Guy forks: Warm up for Bonfire Night with Mark Hix's super-versatile risotto recipes

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Bonfire Night is about big pots of communal sharing food, when friends and kids drop by – before or after a chilly outing to the local Guy-burning and fireworks display. What's required are cosy, tasty warmers, and I thought a sharing pot of risotto might go down well this year; if you are really keen, do a couple of different types to offer your guests.

One thing to note: it's important to have a good base stock when making risotto, or you are just going to taste rice, instead of the main ingredient it's made with.

Saffron risotto

Serves 4-6

This risotto appears in different guises on restaurant menus and in cookery books. Saffron is the key ingredient and traditionally it should also have bone marrow – I've also seen it with a slice of Italian sausage such as cotechino or zampone sat in the centre.

Don't be tempted by cheap saffron when you go to Middle Eastern countries and think you are coming home with a bargain; it should be deep red and the strands should be dry and tight. Powdered is OK, but it's worth splashing out on the real thing in this case.

200g carnaroli rice
3-4 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
A couple of good knobs of butter
A couple of generous pinches of saffron strands
3tbsp red wine
750ml-1ltr hot chicken stock
2tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Infuse half the saffron in the hot chicken stock for 10 minutes or so.

Gently cook the shallots in a knob of butter for 2-3 minutes without colouring, stirring every so often. Add the rice and stir on a low heat for a minute.

Add the rest of the saffron along with the wine and stir for another minute or so, then add a quarter of the stock and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Stir every so often on a low heat until the rice has absorbed the stock; continue adding the stock and stirring until the rice is cooked but still has a bit of a bite. The risotto should not be too dry, but a sloppy, spooning consistency. Stir in the rest of the butter and Parmesan and, if necessary, season again with salt and pepper and add a little more stock. To serve, spoon the risotto onto plates or into bowls.

Snail, baked garlic and parsley risotto

Serves 4-6

Snails and garlic are a perfect marriage – we use jumbo garlic bulbs from the Isle of Wight in the restaurant, but if you can't get hold of them, then normal-sized cloves will also be fine.

You can use frozen or canned snail meat for this as you may well struggle getting fresh!

1 jumbo or 3 normal bulbs of garlic
200g carnaroli rice
3-4 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
60g butter plus 100g to finish
150ml white wine
750ml-1ltr hot chicken stock
16 snails, halved
4tbsp chopped parsley
4tbsp double cream

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Wrap the garlic bulbs in foil and bake in the oven for about an hour for the jumbo and 30 minutes for the normal size.

Remove the foil, leave to cool, then carefully break open the bulbs and remove the cloves and any surrounding skin. The very large cloves can be cut in half.

Gently cook the shallots in 60g of the butter for 2-3 minutes without colouring, stirring every so often. Add the rice and stir on a low heat for a minute.

Add the wine and stir for another minute or so, then slowly start adding the stock and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Stir every so often on a low heat until the rice has absorbed the stock; continue adding the stock and stirring until the rice is cooked but still has a bit of a bite. The risotto should not be too dry, but instead, a sloppy, spooning consistency.

Stir in the snails, the garlic, the rest of the butter, the parsley and double cream; season again if necessary and add a little more stock if the consistency isn't quite there.

To serve, spoon the risotto onto warmed plates or into bowls.

Celery and pecorino risotto

Serves 4-6

We don't cook enough with celery and it's a tasty addition to all sorts of dishes. I've used it here with mature pecorino, but you could add pieces of bacon or ham hock – or just leave it vegetarian.

1 head of celery
1ltr hot vegetable stock, or a good-quality stock cube dissolved in that amount of hot water
2tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped
200g carnaroli rice
60g butter
2tbsp double cream
60-80g freshly grated pecorino Romano

For the stock

The trimmings from the celery
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1.5ltrs vegetable stock

Trim the root away from the celery and discard. Remove the outer, large, stringy stems from the celery and roughly chop them. Reserve any leafy tops to chop into the risotto at the end. Put the chopped outer stems in a saucepan with the onion and stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 1 hour, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Check the strength; keep simmering if it's not strong enough.

Meanwhile, cut the rest of the celery into rough 1cm dice and simmer in a little of the stock until just cooked; strain the stock back into the main batch and put the celery to one side with any chopped tops.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion for a few minutes until soft. Add the rice, stirring it well with a wooden spoon over a low heat for a minute. Gradually add the hot stock a little at a time, stirring constantly and ensuring that each addition has been fully absorbed by the rice before adding the next.

When the rice is almost cooked, add the cooked celery and any leaves, season and continue adding the stock and cooking in the same way until the rice is soft, but still a little al dente and plump. The risotto should be quite moist at this stage, not dry and not too wet. Add the butter, cream and half of the pecorino. Correct the seasoning and serve with the rest of the pecorino.

Risotto with crab and chilli

Serves 4-6

If you have live or whole cooked crabs you can make a stock from the shells. If not, you can use freshly picked crab meat and fish stock as the base and/or stir some of the brown meat in at the end.

1 crab weighing about 800g-1kg, cooked, the meat removed and shells reserved
60g butter
200g carnaroli rice
1-1.5ltrs approx of hot crab stock
2-3 red chillies, finely chopped
2-3tbsp chives, finely chopped
100g unsalted butter to finish
60ml double cream

For the crab stock

1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium leek, washed and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
20g butter
The shells from the crab, broken with a rolling pin or back of a knife
A few sprigs of thyme
1tsp fennel seeds
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
150ml white wine
2ltrs fish stock (good-quality cubes work well)

To make the stock, gently cook the onion, leek and garlic in the 20g of butter for a few minutes, until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour, giving the occasional skim.

Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve. The stock should be strong in flavour: if it's not, reduce it until the flavour is concentrated. You should be left with about 1-1 litres.

To make the risotto, melt the 60g of butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add the rice, stirring it well with a wooden spoon over a low heat for a minute. Gradually add the hot stock a little at a time, stirring constantly. When the rice is almost cooked, add the chilli and continue cooking for a few minutes, then add half the crab, the unsalted butter, double cream and chives; season if necessary. Warm the rest of the crab through under a grill, spoon the risotto on to warmed serving plates and scatter the crab on top.

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