The Nigella Diaries – Risotto

Restrained Mushroom Risotto

Like cheesecakes and pavlovas, Nigella includes a risotto recipe in most of her books.

In How To Eat there are three:

  • Mushroom Risotto
  • Restrained Mushroom Risotto
  • Pea Risotto

Yes, there are two recipes for mushroom risotto in How To Eat. The first is in her Cooking For Children chapter (along with a “recipe” for marmite sandwiches) and the latter, a paired down but intensely full of flavour version, is included in her low-fat chapter (which isn’t as horrifying or unbelievable as it sounds – more on that another time). The difference between the two is the former has more butter and less mushrooms and is, therefore, at least in theory, more child friendly.

Risotto is, in my opinion, one of the best comfort foods going around – it’s all about the mouth feel. It can, however, be quite daunting to make. In fact, I always used to joke that making risotto was a bit like straightening my hair – it always took longer than you’d expect and was best done with wine. It’s also scary because of just how many contestants on Masterchef have come unstuck because of it over the years.

To be honest though, I actually like the stand by the stove stirring thing that you do with risotto. It adds to the element of comfort – especially if I’m feeling a tad on the stressed or anxious side as it’s such a mindful yet mindless thing to do. There’s also the wonder of transformation as you watch the grains change into something so luxurious and silky.

I nearly included the pea risotto in the post where I talk about frozen peas – because Nigella does use them a lot – but it’s also mentioning here. A little more of a palaver than the mushroom risotto – on account of you needing to blitz some of the frozen peas, it’s a very yummy meat-free Sunday dinner. Chicken stock gives it a lovely clean taste, but ham stock (using the Christmas ham bone) makes it taste like a pea and ham soup. You can, however, get this effect from using chicken stock and adding bacon – which, of course, makes it no longer meat-free, but does make it something my husband is more likely to eat on a Sunday night.

We served it without bacon or ham stock beside a piece of pan-fried white fish – and it was lovely. Where the recipe is generously for 2, we felt it would probably feed 3.

Another good risotto is her Lemon Risotto from Nigella Bites.

The cream, egg and butter make it voluptuous and the lemon and rosemary give it a tang and a faintly herbal scent. It’s definitely a “sometimes food” to be savoured (and you do need to savour it) at a time when it will do your soul the most good.  

Lemon Risotto

Anyways, the recipe I’m going with is the Restrained Mushroom Risotto. For stock I’ve used plain unsalted chicken stock – and found that I needed a little more than the 375ml Nigella states in her recipe. She also suggests, for yet another boost of flavour, using the soaking water from 10g dried porcini instead of stock – of course, you also would use the (soaked, drained and chopped) porcini in it too. My hint would be to have either the kettle freshly boiled and ready to offer up some boiled water if you run out of stock before the risotto is cooked, or prepare extra stock in the first place.

Okay, without any further faffery, here’s the recipe.

Restrained Mushroom Risotto

What you need (serves 2)

  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 tsp garlic-infused oil (or plain oil with a little grated garlic)
  • ½ onion, chopped finely
  • 200g mixed mushrooms
  • 125g arborio rice
  • 60ml white wine or Noilly Prat (vermouth)
  • 375ml stock
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan
  • Chopped parsley to garnish

What you do with it

  • Heat the butter and oil in a small frypan or medium saucepan. 
  • Add the onion and fry gently until soft. 
  • Toss in the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Pour in the wine (or vermouth) and let it bubble away until it’s absorbed.
  • Add a ladleful of stock and stir over a low to medium heat until it’s been absorbed. Add another and repeat until all the stock has been absorbed. Settle in – you should be here for about 20 minutes. At the end of the stock and stirring, the rice should have lost its chalkiness and be creamy, but still firm to the bite.
  • Stir in the parmesan and sprinkle with parsley to serve.

I’ve taken on the challenge to cook my way through Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. You can find other episodes here.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

5 thoughts

  1. Yum. I love risotto. I’ve made a few types…butternut squash risotto is really yummy. I also did a “caullflower rice” version that turned out decent. I’ll need to try this one.


  2. I love Nigella’s risotto recipe but alas lost the book during a move. Just trying your recipe above but it seems to be missing where to add the arborio rice


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