Thursday, June 11, 2009

Keep Stirring

“These days, one of the most important stages of making a risotto is considered to be the mantecatura, which comes from the Spanish word for butter, mantequilla. It means the beating on of butter and cheese right at the end of cooking, to give the risotto that fantastic creaminess.”

- Giorgio Locatelli, Made in Italy

I love this book. It is so generous and honest in wanting to pass on the knowledge that Locatelli has acquired over the years. I haven’t read it from cover to cover but I’ve read sections of it and reading the risotto section made me feel loved. As result, I've been trying to pass on that love and I’ve been stirring a lot of risotto. I’m still learning about it.

Risotto is a beautiful thing. The sheer simplicity of it demands that you pay attention to the quality of ingredients and patience that you invest in the process. You can’t rush it; you have to coax it gently with your wooden spoon, slowly encouraging each grain to soak in as much it can manage.

I’d admit risotto seems intimidating but it really isn’t. You need to keep stirring but can blink and you can even walk away from the pot for a brief period and it’ll forgive you. But if you need to keep your dinner guest occupied, standing conversation around the pot with people taking turns at stirring works as well.

Is there a real technique behind the stirring? I don’t know. Someone said we could only stir in one direction for a reason I cannot remember. Someone else advised, we should stir in a figure 8, I have tried both of that and stirring in both directions and I don’t see any major differences. At least I think the risotto turned a blind eye to my inconsistencies.

And for a dish that has intimidated many, it is ironically something that is very adaptable, you can put anything in it – there are plenty of variations in the book but the for the last risotto I stirred, I used Locatelli’s basic risotto recipe and added roasted butternut squash – delicious!

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Serves 6

1 butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2.5 litres vegetable stock
50 g butter
1 onion, very finely chopped
400 g Arborio rice
125ml dry white wine
75g cold butter, cut into cubes
100g Parmesan, grated
salt and pepper


  1. Slice squash in half, remove seeds, and rub with olive oil. Roast face-side down in a 180 degree Celsius oven for 40-45 minutes or until tender when pierced.
  2. Scoop out the flesh and mash and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a heavy-based casserole over medium heat. Add the onion and cook very slowly for 5-7 minutes until soft.
  4. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until heated through and well-coated with the butter.
  5. Stirring continuously, add the white wine and cook for a few minute to allow the alcohol to evaporate.
  6. Add a ladleful of hot stock and stir until absorbed. Continue to add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously, until all the stock is absorbed - about 15-17 minutes. When cooked, the rice should tender but firm in the centre.
  7. Stir butternut squash then leave to stand for 1 minute.
  8. Add butter and Parmesan, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Season to taste and serve.

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Anonymous waiter said...

I need to turn my wife on to this blog. She is not a good cook at all.

11:16 PM  
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6:51 PM  
Blogger TreSSa said...

Wow, it looks great, I am going to try out your recipe. I simpy love butternut squash risotto, the combination of sweet and salty is irresistable!!

1:16 PM  
Anonymous Maria@Maria'sFoodFix said...

I've heard that idea that you should only stir in one direction, but I reckon it doesn't make much a difference either!And it's just too much to keep remembering to stir the same way for that long :)

9:18 PM  

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