Tag Archives: rice

Smoked Mackerel Risotto

Smoked mackerel is one of my public vices. I can happily eat the stuff on its own, roughly shoved onto some toast with a squirt of lemon and some pepper. Never had it as a child (we used to have smoked cod, which was a chemical orange colour and horrid) so no nursery associations, but it strikes me as comfort food.

This, then, is a bit of an experiment. Can I combine the slightly sharp smoky fishiness with the gentle ooze of a risotto? The answer is yes, although the results don’t quite taste like risotto.

I used:

  • 300g Arborio rice (or your preferred risotto rice)
  • a large onion
  • 200g smoked mackerel fillets, skinned and flaked into large pieces (or some other hot smoked fish, if you prefer – note that most “smoked” salmon is cured and cold smoked, so not suitable for this recipe)
  • 150g shelled peas (frozen is fine, you could maybe use mangetout, but definitely some form of crisp legume)
  • about a litre of vegetable stock (fish stock would be too OTT for this)

Make the risotto in the usual way – adding the peas and fish about five minutes before the end.

You probably won’t need any extra salt, but more pepper than usual.

Some people get very sniffy about seafood plus cheese, but I think that stirring in maybe 25g of parmesan is the right thing to do. The sharp salty flavour helps balance the starchy goo.

In hindsight, it really could have done with a bunch of parsley, and maybe some lemon zest. Fresh thyme leaves might be worth a go as well.


Spanish Rice

I suspect this isn’t actually Spanish. It works nicely with the leftover chilli in the fridge.

Peel and chop a clove of garlic, and fry in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add 200g long grain rice, and continue to fry for about three minutes. Pour over 450mL boiling water, add a scant half teaspoon of paprika, a teaspoon of turmeric, a pinch of salt and, optionally, a tablespoon of tomato paste. Return to the boil, then reduce the heat to the barest simmer.

Cover and leave for around 15 mins. The ideal result is that all the liquid has been absorbed, the rice on top is soft and fluffy, and, even better, the rice on the bottom is verging on burnt.

The boiling water could be replaced with chicken stock if you’re feeling festive.

You might want to fry some slivered almonds with the garlic, and stir in some coriander leaves just before serving.

Coconut Rice

This doesn’t look very exciting, but goes rather nicely with all sorts of things, in particular Mr Roots’ chicken pieces.

Bring 400mL of water to the boil in a medium sized saucepan, and squeeze in a 50g sachet of Patak’s Creamed Coconut. (A box of these lasts forever in the cupboard, and is handy for Curry Time.)

Tip in 200g of ordinary long grain rice (don’t be tempted to use anything fancy) and stir vigorously, making sure you break up any remaining lumps in the coconut. Bring it back to the boil, and then add…

A bay leaf.

That’s all. OK, you could also pop in some cardamom pods, cloves, whole black peppercorns, etc, but the bay leaf (strange subtle things they are) is what you need. Maybe a pinch of salt.

Reduce heat to the merest simmer, cover the pot, and stir occasionally. It’ll take about 15 minutes for the liquid to be absorbed, but keep a closer eye on it after 10. Overdo this and you will need to put in some serious effort at washing up time.

Party Rice

Ooof. It’s that time of year, so I guess I must be having a party, which means coming up with a way of feeding lots of people. How about this?

It’s neither paella nor risotto, but nevertheless, rather good. It has evolved over some time, starting with a recipe from Silvana Franco.

