A Pilaf With Smoked Salmon

Risotto or pilaf? Who cares? This is one of my favourites. The gentle joy of the infused rice, with the magic flavour of smoked salmon draped over the top, like a red robe.

There’s a flash brand of risotto rice labelled Ferron. It’s worth the extra. Try the Carnaroli type for this dish. It is truly beautiful, and its nuttier grain ensures a foolproof pilaf-style risotto. It also takes the minimum of effort. I recommend it for any time, but particularly those times when you’re absolutely done, and a good stir means a mixer and a glass and some bubbles, and a very strong drink.

1 onion, sliced finely

1 chilli, chopped finely

¼ cup olive oil

2½ cups Carnaroli rice

5 cups simmering stock or water

handful of fresh chervil or tarragon – In winter, try parsley.

zest of 1 lime


100 g grated parmesan

25 g cold butter, cut into cubes

small bunch of chives, chopped roughly

juice of 1 lime

100 g sliced Tasmanian smoked salmon (allow 2 slices per person)

1 lime, cut into quarters


Cook the onion and chilli in the olive oil until they have softened. Make sure you use a heavy-based pot.


Add the rice and toss until the grains are well covered with the oil.


Pour in the simmering stock, and then add the chervil and the lime zest. Cover the pot, making sure minimum steam escapes.


Reduce heat to just below medium, and cook for 13-15 minutes. You can check after 12 minutes or so if you are worried. Truth is, the only danger is that the bottom may get scorched, and you should be able to smell that well before any disaster. Sure thing is, you’ll only burn the bottom once.


Remove the lid. Ninety-nine per cent of the liquid should have been absorbed, and the rice cooked just perfectly, as in al dente.


Add a little salt (you won’t need much because of the salt in the parmesan and the smoked salmon), the parmesan, butter, chopped chives and lime juice, and stir thoroughly. The stirring not only draws the lot together, but also ensures all the delicious starch gets its final release from the grains.


Spoon a serve of the rice into a wide, flat bowl, and layer a slice of salmon over the top.


Serve with the lime quarters on the side, to be squeezed over the salmon at the table. Black pepper and more salt should be on hand. Extra parmesan is optional.

Carnaroli rice is also to be recommended for subtle flavours like spinach and seafood. In all instances it’s fine to use the more usually available, and cheaper, Arborio rice. But remember one thing about these more expensive artisan products, they’re still very cheap per portion.

WINE: Go to your trusted wine merchant and ask for their latest ‘hot’ chardonnay. You need something complex, powerful and graceful, all at the same time. A big ask. Ask.

One Response to “A Pilaf With Smoked Salmon”

  1. Paula Carmody says:

    OMG this was divine !!! Followed it exactly and it was the first time I have been able to master the art of cooking risotto!!!! Wondering Geoff with this same method what other things you would suggest cooking in the risotto? By the way, my good friend has the book “good food no Fuss” and it was he who suggested I try making this risotto !!! Again thanks so much and looking forward to your response. :)