When I cooked my first risotto about seven years ago (a Nigella one, if I remember correctly) I was prepared not to like it. I am not a fan of rice pudding and Dutch rijstevlaai (rice flan), so making a risotto seemed almost pointless. I am so glad I did decide to get over my hang-up, because I loved it and I have been trying out risotto recipes ever since. So far my favourite was a simple mushroom risotto but this spinach, mushroom and lemon one is well on its way to become my new numero uno.
I got the idea of using spinach from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for risotto I tried recently. Normally I like spinach just wilted but adding the leaves at the beginning works so well in this dish. I realise garlic oil is becoming a bit of a theme on the blog (it’s liquid gold, imo) but in this case I really recommend using it. The mellow garlic flavour of the oil works really well here and there is no danger of the garlic burning, as tends to happen to me when I fry finely grated garlic in a Le Creuset pan unless I use more oil than I want to. I used a ‘summer melange’ of mushrooms and some shiitakes here. You could use any mushrooms, from everyday fo fancy in this risotto, just don’t cut them too small and do fry them before adding them to the rice.
As far as I’m concerned, two things are important when making a risotto: your stock should be hot and you have to start tasting your rice from about 15 minutes. How cooked you like the rice is a matter of personal preference but you won’t know how done it is unless you try it.
250 g mushrooms, chopped chunkily or not at all (depending on shape and size)
3 shallots, chopped finely
300 g fresh spinach, shredded
150 g risotto rice (I use arborio)
750 ml hot mushroom stock (I use stock cubes)
zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½ a lemon
salt and pepper
splash of chilli oil
– Fry the mushrooms in garlic oil until they are almost cooked but still have bite left. Set aside.
– In a heavy-bottomed pan (not a low one, because of the bulky spinach), fry the shallots in the garlic oil for a few minutes until translucent.
– Add the spinach, stir until it’s wilted and then cook for a few minutes longer until most of the moisture has evaporated.
– Stir in the rice and cook for a few minutes, until the grains turn translucent (in places).
– Add a ladleful of hot mushroom stock and stir gently until it has been absorbed by the rice, add another ladleful, repeat, etc.
– When there are about five minutes of cooking time left, add the mushrooms and keep doing what you were doing, stirring gently.
– When the rice is done, add a good squeeze of lemon juice (go easy, you can add more later). Stir and turn off the heat.
– Stir in the lemon zest and taste to check if it needs more lemon juice.
– Season to taste and add the chilli oil. Serve.