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Chicken, Mushroom, Thyme and Marsala Risotto (2 ways)

Whilst as I mentioned in my last post, December was a bit of a barren wasteland of cooking for me, I did make one new meal when my Godmother Sheila and her Daughter Hilary paid me a visit for lunch between Christmas and New Year. Sheila is a bit of a legend – in her 80s and with a social life to rival most 20-somethings she reminded me on this visit just one of the reasons I love her so much by asking “is the food ready?” barely 1 minute in the door! I think maybe a tiny bit of that directness may have rubbed off on me over the years!  Luckily someone’s penchant for pre-planning has also rubbed off on me and lunch was indeed ready.

I made a risotto to counteract all of the roast meats, veg and potatoes that are ubiquitous with Christmas. I wanted to make something super creamy and rich so I used all of the butter and all of the cream. I freshened it up a little with a topping of fresh rocket leaves and a couple of teaspoons of my favourite Graceburn Cheese. I made the dish again in early January when a friend came over for dinner but this this time I took a more low fat approach to proceedings although I did still garnish it with a little bit of Graceburn.  I have included instructions for both versions within the recipe – the ‘lower fat’ options are within brackets. Risottos are pretty forgiving – don’t worry about the specific quantities too much and feel free to mix and match the higher/lower fat options – use chicken breasts but cream, use chicken thighs but frylight, and trust your instincts – it’ll be just fine.

Serves 2

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Ingredients:

300g Chicken Thigh Fillets – Skinned and Boned (300g Chicken Breast)
2 tbsp Cornflour/Cornstarch
1 Egg White
7 tbsp (105ml) Marsala Wine or Sherry/Maderia
2 tbsp Garlic Paste
2 tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 Medium Onions – red or white
80g Salted Butter (35 sprays Frylight)
100g Risotto Rice
2 tbsp Chicken Stock Concentrate
1 litre Hot Water
300g Mushrooms
100g Frozen Peas
6 tbsp (90ml) Double Cream (Low Fat Creme Fraiche)
Sea Salt Flakes
2 Handfuls Rocket
2 tbsp Graceburn Cheese or Parmesan


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Start by dicing 300g Chicken Thigh Fillets – Skinned and Boned or 300g Chicken Breast into bite size pieces and place in a bowl with 2 tbsp Cornflour/Cornstarch, 2 tbsp Marsala Wine, 1 tbsp Garlic Paste, 1 tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes.  Stir together and set aside.

Tip – You could do this a couple of hours ahead of time – just refrigerate it in the meantime. 

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Dice 2 Medium Onions and start gently frying them in 40g Salted Butter or 20 Sprays of Frylight over a medium heat in a large saucepan with a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes. Continue cooking until the onions are soft and translucent – a good 10/15 minutes.

Tip – For the version not using butter, I add a little bit of water after 5 minutes or so to help with the softening.

Add 1 tbsp Garlic Paste and 4 tbsp Marsala Wine to the onions and keep stirring until the wine has all but reduced.

Tip – I add the garlic this late so it doesn’t burn. I add the wine before the rice (as is the common instruction) so that the rice does not absorb the uncooked wine which can result in an acrid taste to the end of the risotto. I add the garlic at the same time as the wine as this also stops the garlic from catching.

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Add 100g Risotto Rice to the onions and stir to coat the rice grains in the fat and wine residue. Add about half a cup of 1 litre Hot Water and keep stirring until the rice has mostly absorbed the liquid. Add 2 tbsp Chicken Stock Concentrate and 1 tbsp Fresh Thyme Leaves to the pan along with another half cup of the water and stir while the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue to add the water a little at a time whilst you start to cook the other ingredients.

Tip – It is important to keep stirring the risotto. The stirring action helps to release the starch from the rice grains which results in a creamy risotto. It also stops the rice sticking to the pan and acts as a reminder to add the next batch of water when you feel the mix becoming too dry. Saying this, whilst it is important to stir almost continuously for the first 5 minutes or so, after that it is possible to take short breaks to deal with other aspects of the recipe. I wouldn’t advise walking away from it entirely tho – if you need to pee, just turn the heat off for a couple of minutes while you’re away.

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Quarter 300g Mushrooms and add to a large frying pan with 20g Salted Butter or no oil and a pinch of Sea Salt Flakes. Fry over a high heat until the mushrooms are golden brown, soft all of the way through and any moisture released has evaporated. Put the mushrooms aside.

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Add the marinated chicken to the frying pan over a high heat with 20g Salted Butter or 10 Sprays of Frylight and fry until golden brown and cooked all of the way through – this will take a little longer if using thighs.  Once cooked set aside until needed.

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Once the rice has absorbed all of the water and is just cooked all the way through, add the cooked mushrooms and chicken to the rice along with 100g Frozen Peas and 6 tbsp Double Cream or Low Fat Creme Fraiche.

Tip – You can tell when the rice is cooked by tasting it! 

Tip – You may need more water than stated or a bit less – as with flour the absorption rate of the rice can vary with many factors. Trust your gut. 

Stir the risotto for a couple more minutes until the peas, mushrooms and chicken have had a chance to warm right through. Check the seasoning by tasting and add more salt as needed. Lastly, add the last 1 tbsp of Marsala Wine so that the flavour is good and prominent in the finished dish.

Serve in two pasta bowls with one handful of Rocket and 1 tbsp Graceburn or Parmesan as a topping. 

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