I’m not a snob about food, but I can be a purist at times. With a Risotto I’ve gone through something of an evolution and have listened carefully to the advice of a whole range of exponent’s from renowned chefs to your ‘genuine Italians’. So I’ve tried the whole bake it in oven method and the “there is no need to stir it”, and “you can use a stock cube” and they are all true I suppose. However, for me there is now a tried and tested route to the more delicious outcome and it does involve making some stock up (even if you partially cheat) and it does involve stirring so this is usually a Saturday evening ‘non time’ pressured activity for me.
The pleasures gained from a risotto? Well obviously there is eating it, and then there is the relaxing nature of stirring the pot. Having prepped everything well and cleared away all the detritus there is just you, in a tidy kitchen, maybe some music on, a pot of stock with a ladle in it and one for the rice, a small stack of other wholesome items, a glass of wine and a wooden spoon…30 odd minutes of uninterrupted sautéing and stirring – an escape.
Crab is great at this time of the year as is the British asparagus; it’s a marriage we enjoy so here is my version for better or for worse….
Crab Risotto with Asparagus
For the stock
You can go with what you have in the fridge and store cupboard on this one, I generally use a chicken base but for this one I prefer a light veg base flavoured with some shellfish:
For the stock.
500 ml water
1 bay leaf
1 large or 2 medium onions peeled quartered
10 whole black peppercorns
2 carrots, peeled and cut in half
2 sticks of celery cut into chunks
1 tsp fennel seeds
The shells and heads of the king prawns.
The crab body from the dressed crab – optional
Tablespoon of brown crab meat
1 heaped teaspoon of sea salt
Fresh parsley stalks – small handful
The zest of a lemon
For the Risotto
300 ml Carnaroli risotto rice
½ pack of unsalted butter
2 sticks of celery, peeled with a peeler and very finely chopped – so as to be no bigger than the grains of rice.
2 banana shallots peeled and chopped very finely as above
2 table spoons of finely grated parmesan
1 glass of dry white wine (or vermouth)
A drizzle of olive oil
1 large or 2 small British dressed crabs, white and brown meat separated into bowls
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed, peeled and chopped into 2cm pieces
4 large king Prawns for garnish and extra luxury – optional.
Place the stock ingredients into a large saucepan, bring the boil and simmer for about an hour, then turn off the heat and leave them to sit for a while.
Strain the stock through sieve lined with muslin a couple of times.
I like to make crab risotto to be quite ‘crabby’ so I put the brown meat in – but for a pure white risotto just leave that out.
Next, put a couple of large knobs of butter and a drizzle of olive oil into a saucepan over a low heat and melt the butter.
Add in the celery and shallots, turn up the heat slightly and gently soften them until they are translucent – about 3 to 4 minutes.
Now add the rice and toast it gently tuning it over in the pan to ensure all the grains become toasty and hot – this will open them up to absorbing the stock and releasing their starch which will make for a creamier dish.
Next, keeping the heat to a simmer, add a glass of white wine and wait until this has been absorbed before adding the first ladle of hot stock.
Now keep stirring and add stock a ladle at time waiting for each ladle load to be absorbed before adding the next.
After about 12 minutes add the asparagus.
How long to continue this depends a lot on the rice, but about 15/18 minutes from the first ladle. It is done when the texture is creamy and the rice is soft but with a little bite to it. Stir in the white crab meat and cook on for a minute.
When you reach this stage, adjust the seasoning to taste but remember you will add parmesan which is salty so beware of adding too much salt.
Finally, add a couple of knobs of butter and the parmesan to the pan and place the lid on and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, de-vain your king prawns and fry off in garlic butter.
Now give the risotto a final stir and serve, garnish with the king prawns.