An amazingly silky lamb risotto recipe
Like any full blooded Lankan, I’m a rice person. While I don’t always indulge in the Sri Lankan rice and curry especially for lunch like any true Sri Lankan does (I prefer something light at lunch because I tend to fall asleep at work otherwise), I cherish my rice and have an incurable fascination with anything rice. There’s something very comforting in this high carb diet – maybe it’s the many memories of steaming plates of rice my mother served us growing up which we would gobble up feeling loved, secure, cared for.
I remember the first time I had risotto. It was a gloomy morning in Melbourne, a dark winter day when we piled into an Italian restaurant (it was so long ago that I forget the name) to escape the cold. We were ravenous and when the plate of risotto arrived before me I was dubious. Gingerly I took a bite. I was transformed.
Ever since I’ve been hooked on risotto. But here in Sri Lanka it is very difficult to find Arborio rice. But I did try a risotto version with the local red rice and it came out quite well. But risotto for me will always be with Arborio rice. Well, you know what they say about first impressions….
So when I did find some Arborio the other day, I was over the moon. It too was a gloomy day and I was prepared for some fragrant cooking in the kitchen, surrounded by the gamey lamb smells, the garlic and the onion and later on, mouthfuls of creaminess. The very thought of me thrilled me to the bones. And the simplicity of it all was quite refreshing.
- Onions - 2, large, diced
- Shallots - 4, diced
- Garlic - 2 tblsps, minced
- Arborio rice - 350g
- Lamb - 200g, chopped
- Stock - 3 cups (I used lamb stock)
- Oregano - 1 tsp, dried
- Oregano leaves - Few, fresh
- Olive oil - 3 tblsps
- Salt - To taste
- Pepper - To taste
- In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Add 1 tsp of garlic and sauté till fragrant. Add the shallots. Fry till translucent.
- Add the lamb. Mix and let sauté for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and set the solids aside reserving the jus in the pan.
- Add olive oil to the pan. Once heated, add in the rest of the garlic and sauté till fragrant. Add the onions and fry till translucent.
- Tip in the Arborio rice and mix well to combine. Add the reserved jus from the lamb, season with salt and pepper. Once well mixed, ladle in the stock a little at a time until the rice is al dente. About 5 minutes before taking the rice off the heat, add the reserved solids – the lamb and the shallots.
- Stir in some parmesan, sprinkle some fresh oregano and serve hot!
It was pouring outside as I served the risotto, and the air was cool stirring that all too familiar craving for something warm to warm you up from the inside. The kitchen air was still saturated with the pungent smell of roast garlic, the deep gamey hints of lamb, the crispness of caramelized onion and the delicate yet persistent perfume of oregano. It was just lovely being surrounded by all that culinary love :)
The risotto was served hot, the steam pouring out from the spoons as we shoveled the creamy rice into our mouths. The first sense is of silk, with pearls of rice embedded in that satiny smoothness just rolling on the tongue. The rice yields with a bite and merges with all that silken goodness, complimented by the juicy chunks of lamb just waiting to be bitten in.
The meat is tender, nearly melt in the mouth and when bitten in, squirts all those lovely gamey juices which merge with the creamy goodness of the garlicky rice, pungent and flavorsome. The onions having almost melted into the rice are soft and slick, weaving a slight caramelized flavour throughout. The oregano perfumes and uplifts while the garlic brings it all together, a luscious gift rich upon the tongue.
Simplicity. Elegance. Sophistication. It is all that in a dish.
Try it. It’s perfect for the cold weather outside.
- I like to slightly wash the rice before adding it in.
- You need to continuously work that rice in order to get the starch to come out. This is what makes the rice creamy. But don’t stir it too much because the rice also tends to break apart and you will be left with a sort of a kiribath (milk rice) if you do.
- Be careful about the amount of stock you are adding. Stop when the rice is just hard enough but is about to turn al dente. Remember that the rice will keep cooking from the residual heat even once you take it off the heat, so be wary of that.