Personally, I don’t think there’s much better to come home to on a cold, dreary evening than the promise of a warm comfort meal, and for me, the cheesy, creamy prospect of an incredibly filling risotto fits the bill perfectly. Unfortunately, some of the more ‘traditional’ recipes that have been floating around my family for decades are a little too rich, to enjoy often, so, as per usual, I took it upon myself to find a lighter alternative that I could enjoy as often as possible.
Risotto isn’t a dish I’d recommend for any impatient cooks, and it’s the kind of meal you really have to take some time to get right, but that’s one of the reasons I think I enjoy making it so much – although most of the time when I’m at university or working, I’m a bit of a convenience cook with pretty plain tastes (I’m quite happy to live on vegetable couscous most of the time), I love being able to take my time over a dish, too, and this is definitely one of those meals.
As far as risottos go, this one’s pretty simple, actually, and leaves lots of room for variation; it all starts with some vegetable stock (I make mine from cubes, but you’re more than welcome to put me to shame and use fresh!), some diced pepper and onion, and a couple of servings of Arborio rice (please, please, please don’t try this with regular rice; it might be perfectly edible, but it’s certainly not going to be enjoyable).
Cook the pepper and onion (as well as any other veg you feel like throwing into the mix) through – I like to add a dash of chilli and paprika to give the vegetables a bit of warmth, and the fact that it gives the pepper such a gorgeous colour certainly helps. Add the Arborio rice, and remember: this is the easy bit, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Because soon enough, you’re ready for the stirring. Now, there are a number of techniques for adding your stock to the rice, but I always abide by the same rule – adding a cup of the stock at a time, and allowing the rice to absorb the entire amount before even thinking about adding another. This particular method is a bit of a commitment – it certainly takes longer than a few other recipes I’ve seen, but it’s probably the only reason my risotto somehow manages to come out edible every time, so I stick to it! This stage can take anywhere between 20-40 minutes, depending on how you like the texture of your risotto, but I like mine fairly al dente and it generally takes me about half an hour of constant stirring, pouring and tasting to get it to a standard I’m happy with; once you’ve done this, it’s a simple case of adding your cheese of choice, and you’re good to go!
Perfect risotto, every time.
LOW-CALORIE RED PEPPER RISOTTO
A delicious red pepper risotto which is low in calories and vegetarian friendly.
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 onion
- 150 g arborio rice
- 1 L vegetable stock
- 80 g cheese I use Weightwatchers’ low-fat cheddar, but any good ‘melting’ cheese should work
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)
- 1 tbsp salt I use low-sodium salt, but you’re free to omit this!
- Lightly oil a large pan (I use Fry Light ‘better than butter’ spray); whilst waiting for the oil to heat in the pan, coarsely dice both the bell pepper and onion. Throw them both into the hot oil alongside the paprika, chilli and salt, and allow them to cook through slightly – about 4 minutes should be fine.
- Add the Arborio rice to the sizzling pepper and onion mix, thoroughly combining them over the heat for another 2-3 minutes.
- Using a measuring cup (a small mug will suffice if you don’t have one), pour a cupful of the vegetable stock into the Arborio and vegetable mixture, so that it’s just covered by the liquid. Stir until the water is nearly completely absorbed, then add a second cup of broth. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked through, which should take about 30 – 40 minutes. You may not use all of the stock, so don’t panic!
- When you’re happy with the rice’s texture, remove it from the heat and stir in your cheese, mixing continuously until it melts entirely into the risotto, then dish up ASAP – it’s best steaming hot!
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