I have been thinking of posting a risotto recipe for a long time. But somehow I am always so hungry while making it that I don’t end up taking any pictures and postpone it for another time. The same happened today, but I am going to write up this recipe for a change. I have actually never eaten a risotto cooked by someone else (except once) or in a restaurant. So, I am judging my concoctions purely on taste and have no clue how the “authentic” ones taste 🙂
Risotto is basically Italian khichdi (or one could say that khichdi is just Indian risotto!). Whereas a khichdi always has rice and lentils, the same is not true of a risotto. The chief ingredient here is short-grained rice e.g. arborio. This kind of rice has a lot of starch and that’s what makes the dish creamy. So, you never wash the risotto rice. The basic process involves toasting the rice in butter and or olive oil, followed by deglazing with wine, and then cooking till the rice is al dente by gradually adding stock to it, while stirring frequently. You can add vegetables, meats and cheeses to make different variations.
I usually make asparagus risotto. Today, I had a good-looking bunch of asparagus at home, but sadly no white wine or stock. So, I decided to improvise by adding lentils to add not only flavor but also to get some extra creaminess. I have never had asparagus with lentils before, so I wasn’t sure if it’s a good idea..but it turned out to be delicious!
- Arborio rice, 1 cup
- Split orange lentils or arhar dal, 1/2 cup (or use any other quick cooking lentils e.g. moong dal would also work here). Don’t wash the dal.
- Asparagus, 10-12 stocks
- Vidalia onions, 4 small ones (you can use shallots instead)
- Garlic, 2-3 cloves
- Butter, 2 tablespoons
- Parmigiano Reggiano, 1/4 cup
- Zest and juice of 1/2 of a small lemon
- Salt and pepper
- Water, recently boiled
- Start by blanching the asparagus i.e. bring a large pot of water to boil, add some salt to it and boil the asparagus stems for 2 minutes uncovered. Take them out and either put them in ice-cold water or just rinse under tapwater to stop the cooking process. Adding salt to the boiling water and keeping the pan uncovered after adding the asparagus, helps retain the green color. You could use this water later on if you don’t add too much salt.
- Once the asparagus has cooled down, cut it into bite-sized pieces.
- Melt the butter in a skillet/pan. Then add garlic and onion to it. Saute till the onion is soft, but not brown.
- Add the rice and lentils and toast them in the butter for about 30 seconds.
- (You can add 1/4 cup of white wine at this stage if you like.)
- Start adding water/stock a little by little i.e. add 1/4 cup water at a time, stir and combine till it evaporates, then add more water and so on.
- Repeat till the rice is almost cooked. It should be creamy, but still have a very slight bite to it.
- Add salt, pepper, asparagus, cheese, lemon zest + juice and combine. The lemon adds a nice tang and cuts through the creaminess a little.
- Turn off the heat and eat! Leftover risotto is not good, so you are better off finishing it in one go!