This risotto is probably the most simple of all risotto dishes in that it has such a limited number of ingredients: apart from chicken stock, parmesan, an onion and risotto rice, the standard ingredients of any risotto, it only calls for saffron and – if you can get hold of it, some bone marrow. But it is the simplicity of it that brings out all the subtle flavours, making it a very special dish. Easy to make, it might nevertheless take you a few times to get it just right, especially in terms of textures.
I have to admit that I have been cheating with this one in that I didn’t actually cook it myself: my neighbour was making it in preparation for a school cooking competition and I took the pictures … She is actually thinking of setting up her own blog, so watch this space for more information about this budding young chef!
The recipe is taken from The Silver Spoon book, the beautifully presented ‘standard’ Italian cookery book, which is a treasure trove when you are looking for a classic Italian recipe. In truth, I don’t usually follow the instructions to the letter, but tweak them depending on what I have in the fridge or how much time there is. A risotto, however, stands and falls with the quality of the ingredients you use: risotto rice (never basmati or long grain!), freshly grated parmesan, a few strands of good quality saffron, and homemade chicken stock.
The latter sounds more complicated than it is: whenever we have a roast chicken, I boil the carcass with whatever vegetable I have: turnip, carrot, onions, leek or celery, plus a bay leaf, some peppercorns and a handful of parsley. In a pressure cooker this takes me about 15 to 20 minutes. Voilá, I have about 2 litres of the most delicious chicken stock, ready to use or freeze. As of the bone marrow, I only occasionally use it, but it takes this dish to another level altogether!
Risotto alla Milanese (serves 4)
- 1.5 l chicken stock, home made
- 20g of bone marrow, if you can get hold of it
- 80g butter
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 350g risotto rice,
- ½ teaspoon of saffron
- 80g of parmesan, freshly grated
- salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan, bring your chicken stock to simmer. In a medium-size pan, melt 2/3 of the butter with the bone marrow. When the butter has melted add the onions. Once the onions have turned clear, add the risotto rice and mix thoroughly. As the risotto rice begins to turn clear, slowly start to add the boiling stock to the rice using a ladle. Although you are advised to add one ladle at a time, I tend to pour in half of the stock and giving the rice a good stir.
In a small cup, mix the saffron with 100ml of boiling water and leave it to soak. Grate the parmesan whilst checking that the rice is always kept quite wet – at this stage, though, you don’t want to add too much stock in one go. When the rice is nearly ready, not too soft, you still want a bit of bite, add the saffron, strands and water, the rest of the butter and 2/3 of the parmesan and stir it all in.
Season and serve with the remaining parmesan sprinkled on top.