Exuding a bright lemon flavour, this effortless yet sophisticated risotto dish will be a highlight at dinner gatherings this asparagus season. Add chopped bacon for a meaty oomph to this otherwise delicious vegetarian dish.
300 grams asparagus, well washed
3-4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
knob of butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
50 grams streaky bacon, finely chopped (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup risotto rice, such as Arborio
1⁄2 cup white wine
small knob butter
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
1⁄2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and discard. Cut off the tender tips and set aside. Slice the stalks thinly.
Bring the stock to the boil and cook the tips until crisp tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and refresh in cold water. Drain and set aside, reserving the hot stock.
Melt the butter with the oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, bacon and sliced asparagus stalks with a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is very tender.
Add the rice, stirring well to coat each grain in the oil. Cook for another minute until the rice is warm (toasted).
Add the wine and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Begin adding the hot stock, a ladle at a time, stirring and allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding the next quantity. When the risotto is tender to the bite and has a creamy consistency, after about 20 minutes, add the butter, lemon zest and Parmesan and stir to combine. Season well and fold through the asparagus tips.
To serve: Spoon the risotto into warm serving bowls and serve with extra Parmesan if desired.
Arborio rice: a fat, short-grain Italian rice. It is high in starch, which is essential for a creamy risotto. Available widely from supermarkets and specialty food stores.