It’s my 30th birthday.
And in true, pretentious food blogger form – I’m about to compare it to a risotto.
Because I’m THAT much of a dick.
No I’m not going to go into the ridiculous depth of comparing my actual life to some creamy rice grains, but I am going to reference a quote from my culinary hero and kitchen godmother (and fellow Capricorn!) Nigella Lawson.
She said, in her 2010 book Kitchen, ‘What I’ve discovered, after what feels like a lifetime’s cooking, is that anything which holds true in the kitchen, is just as true out of the kitchen’.
And this is where, dear reader, this risotto is very much representative of me going into my thirties.
What I believe Nigella means here is that lessons that we learn in the Kitchen and rituals we pick up while cook often lend themselves to lessons and rituals that can be applied in life. Cooking is not a ring fenced activity with no relation to the mechanics of everyday life.
There are patterns that reveal themselves, lessons that embed themselves and confidences that develop within a Kitchen that hold true in every aspect of life. This is something to cherish with cooking.
I didn’t make this recipe thinking that I was going to write a really poignant, life defining and significant recipe that would represent my life, but it was a happy realisation as I sat there lifting a fork of fizzyily creamy risotto to my mouth cross legged on the sofa.
This recipe is an amalgamation of culinary lessons that hold true outside of my Kitchen.
This recipe features a remix of a chicken my mother cooked over Christmas that was butterflied, stuffed with cranberry and sausage meat stuffing, folded, covered in bacon and roasted. There was no way I was throwing away leftovers.
Reusing Christmas poultry leftovers is nothing new to anyone across the world, but it’s a practice of resourcefulness and not seeing the end of a moment be the finish of the experience.
This recipe also uses up Prosecco. Sure, what kind of monster has Prosecco leftover at the end of Christmas? But you know sometimes there’s about a cups worth of dregs left in the bottles dotted around the house on Boxing Day and that’s all I really needed here.
Again this is a practice of looking for the celebration in anything. A flat celebratory wine might seem like a devastating sight, but seeing it for the on-going potential it has for more joy is a damn good lesson to carry with you into your real life, as I intend to with my thirties. I’ve said it before, my thirties will be a year of positivity and approaching every situation from a place of YES.
And of course there is the actual method of risotto cooking. Calm, mindful stirring and giving undivided attention to the task at hand in order to achieve the best result.
Shouldn’t this be our default approach to anything?
So often will I approach any life task with chaotic frenzy, wanting to rush through it as quickly as possibly in order to move to the next step, missing the time experience in between.
A risotto affords no such luxury. You have to attend to it, commit to it, engage with it, take time with it and every step is crucial in the experience of the final product so all the juicy steps in between must be enjoyed.
So that’s what I mean by comparing life lessons to a risotto, if you’re still here and don’t think I’m insane.
Taking yesterday’s experiences to inform tomorrow’s decisions. Approaching every situation with positivity. Allowing myself to be in the moment and experience it without rushing through.
Three simple practices that are present in risotto making but practices I carry with me into my thirties and through life.
Happy New Year everybody. May your 2020 be prosperous and full of deep, emotional risottos that you can compare to your life.
Of course this recipe is assuming you have chicken leftovers. I won’t go into the roasting of a chicken (but I do have a great recipe here if you fancy it) so let’s pick up this recipe as if you’re staring at a mound of cold, cooked chicken flesh.
Boil a kettle.
Melt a little butter in your widest frying pan and add two chopped shallots and a little salt.
Once they start to lose their pinkness, grate in two cloves of garlic and add a pinch of chopped fresh rosemary.
Cook for another two or three minutes before scattering in some arborio rice, just enough to cover the bottom. I never measure. Oops.
Stir the rice gains into the onion oils until they’re all glossily coated.
Now pour in a cup of Prosecco. If you have some leftover, perfect but if you don’t just use some good white wine. I won’t judge you.
But I will.
Now keep gently stirring the risotto until it soaks up all of the wine. Now break up a chicken stock cube over the risotto and pour in a splosh of the boiled kettle water, just enough to cover the rice and add a little salt.
Gently stir the risotto for a few minutes, waiting patiently for the grains to absorb the water and begin to swell and soften.
Add more water to cover once it begins to get sticky and continue to stir.
Commit. Don’t leave it for too long before you stir it again, it’s this gentle motion which aids the grains to absorb the water.
Keep topping up the risotto with water until the grains are soft and fluffy. Now add a final pour of hot water and add the roughly chopped cold chicken to the water.
Stir everything gently again and cook for about 5 minutes until the chicken is piping hot throughout.
Add a tiny dribble of double cream, some black pepper, grate in some fresh parmesan and give everything a good stir.
Serve it up with some fresh rosemary sprinkled over and maybe even another grating of parmesan.
No, DEFINITELY another grating of parmesan, damn it.