Thursday, 22 April 2010

The 21st Century Housewife’s© Risotto Primavera


This is a wonderful recipe for this time of year, and with the exception of the asparagus, you may well have most of the ingredients to hand already. It's a great recipe for Earth Day as well as it is totally meat free, and if you use local produce it has a very small carbon footprint. (Just remember that if you are catering for strict vegetarians you need to be sure to use vegetarian cheese.) Speaking of cheese, you can use whatever kind you wish, from Gruyere to Parmesan. However, for me, the sharp tang of cheddar cheese against the soft creamy bite of the rice and gently cooked spring vegetables really make this dish. It’s a bit unexpected to use cheddar in Italian cooking, but the results are fantastic.

Risotto is definitely a hands on dish, something that has to be watched and stirred almost constantly. The finished dish is well worth the effort though and like Nigella Lawson, I do highly recommend the benefits of a little mindless repetitive stirring, particularly if you are feeling stressed (which I am this week with my son still stuck in Athens due to the volcanic ash cloud over Europe). Stirring is bizarrely reassuring, plus you get to serve and eat delicious comfort food as a result of your labours. So it is a good deal all round!

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
320 grams of risotto rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone)
1 glass dry white wine
1 litre of vegetable stock (I made mine from cubes)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup of frozen peas
a couple of good handfuls of asparagus spears, each one cut in two to three pieces and lightly steamed for two to three minutes
1 handful of grated cheddar cheese

Take the peas out of the freezer, measure out one cupful and leave them on the side to thaw out a bit. Heat the oil over medium heat in a saute pan or fairly deep frying pan (in a pinch you can use a large saucepan for this as well). Gently saute the onion until it is beginning to soften, but not brown. Stir in the risotto rice until it is well mixed with the onion and coated with oil.

Pour in the glass of wine and stir gently until it is absorbed. Now you can begin adding the stock, a few ladles full at a time, stirring each one in until it is absorbed. This will take at least fifteen to twenty minutes. Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat too much, you have to be patient with this dish. When cooking risotto the burner should never be turned up beyond medium heat.

As soon as the last ladleful of stock has been absorbed, turn the heat back a bit and stir in the cheese and the frozen peas until the cheese has melted. After a couple of minutes gently stir in the already steamed asparagus.

That’s it, you are good to go. This is not the most calorie conscious suggestion I have ever made, but we love this served with fresh bread or hot rolls in our house. However, if you are being healthy, a crisp fresh salad makes a great side dish. Having said that, risotto is perfectly fine eaten all by itself from a bowl while you are curled up in front of the television, yet it’s also good enough to serve at the most formal dinner party as a starter (in which case this would serve six easily). I hope you enjoy it as much as we do in our house!

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