Call it a journey to re-discover rice. Living in Asia, we’ve somehow taken rice for granted. We cook rice for our everyday meals but never really looked past the ubiquitous congee and Chinese-style fried rice. But rice is a staple far beyond Asia and each culture has a vast array of rice recipes — so vast that it is quite staggering. And we’re plunging into that unfathomable vastness — into the world of paella, nasi, biryani, congee, rice cakes, pilaf, pilau, risotto, gumbo and jambalaya. Speedy is especially smitten with risotto and everything that you see in this post is his doing — he even took the photos. But what is risotto?
Risotto is an Italian rice dish. It is characterized by its creaminess which is achieved by adding broth little by little and mixing the rice often to coax the starch out. The grains are cooked al dente — cooked through but with just the slightest resistance. Unlike the rice pilaf which is cooked covered and without disturbing, the risotto is cooked uncovered and with a lot of stirring. With the use of good quality broth, risotto is rich, creamy and filling and, with the the addition of the right herbs and spices, highly aromatic.
Traditionally, a short-grained rice called arborio is used for making risotto. If you’re in Asia and you can’t find any rice labeled “arborio,” don’t fret. Just look for white Japanese rice (Oryza sativa var. Japonica) — arborio being a cultivar of Oryza sativa var. Japonica.
This recipe was adapted from “Risotto of Tomato and Basil” in Essential Cooking Series: Rice & Risotto (Hinkler Books Pty Ltd.).
- 1 tbsp. of butter
1 tbsp. of olive oil (doesn’t have to be extra virgin)
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 c. of Japanese rice
a generous splash of white wine (the original recipe says dry white wine but we only use semi-sweet at home)
about 2 c. of broth, preferably homemade
2 plump and juicy tomatoes, diced
about 1/8 c. of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
about 1/4 c. of finely sliced basil leaves
about 1/8 c. of grated parmesan cheese
whole basil leaves, for garnish
First, prepare all the ingredients before you start. Cut up the vegetables. Heat the broth. The broth should be simmering so keep it on the stove on low heat.
Heat the butter and olive oil in a cooking pan. Add the minced garlic and chopped onion. Cook until the onion bits turn translucent.
Add the rice. Stir to coat each grain with oil. Pour in the white wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed by the rice.
Pour in about a half a cup of the simmering broth. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until absorbed. Add another half a cup, again, stir until absorbed.
When half of all the broth has been added and absorbed, it’s time to throw in the basil, sun-dried tomatoes and diced fresh tomatoes. Stir in. Add the rest of the broth, still half a cup at a time, and allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more.
Taste the rice. If it is cooked through but still firm, stop adding broth and remove the pan from the stove. Stir in the grated parmesan cheese. Taste again and add more salt and pepper, if needed.
To serve, ladle the tomato and basil risotto on shallow bowls. Top with whole fresh basil leaves and some of the diced tomatoes that did not liquefy during cooking. Enjoy while hot!
Cooking time (duration): 30 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 2 to 3
Meal type: lunch