A bedrock of Italian cuisine, risotto requires a fair amount of energy to cook, but the result is always far greater than the sum of its basic parts. Although rice has been grown in southern Italy since the 14th century, risotto is most commonly considered a northern dish, specifically associated with Milan. It’s believed that the first recipe identifiable as a risotto dates back to the early 1800s, including rice sautéed in butter, with sausages, bone marrow, onions, and hot stock, coloured with saffron. Today, however, there are hundreds of risotto recipe variations, with the base ingredients acting as a canvas. Yet regardless of supplementary ingredients, the formulaic production is essential for any risotto, demanding to be stirred, using a short grain rice (Arborio or Carnaroli are the easiest to get hold of in the UK) whose starch contributes to the creaminess of the dish.
This wet and wild garlic risotto recipe makes use of two gorgeous spring ingredients. A true signifier of spring’s arrival, wild garlic has become far more popular over the past few years. It’s easy enough to find while foraging, but also available from good green grocers and some online retailers. Also known as ‘green garlic’, wet garlic on the other hand is the immature garlic bulbs and stalks, far more subtle than typical garlic, with the soft skin and stalk also edible. For the best results, wet garlic should be prepared more like leeks or spring onions, delicious in salads, soups, gently fried and served on its own, or – of course – in risotto.
Sweating shallots in butter and combining them with rice, this wet and wild garlic risotto recipe is fairly simple to make at home. It’s also amplified with white wine, chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make the dish vegetarian), lemon juice, and a generous amount of parmesan (or vegetarian alternative) in addition to the wild garlic and wet garlic. Ideally garnish with pea shoots or tendrils if available, plus any leftover wild garlic flowers for an extra flourish of spring glee.
- 2 large handfuls wild garlic leaves approx. 150g, plus flowers for garnish, if available
- 6 cloves wet garlic plus the edible stalk, finely sliced
- 2 litres chicken stock alternatively use vegetable stock to make the dish vegetarian
- 2 Echalion shallots finely chopped
- 400 g Arborio or Carnaroli rice
- 250 ml dry white wine
- 50 g butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lemon juice only
- Pea shoots to garnish (optional)
- 50 g Parmigiano Reggiano plus more to finish
- Sea salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
First, heat the stock in a saucepan and keep warm over a low heat.
Peel and finely dice the shallots, and finely slice the wet garlic cloves and stalk.
In a separate large frying pan or wok, heat half of the butter and the oil and add the shallots and wet garlic to the pan. Season with salt and cook over a low heat until translucent.
When the shallots and wet garlic become translucent, add the rice to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and stir quickly until the shallots, garlic, butter and rice are combined.
This will take between a minute and 90 seconds. Pour the wine into the pan, increase the heat to high and stir until the wine is absorbed.
Next, begin to add the stock to the pan containing the rice, one ladleful at a time, and stir almost continuously until most of the liquid is absorbed. After repeating this process for around 15 minutes, add the chopped wild garlic to the pan and continue to gradually stir in the broth for a further 5-10 minutes, or until the rice is al dente. (Don’t worry if you don’t end up using all of the stock). Taste after five minutes.
As soon as the rice is cooked al dente and a the risotto has good consistency, remove the pan from the heat. Add the rest of the butter, the lemon juice, 50g grated parmesan, and a pinch of salt (if needed). Gently fold until all is incorporated, then plate evenly between four bowls.
To finish, optionally garnish with a handful of pea shoots and wild garlic flowers. Scatter some more grated parmesan over each dish and season with a crack of black pepper.