Laura chose a classic risotto as one of her Desert Island Dishes. She talked about how her mum always made great ones when they were growing up and it was something that she learned and now loves to do herself. I love a good risotto. However, whilst Laura is unfazed by making risotto, I feel like it's one of those dishes that people are a bit daunted by. 

I've definitely been to dinner parties where we've had risotto and I've barely seen my friend because they are buried in the kitchen chained to the cooker as they lovingly stir the risotto. Leaving your guests to fend to themselves whilst you stand around feeding the risotto stock and just waiting for the moment it's creamy and tender. It's all a bit of a faff and does not make for relaxing entertaining.

Sure, when I'm just cooking at home, or just have a girlfriend over for kitchen supper,  and can really take my time, risottos are great! I love to hunker down in the kitchen with a bottle of wine, as you casually pour some into the risotto pot and some into your wine glasses. Perfection.

I used to have to make the risotto's when I worked in Clarke's, and if you've ever been there you will know that they are a very popular option. I was in charge of all starters. There were usually 5 or 6 different options on the menu. I'm not sure a few words could adequately convey the stress of having to cook risottos to order whilst also wrestling with beautifully presented salads, perfectly cooked pastas, precisely sliced tomato slivers whilst with one hand attending to the hot and lethal deep fat fryer for the infamous crispy chilli squid. I feel stressed just thinking about those days and just remember praying, every service that for some reason people would decide against ordering a starter. That never happened.

So today, I wanted to share with you the idea of a baked risotto. You still get the same deliciously comforting result, only it's much less needy. The slightly moody teenager of risottos rather than the screaming toddler crying out for your attention, if you will. Effortlessly simple yet hugely rewarding, which is after all, the holy grail of cooking.

Risottos are so versatile in terms of the flavours, so feel free to experiment but I do love a mushroom one with lots of herbs, fresh parmesan and a drizzle of truffle oil. Utterly divine.


Serves 4

Good glug of olive oil (about 2 tbsp)

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

500g mushrooms, mixed if possible, although I always seem to favour chestnut mushrooms, sliced

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

100ml white wine 

250g arborio rice

750ml (3 cups) stock, ideally fresh chicken stock, although a stock cube can work too, and of course if you're a vegetarian than use vegetable stock

20g (1/4 cup) parmesan - half grated, half shaved with a vegetable peeler

small handful of parsley, chopped

knob of butter

small handful of rocket

drizzle of truffle olive oil


Preheat the oven to 180C

In a frying pan, melt a little butter and a bit of olive oil and fry the mushrooms until lightly browned. Season well and then leave to one side.

Take a heavy bottomed pan, like a Le Creseut preferably with a lid. Glug in the olive oil and add the chopped red onion. Cook for about 2 minutes until lovely and soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for another 20 seconds or so. Add the thyme leaves.

Add the rice and fry it for 2-3 minutes or so until the the rice is just starting to turn lightly golden. Pour in the white wine and stir until it evaporates. Add the stock and bring to the boil.

Pop the lid on and bake in the oven for about 15 -20 minutes until the rice is is tender to taste but not mushy.

Stir in the knob of butter, the grated parmesan and the chopped parsley and most of the fried mushrooms.

Scoop onto plates and top with a sprinkling of shaved parmesan, a few rocket leaves, the remaining mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle olive oil.