Pea and Ham Risotto

A really satisfying bowl of  comfort food, that is also pretty enough to serve to friends – if you have leftovers you can make  loads of things so it’s worth making extra and putting it in the fridge where it will solidify – arancini are like croquetts – a piece of soft cheese in the middle, form the rice around it, then egg and breadcrumb and fry. Lefover risotto can also be re-heated to have as a side dish by itself or used to stuff large mushrooms or chicken

Ingredients

Arborio or other short grained rice

Stock – chicken  – homemade would obviously be fab, but bought is fine.

Cube or powder will do, but be careful of the salt content, I’m a salt fan, but even I find they can overpower. Also watch out for any containing ‘salt substitutes’, in my experience they can be even more overpowering! Actually if you only have cube or powder stock to hand, I would rather use water with a small slosh of vinegar: cider or wine or sherry (or the non-vinegar originals), a teaspoon or so of grainy mustard and a little soy sauce or worcestershire sauce

Onions -chopped finely

Garlic – chopped finely

Good quality cooked ham – bought from the supermarket in reasonably thick slices (no wafer thin stuff, you’ll lose all the texture) or leftover from a ham you’ve cooked yourself. Cut into small pieces, but not too tiny

Peas – defrosted frozen or, if you’re really lucky, fresh ones

Oil, salt, crushed black pepper

Method

Heat oil in large, deep-frying pan (or wok, but you’ll have to stir more assiduously as the surface area in contact with the heat is much smaller)

Put onions and garlic in pan and cook until onions are soft – Medium heat (keep this for rest of recipe, should be barely sizzly for this stage and barely bubbling for stock adding stage)

Heat stock to near boiling – don’t do this too far in advance as it’s best if it’s still hot or at least warm when you use it

Add ham stir and cook for a few minutes

Add rice.  Stir into all the other ingredients and keep stirring to ensure that the rice is covered with oil and is all shiny and glistening (add a splosh more oil if necessary)

Add first ladle of stock – around half a mug (if you’ve got a flat-ish ladle put two in or put stock in a jug and pour approximately the same amount in). Stir and stir until when you draw the spoon along the botton of the pan you get a clear path for a moment before the risotto seeps back in again (Red Sea Moment – hereafter RSM)

Add second lot of stock (see above for quantities), keep stirring gently so that the rice isn’t smashed up, but is gently roughed to absorb the stock until the RSM

Keep repeating (waiting for RSM) until all the stock is added, you should be getting a creamy looking rice which keeps the RSM

Now’s the time to taste – if your rice is hard and horrible add more liquid, if you’ve finished the stock, water will do, or water and wine

The whole stock and stirring thing will take 20-30 minutes, you do need to stir frequently after the first couple of stock additions – thereafter, you do need to be in the kitchen, but can be preparing other things and stirring the risotto only every five or six minutes

Add the peas at the end and stir to warm through – if using fresh peas you should probably blanch them first unless they’re very tiny

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