I’m always happy to do the kind of cooking that’s possible with everyday ingredients already to hand in the kitchen. I like doing it, and I like just knowing that I can do it. It gives me some peace of mind to know that something good can be rustled up at a moment’s notice from pantry staples and a few ordinary bits and pieces.
This oven-baked risotto is a perfect case in point. There will always be some cherry tomatoes rattling around in their little tub, peas in the freezer, shallots and garlic. Chorizo, most of the time, and failing that, some bacon or pancetta.
But this is more than utilitarian good housekeeping, better than simply making do. As a dish, it’s greater than the sum of its parts: tasty, interesting yet comfortingly familiar, all at the same time.
I’ll stir a risotto by hand (obviously) but for those times when you want half an hour to step away from the stove, open some wine – you’ll need a splash for this, so you may as well pour one for yourself – and relax, this is a dinner that looks after itself.
A pantry oven-baked risotto
125g (1 cup) frozen peas
150g (5 oz) chorizo (or bacon, or pancetta)
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic
250g (1 heaped cup) arborio rice
60ml (¼ cup) white wine
500ml (2 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
125g (4 oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
25g (6 tablespoons) Parmesan, finely grated
Warm a heavy-based, ovenproof pan (for which you have a lid – a Dutch oven is perfect here) over medium high-heat. Slice the chorizo in half lengthways, then chop into forkable pieces. Put the pieces into the pan – you don’t need oil – and cook them, stirring now and then, until some colour develops.
Peel and chop the shallot as finely as you can be bothered, and add it to the pan with a little butter. Grate in the clove of garlic and cook until the shallot is soft and translucent.
Pour in the rice and stir around enough to coat the grains well. Splash in the wine, stirring for a few moments until it is absorbed.
Now pour in the stock and cherry tomatoes. Leave until the first bubble appears and give a final swift stir.
Cover and transfer to the oven for 30 minutes, until the rice is just cooked through without any chalkiness at its centre.
Take it out of the oven (you can turn the oven off). Stir in most of the Parmesan and all of the peas. Check the seasoning, although between the stock and the chorizo you should be good for salt and pepper. Cover and leave to sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over as you serve.