Last month, my sister Juji and I attended a masterclass with Gabriele Ferron, rice ambassador and fourth generation rice miller from the Ferron family in Verona, Italy. The class was organised by gourmet food supplier The Grocer and held at the Accento Showroom in Claremont. Gabriele shared his foolproof no-stir method for cooking risotto and dispelled the myth that Arborio’s the best rice to use for risotto.
The family-run Ferron rice hmilling company runs Italy’s oldest functioning water-powered mill, which dates back to 1650. Gabriele has been a champion for the protection of locally grown Vialone Nano and Carnaroli rice, encouraging rice growers to eliminate chemical fertilisers and pesticides in favour of traditional and natural methods. He has cooked for world leaders, Olympians and Nobel prize winners, and now travels the world promoting Ferron rice and risotto making.
Gabriele spoke to us in Italian with the odd English word thrown in, with Marco by his side as translator and assistant. Their banter was part of the fun; the class was theatrical and entertaining as well as educational.
- Rice crepes ‘Ortolana Style’ on creamy sweet pea soup
- Risotto with trout, wild fennel and extra virgin olive oil
- Rice tiramisu
Of course, we got to taste everything!
Gabriele has developed a non-stir method for making risotto. The most stirring you’ll need to do is right at the beginning, when you toast the rice in extra virgin olive oil, ensuring the grains are separated and heated through. After adding hot stock and giving a quick stir, you cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and leave it to cook gently for 15-18 minutes. Gabriele used Carnaroli rice for the risotto. Its higher starch content and long, compact grains retain their texture well during cooking and there’s no need to stand there and keep adding the stock to the pot one ladle at a time, as per recipes using Arborio rice.
While the risotto was cooking, Gabriele demonstrated (with the help of an audience member) – you can enjoy a little dance around the kitchen and pour yourself a glass of wine! There was a final stir with a slotted spoon when he added the smoked trout, wild fennel and lemon juice, to mix all the ingredients and release the starch and steam. It looked much easier than the risotto nightmares we’ve seen attempted each season of Masterchef Australia. In fact, it looked so easy a lazy cook like me might even give it a go.
Gabriele passed on his top tips for perfect risotto, which included:
- Always toast the rice until it is hot to touch, but don’t let it brown
- Don’t use butter to toast the rice, as it will burn. Use a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.
- If using wine, don’t pour it in cold – this will ‘shock’ the rice and result in uneven cooking. It’s better to add warm wine or even better to add the wine to the meat, seafood or mushrooms instead.
- When cooking rice using Gabriele’s method, always make sure you add two parts hot stock to one part heated rice. Again, never use cold stock as it will shock the rice grains.
As the risotto simmered on the stove, Gabriele showed us how to cook a bonus dish – a buttery rosemary rice pilaf.
The risotto with trout and wild fennel reminded me of congee (Asian rice porridge), so as you can imagine, I thought it was fantastic and went back for another helping.
Dessert was rice tiramisu, featuring sponge made using rice flour. There’s coffee powder in the sponge itself, adding extra flavour and texture. In the interests of time, Gabriele had already made the tiramisu (“Here’s one I prepared earlier”) and now merely added the finishing touch, a generous dusting of cocoa – as we watched in droolicious anticipation.
It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours after work on a stormy winter’s night. We were able to ask questions throughout the session, and the dishes were all great. Everyone took home a goodie bag which included sample packs of Ferron rice. Jac’s never been a fan of risotto – she never cooks it at home and would never order it in a restaurant. No – this class hasn’t miraculously transformed me into an enthusiastic cook (I still much prefer eating to cooking), but I’ll see if I can win Jac over when I cook her a risotto using Gabriele’s non-stir method.
About The Grocer
The Grocer is a purveyor of fine foods and distributor to WA restaurants and retailers. They also sell direct to the public from their showroom in Claremont. In addition to supplying gourmet international and locally made artisan food products, they have own food brand called The Grocer which is stocked by retailers across WA, that includes a range of spices, chillies, mushrooms and more.
The Grocer’s showroom is located at 26 Brown St, Claremont and is open 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday, closed on weekends and public holidays.
TFP and Juji attended chef Gabriele Ferron’s risotto masterclass as invited guests of The Grocer.