Risotto of Spring Vegetables
- 300g carnaroli rice (risotto rice)
- 150g parmesan, in a wedge
- 20g fresh chives, finely snipped
- 150g shelled broad beans(about 600g in their pods)
- 150g asparagus spears
- 200g shelled small peas (about 800g in their pods)
- fistfuls of ice cubes
- 1 tsp vegetable stock powder, such as Marigold
- 1 large shallot or 2 smaller ones, finely chopped
- 3 large spring onions , trimmed and chopped
- 1 fat garlic clove, lightly crushed
- 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
- 50g butter
- 125ml dry white wine
- 2 tbsp mascarpone
- Tip the rice into a pan of boiling, lightly salted water. Boil gently for 6 minutes then drain in a sieve. There should still be a white core in the centre of the grains. Spread the part-cooked rice on a clean tray, cool, then chill until you are ready to finish the risotto. If covered with cling film, the rice can be kept for up to 24 hours. Shave about 25g off the parmesan wedge and set aside for later. Finely grate the rest and save for use in Step 8.
- Blanch the broad beans for 1 minute in boiling water then drain and rinse them in a colander under cold water. Using your fingers, pop each bean from its skin. (Thawed frozen beans can be popped without blanching.)
- Trim the asparagus and cut the spears at an angle into lozenge shapes. Bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a large pan, add 1 tsp of sea salt, then the asparagus, shelled peas and beans. Return to a gentle boil and cook for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, put lots of ice cubes into a large bowl half filled with cold water.
- Drain the vegetables in a colander set over a bowl to catch and save the cooking water, then tip them straight into the bowl of iced water. When cold, drain again and set aside.
- Pour the saved vegetable water into a pan and whisk in the stock powder. When ready to finish the risotto, bring the stock to the boil and keep it on a simmer.
- In another large pan, gently sauté the shallot, spring onions and garlic in the 2 tablespoons of oil and half the butter for 3-5 minutes until softened. Stir in the wine and cook until reduced by half.
- Tip in the rice. Now add a ladle of boiling stock and stir until it is absorbed. Add the remaining stock, a ladle at a time, stirring until absorbed before you add more. This takes about 8 minutes, by which time the mixture should be slightly sloppy, not dry. You may not need all the stock. The rice is cooked when it is just softened and has a nice shiny glaze. Remove the garlic clove.
- Gently stir in the vegetables and remaining chives and return to a gentle simmer, adding a little extra stock if needed. Stir in the last of the butter, the grated parmesan and the mascarpone. Check the seasoning. Divide immediately between four warmed shallow bowls, drizzle over a little oil and scatter the parmesan shavings onto each serving.
For rice with a good texture
When adding the stock, add just a ladle at a time to moisten. Don’t flood the rice or it will burst and go watery. Also, keeping the stock on the boil means it will be absorbed more quickly when added.
For tender asparagus
Cutting the asparagus into lozenge shapes not only makes a nice presentation, it also ensures that it cooks evenly. Keep the water gently boiling as rapid boiling destroys the texture of the asparagus.
Speed things up
Making a classic risotto can take up to 20 minutes. By blanching the rice beforehand and spreading it out to chill, you can halve the cooking time later on and still produce a freshly cooked risotto.
To keep the vegetables vibrant
For a risotto you want to keep a bit of bite in the vegetables. Plunging them into iced water stops overcooking and keeps their colour vibrant and their texture crisp. This technique is called ‘refreshing’, and the vegetables then just need a quick reheating before serving. It’s a useful tip for cooking ahead all green vegetables.
Use the best rice
Both the Carnaroli and the Arborio varieties are good, but Carnaroli is a bit more robust. The type of starch in these grains gives creaminess to the dish yet the core of the grain retains a good ‘al dente’ bite. Cook it in gently boiling rather than rapidly boiling water, or the rice goes a bit furry on the outside and becomes watery.
Nutrition: 694 kcalories, protein 28g, carbohydrate 69g, fat 34 g, saturated fat 18g, fibre 7g, salt 1.37 g