Weeknight dinner: fish & mussel risotto

Risotto 1

I make risotto a lot in our house. It’s a good standby dish when we have people over because I can make a huge pot of it and feed an army and I also really like it because it’s an excellent carrier dish. There are so many things that can be put into a risotto so I can make it to use up all the odds and ends rattling around in the fridge.

I know that doesn’t sound appealing to everyone. I was actually an apprentice chef for the better part of a year when I first left school and I know that there are risotto purists out there because I worked for one of them. But I am not a purist. I make risotto my way and I put whatever I want in it. I use red wine when I run out of white. I use chicken stock when I should use fish stock. Heck, I don’t even make my own stock. Sure I would love to make a mushroom risotto using hand-foraged fungi sourced from the foothills of the Swiss Alps and drizzled with with first cold pressed EVOO (what the?) but sometimes all I have are some puckered old button mushrooms, a carton of shop bought stock and some leftover wine in the fridge (a rare occasion I must say). What I mean is, there are times when you can devote all your resources to an exquisite risotto and there are times you can make a hearty bowl-fullo-rice dish that is satisfying and tasty and you wont have to spend all day at the farmers market. Or the Swiss Alps.

This particular risotto came about because I had an empty fridge but a freezer full of mussels, fish and peas. It was so good I’ve made it a few times since.

Ingredients

2 cups Aborio rice

1 cup white wine

Olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1 garlic clove, minced

500ml hot fish or chicken stock

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 1/2 cups diced fish (I use Rockling, a good, thick, meaty fish) (can be frozen & thawed)

8-10 mussels (can be frozen & thawed)

Dried dill tips

About 40g cold butter, cubed

Salt & pepper

1/2 tbsp freshly chopped parsly

Lemon wedges and zest of 1 lemon

Kettle of freshly boiled water

Put the white wine in a small saucepan and heat it up to a ‘just before boiling’ state then add the mussels and a pinch of dried dill and cook until the mussels are just cooked through (about 2 minutes). Don’t worry if they aren’t completely done as they will finish in the risotto. Take mussels out of the pan and set aside and keep the wine.

In a large, deep and heavy-bottomed frying pan sauté the onion and garlic in about a tablespoon of olive oil on a medium temperature until translucent (about 4-5 minutes).

Add the rice and stir non stop until the rice is well coated in oil and had a chance to fry a little (2-3 minutes) and then add the wine from the mussels. Stir until the wine has evaporated and while stirring use the spoon to scrape bottom of the pan to get all the yummy caramelised oniony bits into the wine. Add a ladle full of hot stock and stir the rice until the stock has evaporated. Stir well but be gentle. The stirring releases the starch from the grains, which is what gives risotto its creamy texture, but you want to keep the grains whole, not crush them.

Continue adding a ladle of stock, stirring until evaporation and so on until there is no stock left and test your rice. It should be about half way done, soft on the outside and hard in the middle. Add a ladle ful of hot water from the kettle in place of the stock until the rice is al dente or just a tiny bit underdone.

Add the fish and peas and more water if necessary and keep stirring. Once the fish has cooked (about 2-4 minutes, depending on the fish) add the mussels and stir until heated through.

Turn off the heat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add the cold butter and lemon zest and stir until the risotto is glossy and ready to eat. Serve with lemon wedges.

Risotto 2

Risotto 3

 

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The BBQ chicken we’re still talking about

Don’t go looking too closely at this picture because you might just notice that half the chicken breast is missing. Yes, my friends, it’s probably the worst food photo I’ve taken. A hunk of half eaten chicken and some left over salad. Why? Because it was so good that it was almost all gone before I came to my senses and took a photo!

We had a barbeque over the weekend with my brother, sister in law and my gorgeous Niece Rosie and I wanted to do something different from our usual fare so I looked online for a smokey, lip smacking chicken marinade that didn’t require the dreaded overnight element I love so much. This one took about 5 minutes to put together and is apparently effective with as little as 10 minutes marinating. It’s a Jamie Oliver recipe found here. I love Jamie Oliver’s cooking style. He has nailed the kind of recipe that requires little time but has maximum impact. Unfussy but still special, easy yet still fun to make. I have been meaning to add more of his recipe books to my collection but while I love my recipe books they seem to sit pretty on the shelves while I go straight to my favourite recipe websites. This is because I tend to come up with an idea of what I want to cook first and look for a recipe or technique based on that, rather than having a blank canvass and looking at books for inspiration. It is much easier to type a few key ingredients into a search bar than to trawl through the index of 10 different books!

Marinade ingredients

Finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp of hot chilli powder (or more if you like it hot)
1 ½ heaped tsp smoked paprika
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 tsp olive oil
pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 skinless chicken breasts

Mix together all the ingredients (besides the chicken) in a bowl or container big enough to fit all the chicken breasts. Set aside 3 tbsp of the marinade in a separate bowl for basting. Put the chicken in the container and coat it well. Leave it to marinade for at least 10 minutes.

Get your BBQ nice and hot and cook the chicken for about 5 minutes each side, turning and basting every minute, but be careful not to overcook it as chicken breasts dry out easily.

Goes perfectly with a snowpea, rocket, cherry tomato and radish salad with honey lemon dressing (if you have a fabulous sister in law like I do, she might just bring one for you!)

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