I first started cooking risotto in my second year of university, following a recipe from Tiffany Goodall's From Pasta to Pancakes: The Ultimate Student Cookbook. It's now become one of my staple dishes, being really easy to make and with loads of ways to adapt it.
Risotto is a great student dish because it's so easy to change the quantities to make anything from a single portion, to cooking for a whole house, to even inviting friends over and cooking for about fifteen people! You can also add pretty much anything you like to it, so it's great for using up any spare ingredients you've got- and if you happen to have a bit of leftover white wine, you can throw that in too. I like cramming mine with loads of vegetables- you could definitely fit your five-a-day into a single meal like this! This recipe is one I did at home so I had more space and equipment, but my first risotto dishes were made in a tiny, often crowded kitchen and so a single portion can easily all be done with minimal utensils- a knife, a chopping board, a pan, a spoon and a small jug is plenty. If you're keeping it vegetarian, it's also a pretty cheap dish to make.
My recipe serves four to five people:
300g Arborio rice
3 medium carrots
1 small courgette
Handful of green beans
2 medium peppers
1 large brown onion
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 198g can of sweetcorn
2 chicken breasts
1 cube vegetable stock
You can also add a teaspoon or so of some herbs such as oregano or basil (I forgot!)
Begin by peeling the carrots, then chop the carrots, green beans peppers and courgette into small, equal chunks. Mine are probably about 1.5cm-ish each if you want to be specific on 'small'!
Put the chopped vegetables into a roasting dish and drizzle with about a tablespoonful of olive oil. Give the dish a shake to make sure the oil gets distributed evenly across all the vegetables. Then put into the oven at about 180°c for twenty minutes. Check them at halfway and give them a bit of stir around so nothing burns.
While those vegetables roast, roughly chop an onion into small pieces, and then chop the chicken into chunks- I was aiming for small bitesize pieces.
Before cooking the chicken and onion, boil a full kettle and then crumble a stock cube into a jug of hot water. The reason I say boil a full kettle is because arborio rice drinks up so much water when you cook it!
Add a drizzle of olive oil to a large pan and when it's hot, add the chicken and onion pieces. Fry until the chicken is cooked right through.
Add the arborio rice to the pan, and then pour into about 250ml of your stock, stirring continuously.
Then take your roast vegetables from the oven and put straight into the pan. It's fine (and probably better) if the vegetables aren't quite fully cooked because they continue cooking as you simmer the risotto.
Now it's just a case of stirring and adding water for about twenty minutes! For these quantities I used about a litre of water (including the 500ml that made up the stock). Risotto rice can be quite sticky, so you need to be stirring so it doesn't stick to the pan. It will slowly get thicker and creamier as you stir it. Add the water a bit at a time and keep the risotto simmering.
Depending on how much you're cooking, it should take about 15-30 minutes for the rice to cook fully. You can test by trying a spoonful- it shouldn't be crunchy or chewy, but more soft and sticky when it's done.
Just before it's completely cooked, add the frozen peas and sweetcorn. I actually didn't mean to add quite so many peas but this much fell out the bag! (I also meant to add a bit of oregano and basil at this point, and despite all those herbs and spices right in front of my eyes I forgot!) Stir the peas and sweetcorn in until the frozen peas are cooked then remove from the heat and put the risotto into a serving dish/ onto plates.
And that's it! It's not a quick dish, taking about 45-60 minutes in total with all the preparation, but it's worth it. I cooked this for my family and everyone wanted a second helping so I think it gets their approval. The real secret to a successful risotto is just waiting patiently for the rice to be completely cooked so it gets really creamy. Like I said, you can add pretty much anything to this. You don't need to do roast vegetables, I first made this dish with just some fried red onion and red pepper. I was using up what was in, but usually I like to include a bit of butternut squash. You could also add some chorizo, or go completely vegetarian with it. Once you've mastered it, you can go wild with combinations!
Hopefully that's inspired you- especially if you're a student looking for meal ideas. Let me know what ingredients you'd put in this!