Many people think of an Actifry™ as a chip / French Fry machine, but it could just as easily be branded as a “risotto” machine.
It makes amazing risottos.
There’s a basic Actifry risotto recipe here.
But before you go there, I want to take a minute to discuss a few basics about risottos in an Actifry so that before you know it, risotto will be part of your routine bag of tricks without you even having to think about it. The basic recipe link will appear again at the end of this post, so don’t worry.
Risotto doesn’t have to be a main dish
Restaurants in the English-speaking world like serving risotto as a main course because it’s cheap as chips to make and has a high profit margin.
But in Northern Italy, where risotto hails from, it is not served as a main dish: it is served as an appetizer. It was one of those genius, cheap, high-carb stodge dishes, like pasta, like pierogi, like Yorkshire pudding, designed to be fed to people as a starter to fill them up fast, so when it came to the main meat course, people would be less hungry and not notice there wasn’t a lot of the more expensive foods to go around!
At home, try making a batch of risotto (it will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week), and serving a small dish of it as a starter topped with some grated cheese and a teaspoon or two of oil on it, followed by a salad plate, or cooked veg with meat / seafood / fish etc. There’s nothing cast in stone that says your carb always has to be with your meal, and can’t come before!
Risotto is every day food
Risotto in Italy is not a special, fancy food. It’s an everyday food. In fact, it started out as a peasant food as all heavy-carb dishes have: a cheap and cheerful crowd pleaser.
There are many fixed recipes now, but of course people would have just added to the cooked rice whatever they had to hand or needed using up.
So feel free to make a basic “base” recipe and toss into it cooked leftovers from the fridge, or drained cans of mushrooms, peas, corn — whatever you think you want to try.
The rice to use for risotto
“Risotto Rice” is the generic term used for rice which is good for risottos.
It’s a category of rice which absorbs a great deal of liquid, and while doing so plumps up a great deal and gives off a lot of starch, making for a creamy, rib-sticking dish.
There’s actually several different named varieties of risotto rice: the cheapest and therefore the most usual is “arborio” rice. That is just fine, you don’t need any gourmet varieties.
Above you see regular, long grain rice (on the left) compared to risotto rice (on the right). Risotto rice is short, squat and chunky compared to the long grain rice.
Long grain rice has been bred to be fluffy when cooked. Risotto rice has been bred to be creamy and sticky.
If you can get risotto rice to use, you won’t regret it.
If not, you can use regular rice: you may wish to add extra butter, oil or cheese to help compensate and make the resulting dish creamier.
Tips for risotto in an Actifry
That’s about all you need to know as background information; there’s no point in making this any more complicated than it needs to be.
I’ll just do one last bit of “knowledge transfer” by passing along a few tips from my three years so far of Actifry risottos:
- Keep a large plastic tub with a lid in the freezer and, whenever you cook veg in a microwave, pressure cooker or pot, add the cooking liquid to that large tub. There’s your instant, free, healthy and flavourful “veggie stock” for your next risotto, ready to go. It’s a good idea to also keep stock cubes or powder on hand for when you run out of that. I’d recommend looking for the low-sodium makes (they are quite common now) if only because that puts you in charge of how much salt you want for the taste.
- Heat all liquid you add to a risotto recipe. If nothing else, it doesn’t slow down the cooking as a cold liquid would. You can heat it in a microwave, just please be very careful of hot liquid in a microwave when you remove it.
- Sometimes a risotto may require a bit more liquid than usual. It can vary based on how old (and therefore how dry) the rice is, or really, even just phase of the moon, as they say. So in case you run out of stock, have a fast-boiling kettle handy. You may need to resort to using plain boiling water for top ups by the end: I have from time to time when no one’s looking.
- Doing a risotto in Actifry can sometimes, I think, require a bit more stock than a stove-top risotto would, if only because the blown hot air can evaporate stock away.
- I’d generally consider setting initial cooking time for a risotto for 30 minutes. Then check, see how far away it is still, add a bit more liquid if necessary, as well as any already cooked leftover ingredients that need to be included in order to be heated through in the final 15 minutes or so of cooking.
- The T-Fal Actifry recipes call for WAY too much parmesan cheese. I have no idea what they are thinking.
That’s all the advice I can think of at present except try it once or twice, and you’ll be hooked: it will become a basic stand-by dish for you to make in your Actifry.
Now, here again is the promised basic risotto recipe — yours to improve by tossing in whatever you have to hand!
* Actifry™ is a registered trademark of SEB, France.