Previously, I had always used white wine for this recipe, but I recently visited Zhenjiang in China, a city famed for its black rice vinegar. I was lucky enough to have a tour round one of their vinegar factories, and I found out that their vinegar is reputed for its huge array of health benefits. According to my guide, it relieves pain, detoxifies the body, provides energy, and prevents illness amongst many other benefits. It was served in a small dish alongside almost every meal I had in Zhenjiang, and my teacher said that whilst growing up, she washed her face with the vinegar to keep herself looking youthful. In traditional Chinese medicine, inhaling the fumes, rubbing it on sore body parts, drinking it, eating it, even soaking a cloth in it and putting it up your nose, are all treatments for various ailments.
Perhaps since I had always associated vinegar with greasy chip-shop chips, I had always retained some idea that vinegar was bad for me, so this was all a huge surprise. A very welcome surprise too!
Since then I’ve been eager to use vinegar in all sorts of dishes, and so I substituted white wine vinegar into my tried and tested risotto recipe, and it worked a treat. White wine vinegar doesn’t, I’m afraid, have all the same health benefits of black rice vinegar, however a quick google search has led me to believe that it may reduce high blood pressure, and even reduce the risks of certain cancers – I’m not sure on the validity of these studies but hey ho, every little helps!
Also – there may be some risotto traditionalists that see this recipe and become upset that I don’t add the stock ladle by ladle. In fact, I do usually do that, and if you want to be sure of deeply flavoured risotto, simply add the stock more gradually, as the risotto continues to absorb it. The reason I decided to make it yesterday by adding the entire jug of stock was simply because I was trying to make the dish as quickly as possible, and it totally slipped my mind! Despite panicking for a few moments after adding it all, the dish turned out JUST as good as it had before, and since I know a lot of people are intimidated by cooking risotto, it makes it a bit of an easier method to go by.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 120g risotto rice
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 150g button mushrooms, sliced
- Approx. 600ml vegetable stock (500ml if using white wine)
- 100g frozen peas
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, or 100ml white wine
- Salt and Pepper to season throughout
- Optional 30g butter and 30g parmesan
- Heat the oil in a large pan, and add the onion. Cook on medium heat for a few minutes to soften the onion, but not brown.
- Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for an extra minute – I had frozen my sliced mushrooms previously so I cooked this for an extra 3/4 minutes on low heat to defrost the mushrooms in the pan.
- Add the risotto rice, and then quickly (as to not burn the risotto) add the wine/vinegar, and then the stock. The pan should be hot enough that if using wine, it sizzles when added.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
- At this point it becomes very important to stay by your pan and stir continuously. Seriously, stir continuously!
- Keep it lightly simmering until the water has almost completely been absorbed. This should take around 18-20 minutes, however, after about 12 minutes, add the peas.
- Try the risotto – If all the water has been absorbed but the risotto is still firm and sticks to your teeth, just add more water and continue stirring. Season if necessary.
- For a creamier risotto, add 30g of finely chopped butter and 30g of grated parmesan and mix in towards the end.
How liquid-ey you prefer your risotto is up to you – in more traditional days it was okay to be able to stand your fork in it, however some more modern chefs prefer more of a liquid texture, that slides on the plate. I’ve made it both ways, and quite frankly prefer the former (pictured in this post). I’ve also made this risotto with finely chopped pancetta which was a welcome addition – if you aren’t veggie, then add this with the onion at the beginning and make sure it’s cooked thoroughly.