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How to make the perfect vegan Risotto. The term Comfort Food is rapidly becoming a 21st Century cliché, the last sacred vestige of unmarried 30 or 40 somethings; huge bars of chocolate being consumed by the kilo, offering a quick fix for the temporarily depressed, jilted girlfriends scoffing huge boxes of biscuits without any discernment: pink wafers, synthetic-flavoured compacted sawdust, cheap cupcakes that come in packs of 12, wrapped in silver foil; beleaguered, near-mutinous office workers decimating dried out, wrinkled pieces of meat of origin(s) unknown, kept warm in huge, greasy metal trays on supermarket deli counters, potato wedges no longer edible…proof that reconstituted food can serve a very definite purpose in this age of hyper-food awareness.
We all know the pleasure derived from eating a sugar-saturated snack or a grease-laden titbit, but there can be more to Comfort Food than just empty calories and the lure of clogged arteries later in life.
Before I became vegan, my own particular weakness was for tea and biscuits, which I would eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, evening snack, mid-afternoon snack, post-hangover snack, whenever. This was probably the first ‘dish’ that I learned how to ‘cook’ and has stayed with me for many years. Whilst there is no excuse for this as a snack, there was something almost religious about the dunking of the biscuit into the holy golden liquid, freshly brewed tea, the quick transportation from drinking vessel to mouth and then the all-to-quick savouring as the mushy biscuit dissolves into nothing; as do the day’s worries: temporary ascension.
If like me, you find cooking to be a relaxing escape from the working weekday madness, then preparing a creamy, soul-consoling risotto can be more therapeutic than a muscle-contorting bout of yoga or a tedious manicure. You cannot extol enough the joys of a well-made Risotto. It is the culinary equivalent of freshly washed linen or a hot, lavender scented bath. Not only is Risotto is nutritious, it is extremely versatile. Traditionally to be served with nothing more than freshly grated (vegan) cheese, but if I feel that we need some additional vitamins, I will stir through some broad beans (removed from their little papery skins if not early in the season), a scorched red or yellow pepper chopped into small slices, sautéed courgette, stirred through the Risotto with some fresh peas or asparagus.
“I hate the opera. I think I must have a tin ear. No matter how hard I concentrate it still sounds like a bunch of Italian chefs screaming risotto recipes at each other.”~ Aristotle OnassisAristotle Onassis
The thing to remember with Risotto is that it is supposed to be delicate; it does not need to be overly seasoned nor overpowered by strong flavours. Traditionally the Risotto gets its first hint of flavour from a good, homemade stock, however not everyone has the time nor the inclination to prepare stock. In which case, use good quality vegetable stock cubes. I recently read in Elizabeth David’s Is There a Nutmeg in the House? that a certain well-known brand of stock cubes contain, amongst other flavouring horrors, MSG and Purines. We are all aware of the risks from MSG, including its charming carcinogenic properties but Purines are what give Gout sufferers their agonising attacks.
But I digress. Whilst I have a tendency to attack recipes from cookery books with an abecedarian zeal I always return to a handful of old favourites that require nothing more than a half functioning brain and one spoon stirring hand. Risotto is one of them. I first approached the recipe with trepidation after hearing dreadful stories about the complexity of this dish. In fact it is quite simple. Here then, is how to make Risotto, which is the Ultimate Comfort Food.
- 2 finely chopped shallots
- 3 finely chopped cloves garlic
- Good slug of olive oil
- 150 ml White Wine
- 1½ pints very hot vegetable or chicken-style stock
- 1 cup 85g Risotto Rice (Arborio etc.)
- Vegan Spread i.e. Pure or Earth Balance
- Vegan Parmesan Cheese for grating
- Salt and Pepper
- In a frying pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium heat.
- Saute the onion and garlic until softened and translucent.
- Add the rice and stir, coating it thoroughly in the oniony-oily mixture.
- Turn the heat up, and add the white wine. Let it bubble up for a few seconds, and then turn down to medium heat again.
- Once the wine has evaporated, start adding the stock, one ladleful at a time, only adding the next ladleful, once the last one has been absorbed.
- Keep doing this process until you have used up all your stock OR the rice has reached the texture you like. If you like your rice softer, then you may need to use up all your stock (or even add a little extra). If you prefer it al dente, you may not use all the stock.
- Add a some seasoning.
- Remove from the heat.
- Stir in a tablespoonful of vegan butter and beat it into your risotto with a wooden spoon. It will volumise the risotto.
- Finally, stir in some vegan parmesan, taste for seasoning and then serve.