By Veggie Tom
I’ve eaten my body weight in risotto!
I like risotto.
It’s just as well, because I’ve eaten a lot of it. Beetroot risotto, tomato risotto, butternut squash risotto, pea and asparagus risotto, mushroom risotto, wild mushroom risotto, wild mushroom risotto with herbs….
I’ve been reviewing restaurants in and around the Yorkshire town of Harrogate for a few years. As a place which has made its money from leisure, tourism and conferences, it’s absolutely riddled with places to eat. TripAdvisor shows 237 at the time of writing. But are any of them veggie? Nope.
Pluck a random menu from any of those 237 and chances are you’ll find anything from six to 15 main courses, two of which will be veggie. One will be risotto – and the smart money says the other one will be pasta.
Chefs like proteins. Their very worth is calculated by the magic they can weave with meat and fish. Remove those and what’s left? Carbohydrates, apparently. Great big heaps of starch. Perhaps some chefs worry that providing vegetarian customers with anything below the recommended daily allowance of starch will cause them to wither and die, and therefore be unable to pay. It is a crying shame, because there’s so much more out there. I’ve eaten cheese dishes (like paneer and halloumi) that inspire envy in all who haven’t ordered them, bean and lentil concoctions which touched my soul, and tofu treated so beautifully that I wondered how I had ever lived without it.Carbs have plenty more to offer, too. Strike risotto rice and pasta from the menu and you’re left with potatoes, corn, couscous, quinoa, bulgar, amaranth, barley, buckwheat noodles, red rice, wild rice… surely there’s something to work with there? But the real oversight is glaring these restaurants in the face.
There’s a category of food that is generally quite popular among vegetarians. Something which comes in hundreds of shapes, sizes and flavours, which can be cooked in every way imaginable, and which just happens to be abundantly available in all professional kitchens.
Vegetables. You’ve probably heard of them.
For all that, I still have a soft spot for risotto. And if you don’t fancy spending 20 minutes stirring a pan full of the stuff, there are a few easier options. Waitrose Frozen Pea and Asparagus Risotto is among them, and even though though it still requires eight minutes of stirring in a pan (net saving: 12 minutes) it saves you having to chop anything. Peas are a good choice because they freeze so well, but the asparagus loses some of its character – and the rice, the most important bit, hasn’t got a lot of bite. It’s an easy dinner for sure, but no classic.
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Sainsbury’s Arborio Risotto Rice
Arborio is the classic risotto rice, not as plump as Carnaroli risotto rice when cooked, but if you want to make a traditional vegetable risotto – it is the one to use. Put it in the trolley. Tasted by Veggie Tom.
Competing Brand: Riso Gallo
Barcode: 8001420 002072
Riso Gallo Vialone Nano Risotto Rice
Want short plump rice that has the ability to soak up two to three times it weight in liquid and still presents ‘al dente’ bite when cooked? Put a pack of Vialone Nano in the trolley. Tasted by Veggie Tom.
Tesco Ingredient Carnaroli Risotto Rice
Want Risotto Rice that delivers the best ‘on the plate’ presentation? If the price and size fits put a pack of Carnaroli in the trolley. Tasted by Veggie Tom.
Competing Brand: Riso Gallo