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This golden Saffron Asparagus Risotto is delicate and aromatic, filled with al dente green asparagus, tender sweet peas and a touch of parmesan.asparagus saffron risotto rice

saffron risotto asparagus pea

I wouldn’t dare to call this dish “risotto alla milanese” since it contains some asparagus and peas but truth be told, it’s quite similar. Also, the original risotto alla milanese is usually made with beef broth and is the only risotto generally not served as a “primo”, first course, but as a sidedish. Usually serve with ossobuco, this risotto is the king of the North (…of Italy, not Westeros…). For this particular recipe, I consider it a “main meal” but it could also be served as a Primo or side dish. You can also make this dish vegetarian by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth and forget the parmesan. So…let’s talk saffron shall we?

Saffron-asparagus risotto

Saffron rules!

Saffron is the most precious, Gollum style, (my god… I’m in movie mode today…) of spices, the flower’s stigmas called threads are pick up by hand, one by one, and then dried up. Imagine, in a single pinch of saffron, which is about 15 threads, someone had to pick up about five flowers (saffron crocus) and take one by one each threads… before drying them. What a job! Just to make a single gram of dry saffron you would need about 150 flowers… so the reason it costs a pretty penny is clear. Another factor to its “preciousness” is its color, a really unique golden hue, that tint many traditional dishes from around the world from paella to biryani. It also tastes quite powerful with a unique hay tone, which can be quite rapidly overwhelming if you over do it, better go with modesty on this spice. For this particular recipe, the saffron shines though really well, I’ve used 2 small pinches only which I consider the max for a dish. No need for more, if you have a quality bright red saffron, that’s all you’ll need! The saffron is going to give this incredible golden color to your rice, plus the asparagus will help out a bit too! For a delicious and majestic golden risotto result!

Leaky or tight Risotto?

Saffron-asparagus risottoSometimes risottos are super creamy and leaky other times drier which holding better. I believe for this recipe, a leaky risotto wouldn’t work because of the big chunks of asparagus. I suggest to make it slightly drier, with less broth, this way it will hold the veggies better. As for the final touch, which is “the magic” of risotto, the butter will give the rice a great glossy finish, no need for much, and the parmesan will bind everything together. My secret to a good risotto is to add a sip of white wine in the end of cooking, just to give it a “pop”!

So let’s make this smooth dish!

 

 


Saffron Asparagus Risotto

Makes 4-5 portions | Difficulty: easy | Preparation: 30 minutes

Ingredients
  • 800ml of chicken or vegetable brothsaffron risotto asparagus pea
  • 320g of green asparagus
  • 300g arborio rice (any round grain rice)
  • 150ml of white wine
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 a leek finely chopped
  • 2 pinch of saffron
  • 150g of frozen sweet peas
  • 15g of butter
  • parmesan to taste
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Start by adding the saffron to a little bit of warm water and let it infuse the water for 30 minutes
  2. Add the onion, olive oil and a pinch of salt to a large pan, let it cook slowly until translucent (about 10 minutes)
  3. Bring the heat to medium, add the rice and a touch more of olive oil if dry, move constantly with a spatula until the grains start “singing” or become transparent which is about 2 minutes
  4. Add the white wine, let it evaporate completely
  5. Add the broth, topping the rice and mix once in a while
  6. Repeat the last step as much as needed, about 4 times, the whole cooking process is 18-20 minutes
  7. 5 minutes before the end, add the saffron, asparagus and peas
  8. When the rice is to your liking, mine is “al dente”, add an *optional last sip of white wine (30ml, no more)
  9. Stop the fire, add the butter and parmesan to taste, check the seasonning (salt and pepper)
  10. Serve

 

Enjoy!

