A recipe to make the most of the final days of the British asparagus season from our food contributor, Laura Godfrey.
We love the leftovers option too! Do remember that you can check out Laura’s Instagram for more inspiration.
Quick! British asparagus season is coming to an end! In a week or so it’ll be but a fond memory, so do pick some up and enjoy it while you can. This recipe is a wonderful way to make those beautiful spears into a substantial meal without distracting from their flavour.
A good risotto will see you through. A year-round success story; an earthy winter risotto is a pleasing thing on a chilly evening thing but equally a fresh, zingy, but wholesome dish is most welcome in summer. There’s little skill required, just a few basic ingredients, simple flavours and a bit of time.
The act of stirring is what gives risotto its delightful creaminess. Stir your soul in! A good crowd-pleaser, there won’t be many big or little people in your life that wouldn’t like to gather around this pot of comfort.
Making your own stock is a game-changer. It is economical and very easy. Place any bird carcass or bones leftover from your Sunday roast (a little meat attached only sweetens the deal), into the slow cooker and top up with water. A few peppercorns, a stick of celery, an onion or woody herbs if you have them, though even without addition it will be very flavoursome. Leave on low overnight. In the morning skim off any surface residue, pass through a sieve and allow to cool. Decant into zip-lock freezer bags in portion-sized amounts. Freeze flat for ease of storage and swifter defrosting. For vegetable stock I keep sealed bags of vegetable peelings and odd ends in the freezer drawer. No flavour goes to waste, though do avoid potatoes or brassicas such as cauliflower and Brussels sprouts which can produce a starchy or bitter result. When the bag is full, defrost and treat as above. This also allows you to control the salt content. I don’t add any to my homemade stocks at all, but season each dish. You can of course still cook this dish with a stock pot or cube.
Traditional Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian and is always made with animal rennet, but it is easily substituted here with a vegetarian hard cheese. Take care when seasoning this dish since the stock (if not homemade) and cheese, already bring a lot of salinity. Don’t throw away those hard cheese rinds either; pop in the freezer and add to soups for a terrific depth of flavour.
This is easily doubled. Leftovers make mean arancini: Sicilian fried, bread-crumbed rice balls. I often purposely make double with this in mind.
Make or heat up the stock until steaming and keep over low heat (hot stock will ensure consistent temperature in the pan and the rice will cook quicker and more evenly).
In a large pan with a lid, heat the oil over a medium-low heat. Gently sweat the shallot for 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another minute, stirring. Try not to let it brown else it will be bitter.
Add the rice and stir for a minute until coated by the oil. Increase the heat a little. Pour over the wine and allow to simmer for a few minutes until nearly absorbed and the strong alcohol smell has lessened.
Begin adding the stock, a ladle at a time, until absorbed and the rice is cooked through to your liking. (It should have a little bite to it, but not crunchy, though if you are cooking for small children it will still taste perfectly good nice and soft). A little patience is required here.
Prepare the asparagus spears by snapping off the woody end (keep these to add to the frozen stock bag, if you like) and chop into bite-sized pieces. Add these five minutes before the end of cooking.
Take the pan off the heat, season, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and grate over a generous amount of Parmesan. Add a knob of butter and pop the lid on for five minutes.
Remove the lid and give it a final stir. Sprinkle over the chopped mint and a little more Parmesan. Gobble up.