200g arborio rice (or other risotto rice - Carnaroli is more expensive but will absorb more stock, and is more forgiving if you overcook)
75ml dry white wine
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 litres stock (see below)
15g butter, diced and kept in refrigerator until use
15g of Grana Padano cheese (or Parmesan, but Grana is the cooking version)
Find a wide-bottomed pan with high (say 6-7cm) sides. Soften the onion until translucent. Turn the heat up full and add the rice and stir for a minute or so to ‘toast’ it up (this helps it absorb stock - but don’t let the onion burn). Salt and pepper. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the wine, stir, and reduce to almost nothing. Add the stock (which should be boiling gently) one ladle at a time, until the rice is almost cooked (bear in mind the rice will continue to cook after you put it into bowls). Salt and pepper after each addition of stock (see below). Remove from the heat and whisk (ie using a large whisk) in the butter and Grana until the risotto is creamy, and final seasoning. This is a great basic risotto. Perfectly good by itself, but …
For a prawn risotto, buy green (raw) prawns. Make a prawn stock with the heads and shells, rinse then put in a pot with carrot, onion skins and celery stalk (maybe some parsley stalks). Cover with water and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 15 minutes (30 if you want something more intense), and strain. This stock has no seasoning, so do it in the risotto. Cut each prawn in three and marinate in olive oil and salt at room temperature. Prepare some saffron with a pinch in a small bowl with warm water (at least 1 hour but preferably more). Add the saffron strands and water with the first ladles of stock. You might wish to add some peas near the end. Finish the risotto first and cover to rest, then fry the prawns, and serve on top of the risotto.
For a cauliflower risotto, a chicken stock is good (if you’re not a vegetarian or a chicken). 2kgs of chicken thighs, with carrot, onion skins and celery stalk (maybe some parsley), covered with water, will yield about 3kgs of jellified stock, which can be diluted 50:50 to use. The best way is to use a pressure cooker (half an hour), but an hour simmering in a firm saucepan will be fine. Make it the day before, stand in the fridge overnight, and skim off the excess chicken fat before use. The thighs themselves will still have flavoursome meat on them. Make the risotto as above (adding a little extra cheese), but adding a good hunk of finely diced cauliflower base to the onion. Cut about 100gm of cauliflower florets (bitesized) per person, and cook them in the stock as you make the risotto. You can also fry/brown them before adding to the rice after whisking. This risotto benefits from a ‘pangrattato’, breadcrumbs browned (not blackened) in olive oil with some anchovies, garlic and as much dried chilli as you think appropriate.
Another variation is a Taleggio risotto with the same 'basic' recipe as above, but with the Italian semi-soft cheese Taleggio substituted for the Grana. It will take some stirring in, and gives a very unctuous result. About 30g will give flavour, and goes well in the cauliflower version above. More indulgent would be 60g for the 2 servings, which is very rich (and wonderful by itself) but would be better in smaller serves (eg 4 as a starter). It also benefits from a pangrattato.