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Asparagus, Mint and Lemon Risotto

Updated February 23, 2016
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This image courtesy of DavidLoftus.Cookstr.com

This is such a simple, clean and delicious risotto. When buying asparagus, have a look around because there are lots of varieties available now – purple-tipped, white, thin straggly Japanese, wild Spanish and dozens of good locally grown English. In this recipe the stalks are finely sliced to an inch below the tips – this will give you lots of flavour from the stalks and you’ll then have those whole beautiful tips as a bit of a prize! There are variations on this risotto that I love to do, like sprinkling in a little picked crab or lobster meat or fresh, peeled prawns or sliced scallops – all of these work particularly well with asparagus if you fancy a little upgrade. (If you do decide to add any of these seafood suggestions then reduce your Parmesan by half.)

Matt’s wine suggestion: Italian white – Pinot Grigio

Serves8

Cooking Methodsauteeing

CostModerate

Moderate

Total Timeunder 2 hours

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date

Recipe Coursehot appetizer, main course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Mealbrunch, dinner

Moodblue

Taste and Texturebuttery, cheesy, creamy, herby, rich, savory, tangy, winey

Ingredients

  • 2 bunches of asparagus, woody ends removed and discarded
  • 1 x Basic Risotto recipe (below)
  • 700ml/1 ¼ pints hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • 100g/3 ½ oz butter
  • 1–2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus a block for grating
  • A bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 litre/1 3/4 pints vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 to 5 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 600g/1 lb 6 oz risotto rice
  • 250 ml/ 9 fl oz vermouth or dry white wine

Instructions

Finely chop your asparagus stalks into tiny discs, keeping the tips whole. Make your Basic Risotto recipe. Then put a large saucepan on a medium to high heat and pour in half the stock, followed by all your risotto base and the finely sliced asparagus stalks and the tips. Stirring all the time, gently bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until almost all the stock has been absorbed. Add the rest of the stock a ladleful at a time until the rice and asparagus are cooked. You might not need all your stock. Be careful not to overcook the rice – check it throughout cooking to make sure it’s a pleasure to eat. It should hold its shape but be soft, creamy and oozy, and the overall texture should be slightly looser than you think you want it.

Turn off the heat, beat in your butter and Parmesan, mint, almost all the lemon zest and all the juice. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Put a lid on the pan and leave the risotto to rest for a minute. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a scattering of lemon zest and a block of Parmesan on the table.

Basic Risotto:

Stage 1: Have a large oiled tray to hand. Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Put the olive oil and butter in a separate large pan, add the onion and celery and cook very gently for about 15 minutes, without coloring, until soft. Add the rice (it will sizzle!) and turn up the heat. Don't let the rice or veg catch on the bottom of the pan, so keep it moving.

Stage 2: Quickly pour in the vermouth or wine. You will smell the alcohol immediately, so keep stirring all the time until it has evaporated, leaving the rice with a lovely perfume.

Stage 3: Add the stock to the rice a ladle at a time, stirring and waiting until it has been fully absorbed before adding the next. Turn the heat down to low so the rice doesn't cook too quickly, otherwise the outside of each grain will be stodgy and the inside hard and nutty (you don't want to cook it too slowly either, or it will turn into rice pudding!), and continue to add ladlefuls of stock until it has all been absorbed. This should take about 14 to 15 minutes and give you rice that is beginning to soften but is still a little al dente.

Stage 4: Tip the part-cooked rice out on to the waiting oiled tray. Spread it all out evenly, about 2.5cm/1 inch thick, on the tray and then put it somewhere cold to cool down. When the rice has lost all its heat, scrape it up carefully with a rubber spatula and store it in a tupperware container with a lid in the fridge until you're ready to use it. It will keep for a couple of days.

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