A vegan risotto that just screams “healthy”. Aromatic herbs such as parsley, dill and celery, partner up with flavourful amaranth greens (aka vlita) and create this deliciously fresh-tasting dish. Sprinkle with homemade vegan “parmesan” and you won’t be needing anything else.
I am not vegan, as you already know if you read this blog. I am not even vegetarian. I do however try to limit my meat consumption, and I really love experimenting with veggie and vegan dishes. So many of them sound amazingly delicious. I’ve been wanting to try a vegan risotto for ages, as well as vegan “parmesan”. The opportunity arose a short while ago, so I chose to try a green version, with lots of fresh herbs.
The combination of celery, parsley and dill is quite popular in Greece, and these herbs appear in many different dishes, so the fragrance of this risotto feels very familiar. It is however a little more refined, and the texture of the rice is lovely since I’ve used the proper risotto method. Well, nearly. I didn’t worry about keeping the stock warm. It didn’t seem to be a problem. Maybe it would have been ready a little quicker if I had. Or maybe there are other scientific explanations on why I should have had the stock simmering in a pan; if there are I don’t know them. And since the dish came together beautifully I’ll leave things alone.
Usually green risottos have spinach in them. Which makes sense. But here in Greece we have a dish called spanakorizo (sound anything like spanakopita? That’s because “spanaki” is the word for spinach). Spanakorizo is spinach rice, a sooort of risotto, but bulkier and stodgier. I wanted to steer away from that so I chose a very popular summery green, amaranth. Amaranth is called vlita here (pronounced vleetah) and is eaten often during the summer months, mostly boiled and served with olive oil, lemon and bread. As it turns out, it works in risotto too!
The vegan parmesan is something I could just sit and eat with a spoon. It’s made with cashews and nutritional yeast, which is amazingly cheesy for something that doesn’t have cheese in it. It’s super simple and you can play around with it to suit your tastebuds. I chose to add some salt and a touch of garlic powder. It’s not garlicky, but again, feel free to go for a stronger version if you want. The only issue for me was that in this case, when eaten with the risotto, the taste was overtaken by the strong flavour of the greens and herbs. I remedied that by just adding more and more “parmesan”. Problem solved. It’s healthy so why not?!
A couple of notes about the recipe. First of all, you can change the herbs and greens if you want. Just stick to the quantities mentioned. This is the perfect recipe for using up those half bunches of whatever lurking in the back of the fridge. If you aren’t vegan or lactose intolerant, you can try it with real parmesan or crumbled feta. Try the feta. I think the feta would be best. Go for the feta.
The cooking time and the quantity of stock you need will depend on the rice. If you can’t find “Carolina” rice (it’s the name of the Greek variety, not the US brand Carolina!) use Arborio which is for risotto. Keep in mind you might not need all the liquid, or that you might need to add a little water at the end. If you want to buy Carolina rice, you can find it on the internet (search “Greek carolina rice”).
As regards seasoning, keep in mind that some store-bought brands of vegetable stock are quite salty. Mine is also a little spicy. So adjust your salt and pepper accordingly.