Saffron-asparagus risotto

A delicate vegetarian dish, filled with vitamins and resembling a mountain of little pine trees, just in time for the holidays. A risotto with romanesco broccoli, goat cheese and butternut squash with a splash of white wine and fresh thyme.risotto goat cheese

Romanesco broccoli-butternut squash goat cheese risotto

This recipe came from my experiements to make a meal with that strange looking hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower called romanesco broccoli. I’ve encountered this vegetable in the market and saw how the florets from it looked like little pine trees… I had to make Romanesco broccoli-butternut squash risottosomething out of this for the holiday season. So I’ve explored a few ideas, one was the little christmas quiches with a base of potato which I’ve use for my collaboration with Elena from happykitchen.rocks, check it out here, those irresistible and festive little quiches. The second idea was to make a white risotto (goat cheese helped) and stick a few little romanesco broccoli florets into it to ressemble a christmas tree mountain… Result: a nice holiday risotto, with lots of veggies but not as invocative of Christmas as I would have liked. I’ve added a side kick to the romanesco broccoli; the butternut squash which goes perfectly with the goat cheese.

The technique

The technique for risotto is mainly to move the rice…well no need to over do it, just enough not to make it stick to the pan. This way it makes the rice starch comes out and gives the rice this creamy, smooth texture we want. What makes the round grain rice (arborio, carnaroli) for risotto special from other rice grains is mainly the fact that you have to lightly toast the rice at first, this help to keep the rice grain in better shape in the end, kind of a protective layer. Also the pan is important, a large and high enough pan to make sure the liquid can evaporate fast and concentrate all those flavors.

christmas tree risotto

Misconception

Often people believe risottos are difficult to make at home, but it’s far from the truth. It’s  a “under 30 minutes” meal which is easy once you get the technique. Once you get it, you can make so many different different flavors with it; mushroom, asparagus, saffron, seafood, etc. The importance is mainly a good broth, a tasty and well seasoned one and a good wine which I believe give the dish its “special” flavor. In most recipes, just like in mine, you’ll see the wine being poured in the beginning of cooking. I personally always add a tiny touch of wine in the end of coccion also, just a tad to give it this exquisite final touch. But of course this step is optional.

Let’s make this Christmas trees risotto!

 


Romanesco, Goat Cheese & Butternut Squash Risotto

Makes 4 portions | Preparation: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
  • 600g (or 4 full ladle) arborio rice, carnaroli or bomba rice
  • 1 litre of vegetable broth (might not use it all)
  • 250g of butternut squash cut into small cubes of 1cm
  • 300g of romanesco broccoli cut into small florets
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 70g of fresh goat cheese
  • 100ml of white wine
  • 20g butter
  • thyme, salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Start by cutting all the vegetables, reserve the romanesco aside
  2. Bring the broth to simmer, keep warm
  3. Add half the butter to a big pan, once melted add the onions and salt, cook at medium heat until translucent (about 5 minutes)
  4. Add the other half of butter in the center of the pan and the arborio rice, let the grains of rice get transparent and well soaked in the butter (medium-high heat, about 1-2 minutes)
  5. Add the white wine, butternut squash, thyme, salt and pepper and mix it all good
  6. Then add 1 ladle at the time of the broth, while moving the risotto with a spatula, make the rice soak almost all the juice then add more broth, repeat until the end of cooking (20 minutes)
  7. Meanwhile the previous step, bring a pot of salty water to boil or the warm broth, add the romanesco broccoli florets in it and cook for about 3 minutes (al dente), reserve
  8. When the risotto is almost ready, 1 minutes before the end of cooking, add an extra sip of white wine (optional), check the seasoning and take off the fire
  9. Add the goat cheese, mix good serve right away with a few romanesco broccoli on top.

 

Enjoy!

Romanesco broccoli-butternut squash risotto

Butternut squash-blue cheese risottoButternut squash-blue cheese risotto is a great combination of flavours for this fall. Although blue cheese is a product people are black or white about… whether you love it or you hate it. It’s understandable, since it’s a quite powerful cheese, and not easy to pair. But if you are on the love side of the spectrum, this is the recipe for you.squashrisottopin

Butternut squash-blue cheese risottoOn the other end, butternut squash or you could also do it with the leftover of pumpkin you just carved for the kids… is a sweet element which needs a good contrasting element to balance it out. Those 2 together are a match made in heaven, one spicy and sharp and the other sweet and smooth, turns into a dynamic dish when put together. A well balanced dish.

