THIS week's recipe is a one of my very favourite risotto dishes — asparagus and garden pea which are both in season at the moment.
When I went to Italy a few years ago for research I visited a risotto rice producer, he was a count and lived in a 12th Century Abbey — the sundial of this abbey was used by Sir Francis Drake.
The count's rice was renowned in Italy as the best (we used this rice when I worked in Ramsons).
The monks cooked the rice for the peasants that worked in the paddy fields who lived there as families in the 12th century.
Risotto is a rice dish with an interesting history and naturally tied to the history of rice in Italy, while there are many conflicting opinions on the historical intricacies.
Rice was first introduced to Italy by the Arabs during the middle ages. It was not new to the Mediterranean, Romans used it previously but only medicinally.
The humidity of the Mediterranean was quickly found to be perfect for growing shorter grained rices and enormous profits were made by those selling rice in Genoa, Venice and the surrounding areas.
The popularity of rice grew through Italy though primarily among the wealthy owing to the still exorbitant prices.
Once the outside world discovered the quality of the Italian product, however, money poured in and the availability of the short grains spread making the rice far more widely accessible
There is a lovely little story of a young apprentice believed to be the creator of risotto in 1574, he was put in charge of making a stained glass window that was to adorn the Cathedral Duomo Di Milano.
While he worked, many of the townspeople made fun of him giving credit to the herb Saffron for the beautiful colours showcased in his artwork.
Tired of the teasing he devised a plan of retaliation — during his master's wedding he added an excessive amount of saffron to the rice being served as a main dish he hoped his action would ruin the festivities.
But instead the rice received great reviews launching risotto into culinary fame. The most famous is Milanese risotto.
At its simplest, risotto is a hearty warming rice dish and easy to make. Risotto also is very versatile, you can add any meat and or vegetables and any leftover rice can be rolled into balls covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried and served as a canapé.
Asparagus is a perfect complement to risotto the delicate flavour blends well. Another accompaniment is porcini mushrooms which is one of the most tastiest flavoursome.
There are several risotto rice
Arborio and carnaroli are the most popular
300g risotto rice
1 litre of good chicken stock( pinch of saffron )
3 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
3 shallots chopped finely
one glass of white wine
1 bunch of fresh asparagus chopped
100g fresh peas or frozen
100g parmesan cheese
season to taste
1. Fry the shallots and garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes careful not to burn the garlic. Place your chicken stock in a pan and keep at a low heat.
2 Add the rice and coat all the grains with the oil fry for 2-3 minutes then add the glass of wine cook until it all has evaporated.
3. Gently add the chicken stock a ladle at a time,, wait until it has been absorbed and add another ladle until all the chicken stock has been absorbed usually 20-25 minutes ,it should be a slight runny consistency add the vegetables raw, cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in the butter and half of the parmesan cheese season to taste it is important that you rest your risotto at this point, the juices in the risotto stay in the rice.
Then to garnish chopped parsley and the rest of the parmesan cheese. Serve on a plate or large bowl shake so it spreads evenly it should be slightly al dente and not too thick and serve with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.