The best types of rice for making risotto are: Arborio, Carnaroli and Vialone nano. These have round grains and are starchy, becoming creamy when cooked, unlike varieties such as basmati or long-grained rice whose grains remain separate.
- 5 or 6 medium artichokes (or other vegetables, see note below)
- 300 g (1 1/2 cups) risotto rice (see below)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- Vegetable stock (onion, carrot, celery, stock cube)
- 2 whole cloves of garlic, squashed to release their flavour
- A splash of white wine
- Olive oil
- A knob of butter
- Parmesan cheese – around half a cup
- Prepare around 2 pints of vegetable stock by boiling water with a stock cube, a peeled onion, a couple of sticks of celery and a couple of peeled carrots, cut into large pieces. Keep this always hot, and boil extra water just in case you need more liquid.
- Prepare the artichokes by removing the tough outer leaves, paring the stalks and cutting so that you have a cone shape at the tip of the artichoke. Cut in half, remove the hairy choke if there is one and reserve the artichoke halves in a bowl of water with lemon juice squeezed into it to prevent blackening. When the artichokes are all trimmed, cut them into small (half cm/quarter inch) pieces.
- Heat a swish of olive oil in a large heavy bottomed high-sided frying pan (skillet).
- Add the onion and sauté until this is translucent. Then add the artichoke pieces, the bay leaves and the garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes, until the artichoke is tender.
- Add the rice and sauté for several minutes, until it becomes translucent.
- Add the white wine and stir in, letting it evaporate.
- Begin adding the hot stock, a ladle at a time, stirring well and letting the liquid evaporate before you add another ladleful of it. Add salt and pepper.
- Begin tasting the rice when it has been cooking for around 15 minutes. When it seems cooked but still firm to the bite (“al dente”), switch off the heat. Add the butter and cheese, stir well and cover.
- Let the risotto sit for a couple of minutes before you serve it.
You can substitute the artichokes with practically any vegetable that will stand cooking for 20 minutes or more and not get mushy and overcooked – NOT broccoli etc. Asparagus, wild mushrooms, squash, peas and radicchio all work well. If using asparagus, cut off the tips and reserve. Add these tips a minute before you finish cooking the risotto to keep them crunchy. Rough guide to quantities: a cup (150g/ 5oz) of vegetables per person.