Green Risotto with Crispy Parma ham and Almonds

Risotto is such a versatile and satisfying meal even when, like last night, I was simply using up loose ends from the cupboard because I’d run out of food for the week. It can be made fancy and gourmet by the easy addition of some little tasty toppings which are totally open to interpretation….a poached egg on top is always a favourite of mine! As a risotto lover (and sane person) I always have risotto rice, parmesan cheese and butter in the house and with white wine never more than a stones throw away these few ingredients can always be used to make an endless amount of different variation on a risotto with whatever ingredients are to hand.

I tend to make risottos by instinctive quantities. It really doesn’t matter how much rice or stock you have weighted out as long as you taste as you go along and make sure that the consistency resembles that of loose porridge when ready. I usually use a large handful of rice per person and a pinch more for luck as cold risotto is perfect for arancini (see here).

Serves 2 generously

  • 2 large handfuls of risotto rice
  • 40g butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 2 sprigs thyme, leave picked
  • Small glass dry white wine
  • Hot chicken/vegetable stock
  • Handful of finely grated parmesan
  • 2 handfuls of frozen peas
  • Small bunch mint, chopped
  • Handful of rocket leaves
  • ½ lemon
  • 2 slices of parma ham
  • Small handful of flaked almonds
  • Creme friache
  1. Begin by boiling the peas for a good 5 minutes. (Keep a handful aside for garnish if you like) and blend the rest in a food processor with a splash of the stock until really smooth. Set aside.
  2. Continue by melting half the butter in a pan with a teaspoon of oil. Soften the onion gently until translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Turn the heat up a little and add rice and fry until really hot. Add the white wine to let the rice simmer to absorb the wine.
  4. Now add ladelfuls of the hot stock as each addition of liquid becomes absorbed by the rice, simmering gently over a low heat. The rice takes about 18 minutes to cook so keep adding as much stock as needed until the rice is just cooked and soft. Keep stirring all the time to make sure the starches are released and you get a really creamy texture.
  5. As soon as the rice almost appears to plump up and double in volume and it is just cooked and soft to taste, add the lemon juice and season.
  6. Now stir in the pea puree and mix evenly. If it thickens too much, add a splash of stock to keep it loose.
  7. Add the other half of the butter, cut into cubes, and the grated parmesan. Cover quickly with a lid and take off the heat to rest.
  8. While it rests for 5 minutes, fry the parma ham and flaked almonds in a little oil until crispy and golden and then drain on kitchen paper.
  9. Now stir the melted cheese and butter evenly through the rested risotto and add the rocket and mint and stir to wilt down in the residual heat. If it thickens, add a splash of stock again to get a loose oozing consistency.
  10. To serve, pour a generous portion into a warmed bowl. Top with a few whole peas, the crispy parma ham and toasted flaked almonds and a few teaspoons of creme fraiche if you like!

For tips on the perfect risotto or more definitive measurements, see here.