Asparagus risotto


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This risotto recipe is a real celebration of asparagus. We use the woody stems (which would ordinarily be thrown away) to make a stock, then create a silky purée which infuses flavour all the way through the risotto. We even add sliced raw asparagus, thrown in at the end to provide a lovely fresh crunch.

Don't forget to use an animal rennet-free Parmesan substitute if catering for vegetarians.

Begin by making a quick asparagus stock using up the woody stalks, which usually would get thrown away. Snap off the woody ends and place in a pan with a litre of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 40 minutes, then remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and keep the liquid warm
10 minutes before the stock is ready, heat a drizzle of vegetable oil in a large pan and add the onions and garlic with a pinch of salt. Cook until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes)
Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until it starts to toast a little. Add the white wine and stir until it has evaporated
Add ladles of warm asparagus stock one by one, each time letting the rice absorb the stock before adding the next. Stir regularly to release the starch from the rice, which is what gives you a creamy risotto
As the risotto is cooking, chop off the asparagus tips to be about 5cm long and set aside. Divide the stalks into 2 equal piles. Finely slice one pile into 2mm rounds and set aside. Roughly chop the remaining stalks
Cook the roughly chopped asparagus in salted boiling water with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda – this will help the stringy stalks blend easily without having to cook them for longer and therefore losing the bright green colour
When the asparagus is soft (about 5 minutes), drain and reserve some of the cooking water. Place in a blender and blitz to a smooth puree, adding back in some of the cooking water if needed
Taste the rice and when it is cooked just al dente you can stir in the purée and the sliced asparagus stalks
Taste and season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Beat in the butter and Parmesan, place a lid on the pan and leave off the heat to rest for 5 minutes
Meanwhile, place a frying pan over a high heat and add the asparagus tips with a small drizzle of oil. Stir-fry for a few minutes until cooked through but with a little bite. Season with flaky salt
Serve up the risotto and top with asparagus tips and some lemon zest
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