A trip to the rice fields of Northern Italy with Riso Gallo inspired this Slimming World Risotto, say hello to my Chicken, Dill and Vegetable Rice Pots. They’re super easy to make and because they’re served up in jars they make a fabulous fork-friendly desk lunch or family-friendly dinner.
From weaning toddlers to fuelling school-age whoppers like my boys, risotto is a one pot wonder that you can customise with any seasonal veg, your choice of protein and finishing off with some tasty fresh herbs. The only real faff is chopping the ingredients up nice and small and a bit of light stirring at the stove. But really, it’s worth it in the grand scheme of things!
Despite the temptation, you really don’t need to weigh this risotto down with butter and cheese either, the key is to pack it with flavour. You still get a creamy consistency from the grains with a bit of gentle massaging with a wooden spoon while you stir the stock in. I’m still really trying to lighten my usual meal repertoire to make things Slimming World friendly, so this spin on risotto is a real winner.
Which risotto rice?
I used a packet of Riso Gallo’s 3 Grains – a blend of parboiled rice, spelt and barley, with full bodied, firm grains that are rich in fibre, and with a lush nutty flavour. It cooks in a speedy 12-14 minutes and works well in soups and salads, as well as risottos. Riso Gallo are a family-run company in Italy who have been producing rice and grains since 1856, and a brand I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago.
They flew me and a group of food bloggers out to Milan to see the production process in the rice-growing plains of Lombardy firsthand. I’ve always loved going behind the scenes of food production, and even better if it’s in one of my favourite foodie countries in the world! Italy really is food heaven. I’ve never know a country so passionate about their produce – every time I go it’s consistently on point.
A trip to Italy’s rice growing region
It was an absolutely baking hot June day when we rocked up at Riso Gallo’s HQ where we were introduced to the very dashing Carlo Preve, son of company head Mario Preve. Carlo explained how the company sells seed to the farmers, who grow the grain and then sell it back to Riso Gallo, which mills it, packages it and sells it to shops and supermarkets.
A typical Riso Gallo day kicks off with a rice inspection by the head honchos, so we were ushered in to watch them carefully examining a sample of grains from each batch for any imperfections. They talked us through the different varieties of rice that they produce including various risotto rices, long and short grain rices too. They also produce a round variety of rice which ends up as Rice Krispies!
We were taken to the local rice market where the brokers and producers meet to set the prices. We got shown around the Rice Mill itself (decked out in highly glamorous blue hairnets and white coats) to see the grains zooming around various tubes and machinery, plus a peek inside the top secret test kitchens, but shhhhh I can’t talk about that stuff!
The company might be rooted six generations back into the past, but they’ve set their sights on the young time-poor consumer, with an emphasis on creating high quality health conscious products. The microwavable pouch is crucial in the UK market, as is the ‘pronto’ range of risotto rices that can be cooked up in 12 minutes. Risotto clearly doesn’t have to mean slaving over the stove for 40 minutes any more.
Then after an interesting trip back through the history of Riso Gallo, it was time for lunch at a local restaurant. It was a traditional little family eatery, bustling with regulars, convivial staff and a well stocked artisanal rum collection. We were treated to a tasting menu of rice-based dishes, all using Riso Gallo products. Octopus rice salad, Truffle Risotto, Chicken and Dill Rice Pots, Curried Risotto (sounds terrible, tastes amazing) and finishing with a perfectly chilled creamy rice pudding.
The restaurant owner makes his own limoncello and of course we had to try that too to finish off our feast in the traditional manner.
We concluded our tour with a trip to the rice fields, gloriously green despite the heat, punctuated with lines of irrigation channels running through the plants. Cue lots of instagram selfies of food bloggers posing in the middle of a field – honestly you can’t take us anywhere!
What to do in Milan
At the end of the Riso Gallo experience we zoomed back to Milan for a weekend of mooching about and taking in the city. What a gorgeous place! Majestic architecture, art museums galore, and obviously clothes shopping heaven. My budget was more H&M than Gucci though, but we really enjoyed window shopping along the designer streets. It was dreamy and a wonderful chance to catch up with some of my favourite food blogger buddies.
My Whistlestop Guide to a weekend in Milan
We stayed at: the Hotel Cavour right in the heart of Milan – a gorgeous little hotel with an elegant bar that served wonderful Aperol Spritz for Apertivo, complete with a bounty of tasty nibbles
We ate: an absolutely divine rooftop meal at sunset at Maio with spectacular views of the Gothic Duomo Cathedral, which is also a must-visit.
We looked at: Modern and Contemporary art at the supremely funky Museo del Novocento, it was a paradise of air-conditioning in the searing heat outside and offers incredible views of the Piazza Duomo
We watched: Immaculately turned out women walking armies of tiny dogs, handsome men zipping past on scooters, young couples canoodling in the fashionable streets of the exclusive Montenapoleone district
It was so hot, none of us had the energy for a weekend of intense sight-seeing, so we just wandered around the city soaking up the atmosphere making regular stops for refreshment at the many pavement cafés. I have to say Milan really exceeded my expectations and I’d definitely go back as we barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer.
Risotto recipe time…
So it was back to the UK with a bump and time to create a recipe to remind me of my travels. So I went back to the meal we had that showcased Riso Gallo’s products and recreated the Chicken and Dill rice pots, which was my absolute favourite!
Slimming World Friendly?
You betcha. This recipe is totally Syn free and one either the whole family can eat together, or you can make a batch and jar it up in the fridge to eat for your lunches during the week. It’s meal prep like this that helps me stay on plan, especially when I’m busy. I really want to get to my target weight by Christmas, so I’m still on a mission to keep the weight loss momentum rolling. It’s really hard in the summer holidays when you live in a seaside town full of fish and chips and ice cream, but I’m trying!
Looking for a Slimming World risotto? Check out my tasty pots of mixed grain rice with delicious chunks of chicken and summer vegetables flavoured with dill
- fry light
- 1 small red onion diced
- 1 pinch sea salt flakes
- 200 g chicken breast or thigh fillets diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small carrot diced
- 1 courgette diced
- 1 red pepper diced
- 100 g chestnut mushrooms diced
- 320 g Riso Gallo 3 cereal mix: dried rice, spelt and barley or your favourite risotto rice
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 1 handful fresh dill picked and roughly chopped
Spray a large deep saucepan with fry light and place over a medium heat and soften the onion with a pinch of sea salt.
Add the diced chicken until it starts to brown. Stir in the garlic, carrot, courgette, pepper and mushrooms and cook until softened.
Stir in the rice and cook for a few minutes and then ladle in the hot chicken stock one ladle at a time and stir over a low to medium heat. Repeat until all the stock has gone and the grains are cooked through.
Remove from the heat, stir through the chopped dill and then spoon into glass jars and serve immediately.
Vegetarian? Substitute the chicken for quorn pieces/tofu and you could also add some pulses. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken.
Disclosure: I was part of a Food Bloggers’ trip to Milan and the Riso Gallo HQ. All views are my own and my endorsement of this product is genuine.