Also, another too often forgotten element which is important in this recipe is the : Black pepper. Yes… the black pepper you always see in the end of every recipe and don’t dare to put too much of. Well in this case, don’t be shy and use it generously, it gives this extra spicy touch to the butternut squash which is irresistable. Especially, freshly cracked pepper is a plus. There is a whole world of black pepper out there, which I’m no specialist of, but if you are a black pepper master, don’t be shy to use your sharpest type for this recipe.

So let’s make this seasonal risotto going!


Butternut squash-blue cheese risotto

Makes 4 portions

Ingredients
  • 5Butternut squash-blue cheese risotto00g of arborio rice, or bomba
  • 500g of butternut squash cut into pieces (no skin)
  • 100g of blue cheese (your favorite type)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 litre of chicken broth prewarmed
  • 100ml of white wine
  • 1 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • optional: thyme
  • salt and black pepper
Directions
  1. Start by roasting the butternut squash in the oven at 180°C (350F) for 30-35 minutes until golden
  2. Blend the butternut squash lightly, or mash it
  3. Add the onion to soften in a big pan with some olive oil and salt at medium-high heat for 5 minutes
  4. Preheat the broth on the side
  5. Add the garlic clove some extra olive oil and the arborio rice to the pan and move until the rice get translucent, about 2 minutes
  6. Bring the heat to high heat and add half the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pan
  7. Then always moving, add the broth one ladle at the time and move constantly the rice (this makes it creamy, as it should be) for about 20 minutes
  8. Mid-coccion add the mashed butternut squash and thyme
  9. When the rice is almost done, 1 minute before the end, add the rest of the wine, let it get absorbed partly then take of the fire
  10. Add the blue cheese (keep some for decoration), and check the seasoning (black pepper)
  11. Let cover for 2 minutes to absorb the leftovers of liquid and serve

Top with some extra blue cheese. Enjoy!

Butternut squash-blue cheese risotto

Porcini risottoIf there is a traditional fall risotto in Italy, it’s the beloved risotto ai funghi made with those exquisite porcini mushrooms. Porcini mushroom is such an elegant and filled with flavor mushroom, if you are lucky enough to get it, in whatever form possible (fresh, canned or dry), you’ll never go back to button mushroom. Porcini mushrooms are a relatively bigger kind of mushrooms with a large stem, it’s flavor resemble meat and is quite powerful. It’s the ultimate mushroom to make risotto. The only downside of this wild mushroom is its cost… it’s a quite expensive mushroom and not always easy to find but if you do… and aren’t on a budget, get the Italian in you shine.porcinipin

Porcini risottoFor this particular recipe I’ve used a pack of medium size dried porcini I bought in Italy this summer. This way, you’ll have to soak the mushroom for about 20-30 minutes before use and then we’ll use the leftover water to make the risotto broth. This water might have residual sand from the mushroom in it, so once the mushroom soften, take them out and pass the leftover water through a sieve with a paper towel in it, this way you’ll get every tiny bits of sand left from the liquid out. This broth can be slightly altered while heated, by adding a laurel leaf, extra broth, wine, brandy, thyme or any aromatic you’ld like. I’ve used some extra white wine and laurel leaf to keep as much of the mushroom taste intact as possible.

Porcini risottoTo get your risotto right, you’ll have to keep the rice moving, and adding the broth little by little. This way the starch get released from the rice and helps make the risotto a nice creamy consistency. So whether you mix the risotto with a wood spoon or simply shake the pan, make sure it’s moving. To upgrade the risotto to adulthood level, add a sip of wine in the end of coccion, if no kids are around of course… Also in the final step of the dish, it’s optional of course, I’ve added a special truffle olive oil and truffle salt to compliment the porcini and give it extra flavor. Those two last ingredients aren’t necessary, just a welcomed extra.

So let’s get this Italian dish going!


