Skye Gyngell creates a stir in the kitchen with her risotto recipes

The secret to a lusciously velvety risotto? Whether you're cooking with porcini or prosciutto, it's all about the ladling and mixing... and ladling again
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Smooth with just a hint of lingering bite, risotto is comfort food. Small, plump and chalky arborio rice is specifically used in risotto, as it releases some of its starch during cooking, creating a creamy texture – but you can use carnaroli or vialone rice as well.

The success of a good risotto depends on a process of absorption. The method is always the same and consists of constant, gentle stirring, adding warm stock a cup at a time. And at the end, adding the final stirring of butter and cheese and allowing it to sit for a final rest for a few minutes.

In Italy, risotto is served as a course traditionally know as primi (a first course, like pasta) and is almost never served as a main, as it can feel heavy and cumbersome. One last tip: it is important that the rice comes to the table hot, as it cools quickly and can feel almost claggy.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.co.uk

Risotto with grilled trevisse

The red winter salad leaf trevisse is just coming to the end of its season. Slightly charred, it becomes sweet and soft with just a hint of its bitterness.

Serves 4-6

2 heads of trevisse
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
11/2 litres/21/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
100g/31/2oz unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
600g/21oz arborio rice
300ml/10fl oz dry white wine
100g/31/2oz unsalted butter
80g/3oz Parmesan, grated

Slice the trevisse in half lengthwise, brush with oil and place under a hot grill until slightly charred. Remove from the heat and drizzle over the balsamic. When cool, chop roughly and set aside.

Simmer the stock in a pan then place a second pan over a low heat and melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the rice and stir well to coat. Add the wine and turn up the heat slightly. Once the wine has been absorbed, start ladling in the stock. Let the stock be absorbed by the rice before adding the next ladle. Stir gently and continuously. Once all the stock is finished, the rice will be soft and creamy with the smallest hint of a bite. Add the butter and cheese, season with salt and pepper and fold in the trevisse. Place a lid on the pan, remove from the heat and allow to rest for a few minutes, then serve.

Risotto with porcini

The season for wild mushrooms has passed, but porcini are still beautiful when they are dried. Their flavour is less delicate, more intense: they work beautifully in soups and risottos.

Serves 4-6

1 litre/13/4 pints vegetable or chicken stock
100g/31/2oz unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
600g/21oz arborio rice
300ml/10fl oz dry white wine
100g/31/2oz dried porcini
500ml/17fl oz hot water
120g/4oz Parmesan, grated
100g/31/2oz unsalted butter

Simmer the stock in a saucepan. Put the butter in a separate, low-sided pan and place over a gentle heat. Allow to melt but be careful not to brown. Add the onion and cook until soft – about 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat well with the butter. Once the rice is well coated, turn the heat up slightly and add the wine. Allow to bubble and evaporate. Now begin adding the warm stock, ladle by ladle, allowing each to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next. Stir gently but consistently. Place the porcini in a bowl and pour over the boiling water. Allow to soak while you finish adding the last few ladles of stock. Now add the porcini along with the hot water in which they have been soaked. Add the Parmesan and butter; stir for a minute or so. Season with salt and pepper and place a lid on the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving on warm plates.

Risotto with mascarpone, lemon and prosciutto

This risotto is very creamy and rich with just a hint of sharpness. The prosciutto adds a pleasant, delicate sweetness. It is important that the ham does not cook in any way, so leave it until the very last minute before placing it on top of the rice.

Serves 4-6

11/2 litres/21/2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
100g/31/2oz unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
600g/21oz arborio rice
300ml/10fl oz dry white wine
1 unwaxed lemon, juice and zest
2 tbsp mascarpone
50g/2oz unsalted butter
100g/31/2oz Parmesan, grated
One slice of prosciutto per plate

Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium-sized pan. In a separate, low-sided pan, melt the butter over a fairly low heat. Once the butter has melted, add onion and cook till soft, then add the rice and stir well so it is coated with the butter. Turn up the heat slightly, add the wine and let it evaporate almost completely. Add a ladle of stock, stirring gently. Once one ladle has been absorbed, add further ladles, ensuring all the time that the rice is just covered by the liquid. Cook for 18-20 minutes, then remove from the heat and taste. It should be soft but not mushy, with a gentle bite. Add the lemon juice and zest, mascarpone, butter and Parmesan. Add salt and pepper to season and place a lid on the pan. Allow to sit for two minutes, then lay over the prosciutto just before serving.

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