For some time, the way I felt about risotto was akin to how one might feel if they shagged George Clooney, only to find he’s terribly average in bed.
Photographs of steaming piles of warm, sticky rice made my mouth water, but the few times I hit that, I always came away feeling vaguely disappointed. What I’d imagined would be an eye-flutteringly good experience, was really a bland and boring affair: goopy spoonfuls of rice that were either tasteless, or tasting only of stock. So despite risotto being a staple favourite among vegetarians, it was not one of mine.
That is, until this girl came along and rocked my world with her mushroom-with-a-raw-egg-yolk-on-top, tonsil-orgasms-aplenty, crazy-good risotto recipe.
The only catch?
Parmesan. LOTS of parmesan. Well, I mean, of course! It is risotto after all. But although I am not a vegan, I do try to limit my dairy intake, largely for health (and ethical) reasons. So one evening I set about making a dairy-free risotto, based on the aforementioned risotto-recipe-of-greatness. But it not risotto widoud da cheese-a! Mama mi-a! I heard the anguished cry of a hundred Italians in my mind. Fear not mi amicos, because on this fateful night, I discovered something good. Something sexy. Something… surprising. *wiggles eyebrows* That secret? A tablespoon of tahini, dissolved in a glass of hot water and added as part of the broth, as-close-as-perfectly replicates the creamy nuttiness that you’d otherwise rely on the parmesan for. Tahini! Yes! As I stood at the stove, stirring the gooey rice mixture tenderly, it came to me in a moment I’ll liken to Archimedes’ moment in the bath. I could only guess that it *might* work, but then when it did – ahh, the sweet feeling of smug satisfaction. The real proof in the
pudding dinner though was when I asked the original chef herself if she could tell the risotto was vegan, and the look of complete surprise on her face said it all.
So without further ado, here’s the recipe for steamy, sexy, vegan (if you forego the egg) risotto, that’ll fool even the die-hard cheese lovers.
Ingredients (3-4 servings)
cooking oil (I use rice bran)
1½ cups Arborio rice
4 cups vegetable stock
½ cup white wine
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 cup mushrooms, diced (as many different kinds of mushrooms as you like/can find!)
1 cup thickly chopped mushrooms
2 cups shredded spinach
1 tbspn tahini, dissolved in a cup of hot water
raw egg yolks (1 per serving; optional)
chopped parsley (optional)
himalayan salt, to taste
Heat the stock and keep it simmering, so it stays hot.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan – throw in the diced mushrooms and sauté them, til they’re nicely cooked. Then remove em’ from the heat and set aside for later.
In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat then add the diced onion. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until it is slightly translucent. Then add the garlic.
Add the rice to the pot and go at it with a wooden spoon so that the grains are well coated with the oil. Let cook for 30 seconds or so.
Add the wine and cook while stirring, until the liquid is fully absorbed.
Add a ladle of hot stock to the rice and stir until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process.
NB: It’s super important to keep stirring often, so it doesn’t get burnt and stuck to the bottom!
Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for 20-30 minutes or until the grains are al tende – that’s the fancy term for firm-but-not-crunchy.
When you’re down to the last bits of stock, add the cooked (diced) mushrooms, spinach and cup o’ tahini – stir ‘em through thoroughly. If you run out of stock and the risotto still isn’t done, you can finish the cooking using hot water.
Season the risotto with salt, to taste.
Just before the risotto is pretty much done, fry the chunky mushrooms.
Serve the risotto immediately, making a well in the middle into which you can pop the egg yolk, and garnish with the fried chunky mushrooms and parsley.