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Recipe: "Cheesy Risotto with Spinach, Mushrooms and Almonds"

I got the idea for this the other day when my friend Jessie stayed over for an impromptu dinner last Sunday. She said she felt like having something cheesy, while my flatmate Silvia specifically requested a risotto. We were all coming out of a fairly difficult week, so we agreed that whatever we'd end up eating should feel like a hug from the inside. I wanted to enhance it by adding an ingredient that would provide a meaty feel to the dish without resorting to actual meat, since Jessia and Silvia are vegetarian.

I had to find a way to reconcile all these different dietary and emotional requirements. The answer was a no brainer: spinach and fresh mozzarella is a match made in heaven (smoked mozzarella and pumpkin are also a winning combination). I added mushrooms for meatiness - although you can easily ditch them if they’re not your thing - and red onions for brightness (and to trick my brain into thinking it was pancetta, which would also work fabulously in this recipe). 


And here’s the story of how my spinach, mushrooms and almonds risotto came about.



Serves:
4

Difficulty: Medium

Ingredients
Vegetable Broth 1l (either cube or stock pot)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (3tbs) 
Button Mushrooms 200g, sliced
Baby Spinach (1 large bag), 
Garlic (1 clove), crushed
Whole Almonds 50g
Red Onion (1 medium), chopped
Risotto rice 250g
White Wine (2 ounces)
Butter 25g
Parmesan
Mozzarella (1 ball), chopped
Salt and Pepper

Method

Put a large pot of water to boil, adding a stock cube or whatever vegetable stock you have at hand. Doing your own risotto broth is very easy and considerably healthier - recipe here.

In a large pan, fry the mushrooms in two batches. I use a little extra virgin olive oil for this but butter works too. Make sure you don’t overcrowd them and flip them halfway to make sure they crisp up evenly on both sides. Season with salt and pepper.

Lightly fry the garlic in a large pan, add spinach, and leave them to wilt for five minutes. Discard the garlic and season.

If the spinach releases too much liquid you can drain it and add it to your broth.  

Toast 50g of almonds in the same hot pan, crush them in a bowl for extra crunchiness and put them on the side. Reserve a few whole almonds for garnish if you’re feeling fancy.

Once the spinach, risotto and almonds are ready, reserve them and get started on the base of the risotto. Maker sure the broth has come to a boil. In a large heavy based pan, fry the chopped red onion into 2 tbsp (more or less) of extra virgin olive oil until softened, add the rice (about 80g per person) and toast it for a couple of minutes, then add a couple of ounces of white wine to sweat the rice in it. 

When the wine has evaporated and the broth is boiling, start ladling in two scoops of broth at a time, enough to cover the rice. Once that’s been absorbed, repeat the process again until the rice is cooked and has reached the desired texture, about 15-20 minutes.

When  the rice is ¾ cooked, add the spinach and mushrooms and the crushed almonds to the pan. 

Drop a generous knob of butter, no less than 25g, the shredded mozzarella, and then as much parmesan cheese as your bowels can tolerate - stir it in until the risotto is creamy and compact. Garnish with the leftover almonds and serve!






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