For every four guests, you will need:

  • chilli (will vary on your chilli, but suggest enough to add a tingle, but not enough to make it hot)
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, or as much as you dare (I keep on saying that with garlic, don’t I?)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 100g peas (or beans, mangetout)
  • Kalamata olives (as many as you like, but leave the stones in)
  • 200g long grain rice (not arborio or anything fancy, just basic long grain)
  • 900 mL stock
  • turmeric (half a teaspoon)
  • paprika (half a teaspoon)
  • salt/pepper, plus lemon wedges to garnish

Here’s how:

  1. Thinly slice – don’t crush – the garlic, and fry gently with the chilli in some olive oil
  2. Slice/dice/whatever the onion and capsicum, and add – keep on frying ’til soft
  3. Make the necessary arrangements to have the stock ready and hot
  4. Add a bit more oil and the rice, turn the heat up and fry the rice as you would if you were making a risotto
  5. Add the turmeric, paprika and olives
  6. pour over the hot stock, stir vigorously
  7. Turn the heat right down and leave for 15 minutes – the heat should be high enough to cook the rice, and low enough so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom – check occasionally – the ideal situation is to get it slightly crunchy underneath – so regular stirring is not on
  8. Add the peas about five minutes before serving

In Advance

You can prepare this in advance, by getting up to the stage where you fry the rice, and then adding only 200 mL of concentrated stock, stirring to deglaze the pan, and then covering and allowing to cool. The following day, spread the rice out in a roasting tin, add 800mL hot water, and pop in an oven on about 150C for about 20 minutes.

Vegetarians avert your gaze now

Obviously you can add meat. Some possibilities:

  • start by gently frying some pancetta or sliced chorizo in the pan, until all the fat has oozed out, and then carry on as normal
  • add some leftover roast chicken or duck with the stock, or just fry up some chopped up chicken thigh fillets (don’t bother with breast meat, not interesting enough for this kind of recipe)
  • add some prawns or other shellfish at the same time as the peas
  • in theory, you could use saffron instead of turmeric, but I’ve never dared


Well, since I’ve been asked, here’s my best go at explaining what needs to be done.

Some people say it’s all about the rice. You’re going to need hard, starchy, short grain, that’s tough enough to endure half an hour on the hob. Carnaroli, Vialone Nano, or Arborio are the varieties to look for, these days most supermarkets will helpfully label the packet as “risotto rice”. There are tribes of Risotto Fascists who will argue until they’re blue in the face about which of these is best. (One thing you do need to watch out for are packets of “instant” risotto: just don’t.)

It’s not just about the rice. The other essential here is the stock. That tub of Marigold bouillon powder will get you out of all sorts of tight corners, and failing all else, can be used for risotto as well, but, this is a dish that will really show off a good, homemade stock. (Don’t bother with stock cubes.)

So, assuming four generous servings

  • 300g rice
  • 1.5L stock
  • 1 large onion
  • 200mL wine (if you’re not prepared to drink it, don’t cook with it)
  • butter, olive oil
  • grana (preferably Parmesan)
  • stuff (chicken, prawns, sausages, herbs, vegetables, …)

So, let’s get going. Start by putting the stock in a saucepan, and bringing it to the boil. Then reduce it to the barest simmer. You may run out of stock, so make sure you’ve also filled and boiled the kettle.

You’ll need a sauté pan, one with a heavy base that will heat evenly, vertical sides so the rice won’t escape, and a tight fitting lid. Peel and dice the onion, and fry in about a tablespoon of olive oil and 20g of butter. Once the onion is translucent, add the rice, and stir thoroughly, until all the grains are coated with the fat. You can always add another knob of butter if there’s not enough.

Turn up the heat a bit and fry the rice, stirring constantly. As the rice starts to toast, you’ll see a slight build up of patina on the bottom of the pan; if this starts to get brown then reduce the heat. After a couple of minutes, the rice will start “singing”, as the tiny amount of residual moisture turns to steam. This is a similar principle to what happens when you make a roux: you’re cooking the grain in fat to help tease out the starch. (You can impress people by referring to this phase as the tostatura.)

Tip in the wine. There will be steam, hissing, and bubbling. You need to keep stirring, making sure you scrape off the patina from the bottom of the pan, incorporating it into the dish.

Once the wine has been absorbed, add a couple of ladles of hot stock, and keep stirring. Now, this business about stirring. You’ll be using a wooden spoon, preferably one of those with a spatula type edge, and you just need to gently move it through the rice, along the bottom of the pan, to keep the heat circulating, and making sure nothing spends too long on the bottom or it will burn.

