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Smoked Salmon + Lemon Risotto

17 April 2011


I’ve never been particularly lucky when it comes to risotto – every time I’ve been persuaded to order one at a restaurant either by a friend or an especially enticing menu description, I’ve always been disappointed. On many instances the rice was poorly cooked, or the flavors less than appealing, and after a string of epic risotto failures I was beginning to lose faith that I would ever find one I enjoyed. Imagine my delight when, at a recent dinner hosted by my lovely Scottish friend Claire, I was served a risotto that had everything I was looking for – creamy texture, proper consistency, and bright, delicious flavors. I begged Claire for the recipe and she graciously obliged, and I am so pleased to be sharing it today.

My favorite aspect of this dish is that it features an ingredient so closely connected to the culinary heritage of both my new home and my old – smoked salmon. The Pacific Northwest is famous for its smoked salmon, and I can recall fondly the days of my youth when the salmon smoker was set up on the back patio of my childhood home, and the fragrant smell of cedar chips and freshly-caught salmon filled the air. I’ve been delighted to find that the Scots are also very fond of smoked salmon, and that it is available at very affordable prices all over the country. I chose a wild salmon for this dish caught off the Orkney Islands to the north of Scotland, and it was absolutely delicious. I am not personally able to detect any major flavor differences between Pacific and Atlantic breeds of salmon once they have been smoked, so either would do very nicely in this dish.

As a note of advice, prepare as many of the various components of the recipe before proceeding as possible, i.e. chop the onions, garlic, parsley and salmon before heating the oil. Once the rice and vegetable stock have been added to the sauteed onions, it is important to watch the mixture closely and stir it regularly.

Note: Claire’s family owns an absolutely amazing bed & breakfast – Overhailes Farm – located in the Scottish countryside not far from Edinburgh. Beautiful rooms, stunning views, incredible hospitality – I highly recommend a visit for anyone traveling to Scotland or interested in a relaxing holiday outside the chaos of the city. Visit their website (link above!) for more information.



Serves: 4


1 onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

1 clove fresh garlic, finely chopped

350 grams Arborio rice*

1 1/2 liters boiling vegetable stock

85 grams light mascarpone

3 tbsp finely chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

170 grams packed smoked salmon, three-quarters chopped

Grated zest of 1 fresh lemon + squeeze of fresh juice

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh rocket leaves, to serve


*Arborio rice is a short-grain white rice used specifically for risotto dishes and rice puddings. It can be found in most well-stocked supermarkets and should NOT be substituted with a longer-grained white rice of brown rice. Due to the amount of liquid absorbed by the rice kernels, any larger varieties could potentially result in an undesirable ‘starchy’ flavor and sticky texture.


1.   In a very large frying pan, saute the chopped onions in olive oil over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and rice; cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Pour in 1/3 of the boiling vegetable stock and set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed, then add half the remaining vegetable stock. Continue cooking, stirring more frequently, until the liquid has again been absorbed.

2.   Add the remaining stock, stir, and simmer until cooked and creamy. Remove from heat and add the mascarpone, chopped parsley, chopped salmon, and lemon zest. Stir gently, and if desired, add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Let risotto stand for 5 minutes, taste, and add lemon juice is desired. Serve topped with remaining smoked salmon (roughly torn), and a handful of fresh rocket leaves.


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