Friday, 27 May 2011

Seasonal delights - Asparagus

The UK asparagus season is short and in my opinion this is not necessarily a bad thing. We seem to be forgetting what is best to eat at particular times of the year and asparagus is a perfect example of the joys of seasonality. It seems all the more delicious as its earthy charms are so fleeting in my food year. Children can learn a little more about seasonality and spring is a lovely time to introduce them to new things. To my mind giving your family a beautiful dish such as asparagus risotto seems quite normal but to others rediculously extravagant. However, it costs around £1.40 per person to make and that makes this dish not only delicious but good value for families too.

Asparagus Risotto

Serves 4

12 asparagus spears (approx)
150g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
500g risotto rice, carnaroli is best but arborio is fine, and cheaper
100ml dry white wine
100g grated parmesan

For the stock

1 carrot , cleaned and roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 litres of water

1) First make the stock by chopping off the woody stems of the asparagus. Then place all the stock ingredients in a large pan and simmer for an hour.
2) Give the asparagus spears a rinse under cold water then cut the tips off, blanch them in the stock for 2 minutes and set aside. Now slice up the remainder of the spears.
3) In a large pan melt half of the butter and then add the onion. this needs to be cooked for about 5 minutes but with no colour. Then add the sliced spears and cook for a couple of minutes longer.
4) Now add the rice and let it get coated with the butter, onions and asparagus for a minute. Add the wine and let it evaporate.
5) Now add the stock 2 ladles at a time until it has almost evaporated and so on. You have to use some judgement here as you may need all the stock or you may not but the best thing is to ensure it is not too sloppy as you now need to add more butter and parmesan to finish the dish. Turn the heat off as parmesan , or any cheese for that matter, does not taste good when boiled.
6) Season as you wish, spoon the risotto into 4 large bowls. Decorate with the reserved asparagus tips and serve with a little more grated parmesan.

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