When you live on your own buying herbs is truly a pain in the backside. Especially since the ones I buy are almost always the floppy, go-off-in-three-seconds kind that I can’t grow: flat-leaf parsley, coriander and dill. Whereas thyme, rosemary and sorrel seem to struggle along on my high-in-the-sky balcony, buffeted by the wind, soft-leaved herbs don’t stand a chance. And, since I feel ripped off when I succumb to those tiny 20g supermarket packets, I buy the herbs I can’t grow in healthy bunches from my local Turkish shop. So far, so thrifty, except that, even if I use some up in a dish for several people, I always seem to be left with wilting half-bunches and I start thinking that I would actually waste less if I bought the miserly packet ones. I was therefore delighted to come across this recipe for parsley risotto in the new (and wonderful) The Kitchen Diaries II, a recipe that is so bloody useful for the likes of me that I wanted to kiss it as much as cook it.
What is brilliant about this is that it is very much a leftovers sort of dish (I always have chicken stock cubes or some fresh in the fridge, a lump of Parmesan and some herbs), so it uses up stuff that might otherwise get thrown away, yet it tastes wonderful and nothing like leftovers. It would be perfect as a side dish, perhaps with some sausages or roasted chicken, but can be eaten on its own. Finally, if that wasn’t enough to recommend it, it only has seven ingredients, most of which are store-cupboard staples, which makes it even more perfect to me.
This is a repertoire dish if ever there was one: something that I will make over and over again, until I no longer need the words or the measurements because it ticks so many boxes (simple, short, thrifty, low on shopping, almost one-pot). Make extra because if there is anything better than day one risotto, it’s day two risotto, fried up with butter and a little more cheese…
Parsley risotto (adapted from The Kitchen Diaries II)
For two generous portions you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
butter, about 50g (I must confess that I never weigh butter for a risotto; I just cut a big lump into it at the beginning and the end so this is a rough estimate)
a small onion or large shallot
chicken stock cube or 500ml fresh stock
sea salt and black pepper
flat-leaf parsley with stalks, about 30g
risotto (Arborio) rice, 150g
white wine, about 75ml (dry sherry would work too)
Parmesan cheese, about 50g (again, a bit like the butter I never weigh this; I just add to taste)
1. Peel, top and tail and finely chop the onion. Grate the Parmesan.
2. Make up the stock if necessary then put it in a small saucepan over a medium heat.
3. Rinse the parsley if necessary, and cut off any dodgy-looking bits, then pull or cut the leaves from the stems. Finely chop the leaves.
4. Add the parsley stems to the stock and bring to the boil then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
5. Put half of the butter into a saucepan over a low heat and, once melted, add the onion. Let it cook for about five minutes or so, until a tad translucent but not coloured.
6. Add the rice to the onions, stir it in until all the grains are coated with butter then add the wine and stir again. Cook for a couple of minutes until most of the alcohol has evaporated.
7. Add the stock to the rice little by little (leave the stalks behind): add a large spoonful or ladleful, stir it in until practically absorbed then add another ladleful. Risotto gets its creaminess from the starch released through the stirring so this bit is boring but important.
8. When all the stock has been added, check that the rice grains are cooked (they should be tender and give, not crunchy or mushy) and if there is any crunch left in them either stir in more stock, if you have it, or some hot water. At this stage I find risotto tastes of nothing so don’t despair if yours doesn’t either.
9. Once the rice is cooked, take the pan off the heat and stir in the chopped parsley, a big lump of cold butter and the grated Parmesan. Season to taste, add more cheese if necessary, and serve.