Spring asparagus, peas, lemon and mint combine to make a beautiful risotto that tastes as fresh as the season they represent.
Disclaimer: You may see a lot of asparagus recipes in the next few weeks!
In my last post I mentioned my delight at finding gorgeous spring asparagus at the Valbonne market this week. It may not be asparagus season yet back at home in the US but here in the south of France we are enjoying the benefits of an unusually mild winter and early spring and I am embracing it….
Asparagus and Pea Risotto….
This asparagus risotto recipe has long been one of my favourites. I could eat asparagus in any form – salads, soup, pasta, side dish, with my eggs – you name it – if asparagus is on the menu I’m interested! The same is true for risotto. Its takes a lot to drag my eyes away from the risotto on any menu. So…….Asparagus Risotto. Well, just shoot me dead and I’ll die a happy girl.
This is a simple spring risotto recipe. Simple to make. Simple flavours. It’s like spring itself. No need to overcomplicate things.
Spring is when we just start to re-see the world after a thaw and appreciate the little things in life. Flowers, birds…… asparagus and peas. We don’t need complex flavours here – just rice, fresh vegetables, a little butter and cheese, lemon zest and mint to finish it off. The final dish is fresh and surprising like a spring morning.
Notes on making risotto…..
- People are often intimidated by risotto because it needs to be “constantly stirred.” That’s a false conception. You can’t walk away from risotto like you would steaming rice but nor do you have to stand over the pot, constantly stirring, until you get tennis elbow! You just have to watch it……..stir……..add some stock, give it another stir…..
- The key is to regulate the temperature and watch it as it cooks. If the heat is too high you will boil off your stock instead of letting the rice absorb it. If the heat is too low it won’t cook.. You want to give the rice time to cook while releasing it’s starch and making a creamy sauce. I have an induction stove and I alternate between temperature 5-6. If you have gas or electric you will want it mostly on medium heat with the occasional bump to medium-high just to get it to a low simmer again. If you are a risotto newbie don’t worry – you will get the hang of it!
- Stop cooking when the rice is ALMOST cooked through but still a bit crunchy in the middle. At this point you remove it from the heat and add your last ladle of stock and cheese. Cover the pot and let it sit for 2 minutes. When you remove the lid and give it a stir your rice will be perfectly al denté cooked.
Asparagus, Pea and Mint Risotto
A delicious and fresh spring risotto
- 12 oz/350g asparagus
- 4 cups/1 liter vegetable broth (if using a bouillon use half of the recommended quantity – they are too salty otherwise)
- 8 shallots or 1 large onion, finely chopped (shallots are milder in flavor and when finely chopped they disappear into the risotto which I prefer but you can use onions if you prefer. Typically 1 onion is equal to 3 shallots but because onions are stronger in flavor I use less. If using shallots you can peel them and chop them in a food processor to avoid some of the onion tears)
- 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
- 2 Tablspoons of butter
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) Arborio rice
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) dry white wine
- 1 cup (130g) fresh or frozen peas
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan
- 1 handful of fresh mint, leaves torn
- Trim the asparagus and cut them in to 2 inch/5 cm pieces
- Heat the stock in a small stock pot until simmering and maintain the stock at a near simmer.
- Heat the oil and butter in a large stock pot and add the shallots or onions. Sauté until translucent and soft.
- Add the rice and saute for about 2 minutes, until you can see the grains losing their opaqueness.
- Add the wine and simmer until absorbed/evaporated.
- Add one ladle of stock to the rice. Stir occasionally until it is absorbed. Make sure not to have the heat too high that the stock evaporates instead of being absorbed.
- Once the stock is absorbed you can add another ladle full of stock and repeat.
- After about 10 minutes add the asparagus and lemon zest. If using fresh peas add them as well.
- Continue cooking, gradually adding stock. After another 10 minutes add the frozen peas if using. The risotto should take about 25 minutes to cook.
- When the risotto is almost cooked but still feels slightly hard inside you should only have 1 ladle full of stock left.
- Remove the risotto form the heat. Add the stock and the cheese, stir and cover for 2 minutes.
- Remove the lid. Stir in the mint and serve. .