Friday, 6 May 2011

Lemony Herb and Broccoli Risotto

Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.

Risotto is not difficult in the least. In fact it is probably one of the easiest foods you can make.

You do need proper rice, a nice fat creamy rice like Arborio. Other ones just won't do. Arborio is a magical rice that releases its starches just so, creating that unctuous texture that we love so much.

After you have the correct rice, you need your starting aromatics - what you are going to sauté in the pan first. Generally onions, celery, garlic.. you get my drift. Get 'em soft and lovely in some nice fat - usually a mix of olive oil and butter, add your rice and keep stirring. Get it coated with the fats and nicely toasted and add your liquids - a bit at a time. Risotto will drink up varying amounts. Keep the homemade stock and a bottle of good white wine handy. Maybe two, if the chef is thirsty. And the chef is always thirsty in our house.

The rest is slow adding of liquids, stirring, and eventual adding of flavouring agents and additions.

See? Couldn't be simpler. Yes, you do need to add the liquids slowly, a bit at a time. And yes you have to stir frequently, but slowly. But you have a glass of wine in your hand. Why on earth would you want to be rushing around anyway?

That's it. Take it easy, slowly stir the pot, drink your wine, and let someone else set the table.
And keep tasting! A recipe is great and all, but at the end - it is all up to your taste buds. I like my risotto extra creamy and so I give it more liquid and time, you might like yours more al dente. Vive la différence!

Lemony Herb and Broccoli Risotto
adapted from Jamie Oliver's
Asparagus, Mint and Lemon Risotto
original recipe here:

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.) J.O.


for the risotto:
• 1 litre/1¾ pints vegetable or chicken stock
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 4-5 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
• 600g/1lb 6oz risotto rice
• 250ml/9fl oz vermouth or dry white wine

• 2 bunches of asparagus, woody ends removed and discarded
• 700ml/1¼ pints hot vegetable or chicken stock
• 100g/3½oz 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 and freshly ground black pepper
• extra virgin olive oil

Finely chop your asparagus stalks into tiny discs, keeping the tips whole. Then start making your basic risotto recipe.

Stage 1: 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 colouring, 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 be 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. Put to one side.

Now 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.

My Changes: Asparagus is not quite up here yet, I used broccoli. And I used small handfuls of fresh mint, oregano, chives and parsley for the herbs. Also, I topped mine off with some julienned prosciutto. Delicious!