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Help NZ get cooking: Chicken and vegetable risotto

SARAH HARDIE
Last updated 09:25 11/10/2012

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NEED TO KNOW

Main ingredient Rice
Type of dish Italian
Course Main course
Cooking time <30 min
Serves/makes 2 - 3
Special options Dairy & Gluten-free

I was introduced to risotto when I bought my boyfriend a cookbook when he went flatting years ago with some mates, and since we started making chicken and avocado risotto together, I have become obsessed and can't even count how many different variations I've made, and now that I've become a vegetarian, it's my go-to meal and it's different every time.

It's also a great one to freeze leftovers for lunch when it's close to payday and you're running out of money.

Here is the basic recipe for chicken and vegetable risotto - remember, the ingredients are pretty flexible.

1 cup White or Arborio Rice (arborio is better and cooks faster, but is slightly more expensive)
3 heaped teaspoons Chicken Stock powder
1 onion
1 teaspoon garlic
About 250g boneless, skinless chicken
Couple of handfuls of spinach
Half a head of broccoli
2 carrots
4 spring onions/shallots
1/4 of a cabbage
Grated cheese or a few spoonfuls of cream cheese (optional)

1. Fill a medium-sized pot with water and boil. It makes life easier if you chop all your veggies and meat beforehand, so while the pot is boiling, chop away. When the pot of water is boiled, throw in the chicken stock powder and turn down the heat a bit so it's still bubbling but not overflowing.

2. Put a dash of oil in a frying pan and, once it's heated up to high, brown your chopped up chicken and, once it's cooked through, put it in a bowl and put aside.

3. Quickly fry onion and garlic until just browned, then add the rice (uncooked) and brown slightly. Tip some chicken stock water into the frying pan - just enough to cover the rice and onion, and stir. Turn the heat down slightly (so that more water is absorbed into the rice, rather than turned into steam and disappearing).

4. Keep stirring and, when the rice soaks up the stock, put more water in and stir - repeat this process until the rice is soft. About halfway through, put the broccoli and carrots in with the rice.

5. Once everything is cooked through and soft, add the cheese (makes it nice and creamy), put the chicken back in, and add the spinach, spring onions and cabbage. Season with salt and pepper and any herbs you like, and voila!

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Variations:

Bacon and tomato risotto: replace the chicken with bacon and, before you put the first of the chicken stock water in the pan, throw in a can of whole peeled tomatoes and break up the tomatoes, then add the stock as usual.

Add some kumara: Roasted kumara is a delicious addition to this risotto, especially if you're making a vegetarian one. Just peel and chop it up into little squares, then put it in a roasting pan, pour over a little oil, curry powder and herbs, mix it all together, then roast until brown and soft - add it at the end.

Lemon juice from one lemon is also a tasty addition to a vegetarian or chicken risotto.

Beef risotto: Simply use beef stock instead of chicken stock and beef instead of chicken.

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