Whenever I’m asked if I have a signature dish, I always say the same thing: risotto. And this cheddar cheese risotto specifically. I know cheddar cheese sounds an unlikely (and not at all Italian) ingredient, but trust me, it makes the creamiest, tastiest risotto EVER. This recipe is based on one from Nigella Lawson’s Nigelissima, but I’ve been making my own version of it for years now. Recently, I adapted it still further by adding toppings of roasted root vegetables and pieces of crispy pancetta. These additions have, in my humble opinion, made the dish even more delicious (and Dad – if you’re reading this, don’t worry – I’ll make this version next time you’re in London!).
I love this risotto because it’s so easy-going – I never measure out ingredients (although I did for the purpose of writing this recipe!), but rather judge it all by eye. I know people get nervous about making risotto, but honestly it’s not really hard at all. There’s just two tricks to it: 1. use a lot more liquid than you’ll think you’ll need and 2. don’t get impatient – just keep stirring (and pour yourself a glass of wine whilst you’re at it).
When I lived in Hampstead, I had what could definitely qualify for a world’s smallest kitchen competition. There was no oven, so I became very practiced at everything that could be made on a single hob, in confined quarters. Risotto was my favourite thing to cook, and I would regularly make up a big pot for family and friends (as you may have gathered, my Dad loves this recipe!). Now, I’m afraid it’s definitely not low on calories, but it’s the perfect meal for a cold winter’s day when you’re craving a warm bowl of carbs (and we all have to indulge sometimes).
- 4 green onions, sliced thinly
- 1 oz butter
- 150g grated cheddar cheese
- 250g risotto rice
- 200g rainbow carrots (or any root vegetable of your choice)
- ½ cup white wine.
- 1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 litre hot vegetable stock (I use 1 vegetable stock cube and pour over boiling water)
- 3-4 slices of pancetta, baked in oven until crispy
- Chives to garnish (optional)
- Olive oil, salt and pepper
- Set the oven to 220 C. Place the rainbow carrots on a baking tray and drizzle over a small amount of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large pan and add the green onions, stirring for a couple of minutes until cooked. Add the risotto rice and stir around for a few minutes until coated in the butter and onions (be careful the rice doesn't stick to the pan). Add the ½ cup white wine (or I generally fill up a wine glass ½ - ¾ full and tip that in) and cook for a few minutes. Mix in the mustard. Slowly, start to add the hot vegetable stock, 1 ladleful at a time, allowing the rice to soak up the liquid before adding more each time (just keep stirring away!).
- At this point, put the carrots in the oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until the carrots and golden and tender.
- When all the stock is added to the risotto, stir in the cheddar cheese until melted. Spoon the risotto into bowls and top with he vegetables, pancetta and a scattering of chopped chives if desired.
What’s your signature dish? Have you ever tried making risotto before?