Perfect for vegetarians, other vegetable risotto dishes can be prepared in the same way. Instead of asparagus, use vegetables that, when slightly overcooked, dissolve leaving a creaminess ideal for risotto: broccoli, spinach, artichokes, marrow, courgettes, cauliflower. With some you can hold back a few choice pieces to decorate the cooked dish, just as asparagus tips are used for here. To enhance the flavour of the rice, recycle the vegetable cooking water.
- 500g (1 lb 2 oz) fresh green asparagus (weighed after cleaning and trimming)
- 1.7 litres (3 pints) water (for cooking asparagus and for risotto)
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 55g (2 oz) butter
- 350g (12 oz) risotto rice
- 55g (2 oz) Parmesan, freshly grated
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Wash and peel the asparagus and cut away 3cm (1 1/4 inch) or so of the hard white stalk at the bottom (use this and the skin to add flavour to the cooking water). Cut off about 5cm (2 in) of the tips and set them aside (as they are tender, they will need less cooking), and keep them intact for garnish. Boil the asparagus stalks with the trimmings in the water for 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness. When they are half cooked, add the tips. When they are fully cooked, strain the stock and keep it simmering. Separate out the asparagus tips and stalks and trimmings. Set the tips aside for garnish, and chop the stalks finely. Discard the trimmings.
- Fry the onion in half the butter, then add the chopped asparagus and toss it for a couple of minutes. Now add the rice and proceed as for the basic risotto method, adding the hot broth until the rice is al dente and creamy, but not too stodgy. Remove from the heat and wait for minute or two, then stir in the remaining butter, some salt and pepper, and the grated Parmesan. Serve in bowls, decorated with the asparagus tips.