Now, just for a moment, stop stirring. Does the risotto immediately start bubbling furiously? You need to turn the heat down. Does the risotto just sit there and do nothing? You need to turn the heat up. Does the risotto start to bubble after about thirty seconds? Bingo, the heat is right. Now start stirring again: you don’t want it to burn. Don’t panic if you need to leave it alone for a minute to answer the door, or just pour yourself a glass of something medicinal. Just make sure that if it’s more than a minute that you take it off the heat, and give it a thorough stir when you get back. The world won’t end. But the point of lots of stirring is to get a nice creamy consistency in the liquid.

Much twaddle has been written about the next twenty minutes. In a nutshell, all you need do is add a ladle of stock, keep stirring until it’s been absorbed, and repeat. After about twenty minutes, fish out a few grains of rice on a fork and have a taste. If the rice is still quite crunchy, you’ll need to keep adding liquid and stirring until it’s done; probably another five minutes. If you’ve run out of stock, add some hot water from that kettle I instructed you to boil earlier on. At the end of all this, what you’re aiming for is cooked rice, which will have tripled in volume, sitting in some creamy gloopy liquid.

And now for the mantecatura – another word that you can use to impress people. This is where you turn off the heat, stir in the grana and any other delicate ingredients, put the lid on, and leave it alone for five minutes. Risotto Fascists will argue endlessly about whether or not you should also add some more butter at this stage. If you do, about 25g, chopped into small cubes, should be enough.

Dish up.


  • The best risotto is the one that you make using the meat and stock from a leftover roast chicken – add the meat about halfway through the stir’n’add phase
  • Mushrooms are good – I use the chestnut ones – you can also make the “stock” by soaking dried porcini in hot water
  • Obvious example of the butternut squash in the previous post
  • Two chicken breasts that you’ve fried earlier and chopped up, maybe with a handful of wild rocket at the same time as you add the cheese
  • Some previously cooked and chopped up sausages and a few veg for something very substantial

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

An impromptu dinner party this evening, and not a lot on hand. But, as Jill Dupleix says, “having stock in your freezer is the very definition of social security,” and there is some vegetable stock in the freezer, and a butternut squash in the cupboard. Since it’s unlikely that I’ll need to turn the squash into a coach for an incognito appearance at the Prince’s Ball, I decided to make risotto instead.

Firstly, the squash gets cut in half, seeds scooped out, and then scored deeply, but not so deeply as to break the skin. Some salt, pepper and a few pieces of butter, and into the oven at 180C for an hour.

Now, after half an hour, I checked and ooops, I’d put too much butter on, and it was starting to escape the baking tray. I poured some off, but since there was still plenty in the hollows, so I popped a gently squished clove of garlic in each, and returned to the oven.

Check whether it’s done by prodding with a skewer and making sure all the bits are soft. Don’t worry if there are a few burnt bits. Place the squash to one side, and allow to cool. This can be done earlier in the day, if convenient.

The risotto is a standard, by-the-numbers affair. One onion, 250g Arborio rice, butter, olive oil, stock, yada yada yada. I’ll write detailed instructions later on, if only to assuage the anxieties of Julian Barnes.

Whilst you’re doing the risotto, peel the cold roasted squash, and cut into half inch chunks. It will practically fall to pieces anyway, along the lines you scored earlier. The skin should slip off, but might need coaxing here and there. You can do this earlier if you don’t believe you can leave a risotto unattended for more than thirty seconds. (You can, but never leave the room.)

Once the risotto is at the resting phase, pop the squash in, pop the lid back on and leave for five minutes. Then stir very gently, so as not to break up the squash. There will inevitably be a few casualties, but they’ll just ooze some orange juice into the dish, which looks nice.

Pass the Parmesan.

The profiterôles afterwards were bought from the shop, but the chocolate and Armagnac sauce was homemade. No, I can’t remember precisely how I did it; I was drunk at the time. (Don’t try that yourself.)