This is a very bold statement, I know. But sometimes you just have to stop being modest and tell the truth for a change. Have I tasted all the possible risottos in the world? No. (Although it would be pretty awesome if I had.) Have I read about all the other risotto options in an abundance of cookbooks? I haven’t. (Frankly, I don’t have the time, being an industrious American Studies student and all that. My professor would get a heart attack if he knew I had more knowledge about the history of risotto than about –say- Woodrow Wilson’s presidency.)
So how do I know this mackerel, shrimp and saffron risotto is the best?
To tell you the truth, there are plenty of other delicious risottos that deserve the title as well. Think about a wild mushroom risotto with gorgonzola cheese and roasted pear (yum!) or a pumpkin risotto with sage butter and roasted pine nuts. (yum yum!)However, when I was standing in my kitchen the other day, there was only one ingredient that would be able to satisfy my cravings. Mackerel.
Do I hear you frowning, dear reader? No worries, I completely understand your reluctance to see the brilliance of this fish. Honestly.
Taking into account that big frown on your forehead, let me just say this: mackerel is the most wonderful fish on the planet. It’s full of vitamins, full of good oils and so delectably juicy and scrummy it will make your mouth water just from looking at it.
So on that rainy and cold evening I decided that mackerel was the only way to go. Add to that the soothing and comforting texture of the risotto and the aromatic warmth of saffron and there is no further denying it. Shout it from the roof tops, dear readers.
THIS IS THE BEST RISOTTO.
Anyway, on to something completely different. (and less fishy) The best thing about cooking a risotto is the stirring. I’m aware that in the midst of a foodie battle- to stir or not to stir?- this might be a rather controversial thing to say. To all those who firmly believe risotto shouldn’t be frequently stirred: by all means, go ahead. After all, who am I to change your stirring aversion?
On the other hand, if you’re one of those people, you’re really missing out on all the fun. The rhythmic stirring, watching how those separate kernels of rice start to form a creamy union of splendidness, sipping from a glass of white wine, swaying around in your kitchen with JT’s angelic voice in the background…
Stirring risotto is simply the most joyous, relaxing and ultimately comforting time consuming act there is.
Mackerel, shrimp and saffron risotto
• 300gr risotto rice
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 round green courgette, finely chopped
• 1 round yellow courgette, finely chopped
• 1 orange pepper, finely chopped
• 4 mackerel fillets
• 20 shrimps
• ½ tsp saffron powder
• ½ tsp paprika
• ¼ tsp smoked paprika
• 1 glass of white wine (drink the remaining wine while stirring)
• Vegetable stock
• Fresh mint
• Juice of a lemon
1. Heat the stock together with the saffron. In a separate pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil add the onions, courgette and pepper, and fry for 5 minutes without colouring. Keep Stirrin’. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice, paprika and smoked paprika and turn up the heat.
2. The rice will now begin to lightly fry. Keep stirrin’. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the white wine. Keep stirring — it will smell fantastic. (Meanwhile, practice your dance moves by mimicking the movement of your wooden spoon with your hips. )
3. Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Keep stirrin’. Continue adding ladlefuls of stock, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. Keep stirrin’. Think of it as giving the rice a well-deserved massage. This will take around 15 minutes.
4. In a separate pan, fry the mackerel fillets skin side down so the skin gets really crispy. Sprinkle on plenty of paprika. Remove from the pan and fry the shrimps in the same pan. Add same extra paprika and chili pepper.
5. Stir the cooked shrimps through the risotto. Take the skins of the mackerel fillets. Flake the fillets into the risotto and cut the skins into thin fish crisps. Stir through the risotto. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Finally, sprinkle on plenty of fresh mint and some lemon juice.