Porcini risotto

Makes 3 portions / preparation 30 minutes, cooking time 25 minutes

Ingredients
  • 200g of dried porPorcini risottocini mushrooms 
  • 750ml of warm water
  • 250g Carnaroli, Arborio, or bomba rice (round grain rice)
  • 1 onion (yellow) diced
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 200 ml of white wine
  • 100g of parmigiano reggiano
  • 20g of butter
  • 1 tbsp of truffle olive oil
  • 1 laurel leaf
  • fresh flat leaf parsley to taste
  • truffle salt (or normal) and pepper

Directions

  1. Start by soaking the dried porcini mushrooms in 750ml of warm water for 30 minutes or until soft (if you use the dried porcini)
  2. Reserve the porcini water, filter it with a sieve and paper towel and add to a pot
  3. Add the laurel leave and half the white wine into the mushroom water and let simmer for 5 minutes
  4. During that time, cut the onion and garlic
  5. In a big pan, medium high heat, let soften the onions for 5 minutes or until soft
  6. Add the garlic and make a well in the center of the pan
  7. Add extra oil (olive oil or butter) in the center of the pan
  8. Add the risotto rice and mix well, medium high heat, until the grain of rice becomes translucid (about 1 minute)
  9. Add the other half of white wine and let the liquid get absorbed by the rice
  10. Than add a ladleful at the time of mushroom broth (or chicken broth), some truffle salt and pepper
  11. Keep the risotto in movement for about 20 minutes or until the grains are al dente
  12. Once done, the consistency of the risotto should be quite wet still, like a muddy rice or rice pudding
  13. Add the truffle olive oil (or 1 tbsp of butter), chopped flat leave parsley and the parmesan (+extra touch of white wine), mix and cover for another minute
  14. Check the seasonning and serve

Enjoy!

Porcini risotto

Shiitake and Spinach Risolla

A new hybrid recipe here: the “Risolla”… a mix between a risotto and a paella; Italy vs Spain. It’s a bit of both techniques, the light frying of the rice at first just like in the risotto and paella, then adding the broth and let sit with the spinach on top so they shrink down into the rice, without moving the rice until the end; that’s more typical of paella. The risotto factor is mainly in the ingredients, a good white wine and cheese to finish. So this isn’t a paella, nor a risotto; it’s a “Risolla”. The end result is less creamy than a traditional risotto because of the lack of moving the rice. But the taste is quite similar. I, often, do those hybrid meals, no disrespect to traditions, they are important and most people stick to them and it’s fine… it’s just “my tradition” is to experiment! That’s all!
Shiitake and Spinach RisollaSo it’s no big invention, all you need is a grain of rice that is round, I took a sublime rice from Spain called “Bahia”, a bit longer than a usual bomba rice. There are plenty of different types of “paella” rice. You choose the rice you’d like, italian or spanish it’s gonna be pretty similar at the end. Also , risotto and paella are like pasta; you have to make them al dente, so I guess it applies too for the “Risolla”.

Another detail about this recipe is the mushroom choice, which is uncommon; Shiitake. It’s actually an East Asia mushroom, and I happen to find it more tasty then most mushrooms and also the texture holds better. So this can be replace by any other mushroom of your choice.

So, let’s get that experiment going.


Shiitake and Spinach Risolla

Makes 4 portions

IngredientsRisolla de shitake and spinach
  • A big bag of spinach
  • 250g chopped shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 250ml of white wine
  • 300ml of chicken broth (simmering)
  • 300g round rice of your choice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp grated parmesan
Directions
  1. Add the olive oil in a big pan
  2. Add the onion and cook at medium heat, until almost translucent
  3. Add the garlic and shiitakes, bring the fire to medium-high heat
  4. Cook 3-4 minutes
  5. Add the rice, while mixing, and cook it for about 2 minutes at medium heat until translucent
  6. Add the wine, broth until about a finger over the rice and mix
  7. Salt and pepper, right away (paella rule)
  8. Add the spinach on top and cover until cooked
  9. Cook the rice about 17 minutes (al dente), try it to check consistency, add broth or water if it’s missing coccion.
  10. When done, add a little sip of white (2 tbsp), and the parmesan, mix
  11. Let sit a few minutes, so that all liquid get in the rice.

Serve with  a few slices of parmesan on top, and a final touch of truffle oil would make it sublime. Enjoy!