The joy of risotto is that you can make it any which way—just use a good quality vegetable stock and flavor it with what you please: fresh peas when they’re in season (or frozen, when they’re not); mixed vegetables; red wine; and—a particular favorite of mine—saffron and lemon, which I find to be just the right balance of sophisticated and nursery food. If you are cooking for a vegan, just leave out the butter and the grated Parmesan from their portion.
Timing is key, so risotto works best for the kind of party where you’re happy to be stirring the rice as your guests have drinks. There is little thinking involved, just rhythmic stirring—which somehow makes the process relaxed and cozy rather than frazzled. I chop my onion and prepare all of my ingredients before everyone arrives. I make the dessert in advance, prepare the salad (setting the dressing aside to add just before serving to prevent wilting leaves), and then, once everyone is happily gathered with a glass of wine in hand (myself included), I begin cooking. —Skye | From My Dining Table
Drizzle the oil into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Roughly chop the onion, toss it into the pan, and set on a medium heat for 5 minutes or so, until the onion becomes translucent and soft.
Meanwhile, warm the stock in a second saucepan and bring it to the boil.
Add the rice to the onion and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes or so, making sure that all the rice is well coated in the oil. Then, just as the rice begins to stick to the bottom of the pan and make a soft, crackling sound, pour in the wine, stirring continuously for 5 to 10 minutes, until the rice has soaked up all the liquid.
Next, gradually add the boiling stock, ladle by ladle, stirring the rice all the while.
Cook for another 20 minutes, until the rice is done (the risotto should be creamy, but the rice should still have a slight bite to it). The key to a good risotto is to keep stirring: This stops the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan and gives it that lovely pudding-like consistency.
Once you have added all the stock, grate in the zest of the lemon. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze in its juice.
Add the saffron and stir well, until the risotto becomes a deep yellow color.
Now, just before taking the pot off the heat, stir in the butter and grate in the Parmesan.
Add salt and pepper to taste and give it all one last big stir. Serve piping hot.