This brown rice risotto recipe, made with oozy blue cheese and fresh herbs, is healthy, whole grain and packed with flavour – a lovely vegetarian main.
Despite the fact that chefs with no imagination insist on serving me risotto whenever I eat out, I still like it. What's not to like? A hot, silky, brothy, creamy, cheesy bowl of comfort. With autumn closing in around us, before summer even began, that fresh, vibrant buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil salad feels sadly out of place. But a risotto is spot on.
I am an enthusiastic consumer of whole grains these days, so imagine my excitement when I stumbled across brown risotto rice in a health food shop. It never occurred to me that such a thing even existed, although thinking a little harder about it, it would seem obvious that it does. The only downside of using brown risotto rice is that it takes a lot longer to cook. Up to an hour even.
Luckily, I have a fantastic hands-free method of cooking risotto to introduce you to, developed by the ever reliable cooking resource Cook's Illustrated. You cook the risotto as normal, up to when the white wine has been absorbed, then add all the stock at once and leave it to simmer until almost done. A quick vigorous stir at the end brings out all the creaminess you expect from a risotto, but with only a few minutes of actual stirring. Full instructions are included in the recipe.
I always remove the green shoot from the middle of garlic because cooking lore says it tastes bitter. Cook's Illustrated tested whether it really made a difference in the final dish and they concluded that when garlic was raw or used in bulk, it did. And Nigel Slater says you should too.
The hearty, nutty flavours of brown rice (and other whole grains) are great with strong, concentrated flavours, so I went for blue cheese in this recipe. I had a completely amazing piece of cheese in my fridge - a remarkable, unpasteurised, Scottish blue cheese called Dunsyre Blue. I've only just come across it, but I approve! It was soft, creamy and had truly lovely layers of flavour.
A little squeeze of lemon juice and a handful of fresh, green garlic chives (left over from an exciting whole grain pot stickers recipe I like to make) added a light touch of freshness and zing to the creamy, cheesy, umami flavours.
Great for a chilly autumn in the wintery wilds of Yorkshire.
Brown rice risotto
- 1700 ml water
- 1 lightly heaped tablespoon vegetable stock paste
- 1 lightly heaped tablespoon miso paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 400 g brown risotto rice
- 250 ml drinkable dry white wine
- squeeze of fresh lemon juice
- 30 g Parmesan finely grated
- big handful fresh herbs I used garlic chives, roughly chopped
- 2 knobs/30g butter cold
- 200 g blue cheese I used Dunsyre Blue, crumbled or cubed
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- In a medium saucepan, gently heat the water with the stock paste and miso, keeping the stock hot until you need it. Don't let the mixture boil, as it ruins the miso.
- Add the olive oil to a large pan and heat over medium until hot. Add the onion with a pinch of sea salt and sauté until translucent, turning the heat down and/or adding a splash of water if the onions start to catch. When almost done, add the garlic and cook until softened and very fragrant.
- Add the rice and stir to coat the grains in the fat and aromatics. Toast the rice for a few minutes over medium-high heat, stirring very frequently to stop anything burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the white wine, stirring occasionally until it is absorbed - this will take quite a bit longer with brown risotto rice than it does with traditional white rice.
- Add about two thirds of your hot stock, stir and cover. Simmer until al dente, about 60 minutes, stirring only once or twice as it cooks.
- When the rice is mostly soft, with only a little bite, add 1-2 ladles more stock and stir the whole thing vigorously for a few minutes, until thick and creamy.
- Taste to check for seasoning, but remember the salty cheese and butter is still to be mixed in. Add a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, the grated Parmesan, herbs (reserve a little for garnish), cold butter, blue cheese and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Stir gently to combine until the butter melts, then cover and rest for 10 minutes.
- Serve steaming bowlfuls of nutty, salty risotto with more fresh herbs sprinkled over.