercorns. Turn on the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and let simmer for an hour. Strain your stock right away with a fine-meshed strainer or even cheesecloth over a colander if need be. Taste the end product and if need be, add some salt and pepper. You should have at least 4 cups of stock, which you’ll need to make the risotto.
I then added some dried mushrooms into mine. These are dried oysters. Leave them to soak for 15-20 minutes, then remove the mushrooms and put aside for your risotto. They’ll leave behind some extra flavour in your vegetable stock. Take the stock and heat it lightly in a pan, so it’s still nice and warm when you need it for the risotto.
Then you make your risotto: Heat some oil in a pan, then add in some onion. The original recipe said to take out the onion after a few minutes and get rid of it, but I don’t see why you’d do that – just make sure it’s diced small and leave it in! I also added in some minced garlic at this stage. Once the onion and garlic are very lightly browned and soft, add in the risotto rice and stir to coat the rice in the oil/onion/garlic mixture. Continue stirring for a few minutes; you’re looking to lightly toast the rice.
Next, add in some wine. I used red wine as we don’t have any white in the house right now, but tons of bottles of red. Either is fine, as long as you like the flavour of the wine. Don’t use wine that is so-called ‘cooking quality’ – use something you’d be happy drinking! This is an important flavour component of your final dish, after all. If you don’t drink wine or avoid alcohol, you can use a bit of extra vegetable stock instead. Stir the rice to coat it with the wine (or stock). Once it’s fully absorbed, you’re ready to start adding in that lovely vegetable stock.
Cover the rice with an inch or so of your stock. Stir constantly until that is absorbed, then add in another inch of stock. Keep doing this until you’ve got just a little bit of stock left (half a cup or so). At this stage, add in whatever things you want to your risotto. I added lightly sauteed cremini mushrooms, those rehydrated (and chopped) oyster mushrooms from before, some chopped sundried tomatoes and some rosemary. Once you’re mixed in your ingredients, add in that last bit of stock. Once the stock is fully absorbed it should be ready to eat – nice and creamy but still with some bite, not mushy.
Serve piping hot. If you’re not eating vegan, you might want to add in some parm cheese right at the end.
For the full recipes, including more exact amounts of ingredients and several flavour combination ideas, just visit The Daring Kitchen!