‘Not quite legitimately a risotto, but in need of a name that entices you into its evocative, creamy embrace’ is what I scrawled in the margin of this recipe in one of my many handwritten notebooks that are all half-full and haphazardly disorganized. It was in the same notebook, some nine years earlier, I had scribbled down notes while watching Nigel Slater on the television. Nigel was making a cheese and thyme soufflé with thyme picked from his garden and a handful of ingredients. I watched, and listened, and wrote it down, intending to make it later on in the week. I still never have, partly because I have never made a soufflé, and I’m reluctant to make my first foray something I have been dreaming of for so long. I’d be devastated if I got it wrong, and so it remains a fantasy, buried in piles of words. Instead, I have borrowed those flavours for this. I have sometimes enriched it with an egg yolk beaten through the stock halfway through, to give the rich, thick base of an avgolemono, and it is very fine, but doesn’t freeze quite as well and is an extra step of work, so I haven’t included it in the main recipe.
Warm the oil or oil and butter in a large nonstick pan, and add the onion. Peel and roughly chop the garlic and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook over low heat for a few minutes, then stir in the rice.
Add half the chicken stock and the herbs, then bring to the boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes, adding more stock as needed, stirring intermittently.
Add any remaining stock, then turn the heat down very low. Grate in the cheeses, reserving some to serve. Stir well, and add the milk. Simmer over a very low heat for another 15 minutes, until thick and creamy. Keep an eye on the milk to ensure it doesn’t boil over or spoil, and remove from the heat immediately if it starts to go.
Serve hot with the remaining cheese scattered on top and sprinkled with extra black pepper to serve.
It will keep in the fridge for 2 days. Cool completely before chilling, then reheat thoroughly to serve. Not recommended for freezing.
© Jack Monroe, 2020