This is a very simple, summer risotto which might also include peas, broad beans or sugar snaps with, or instead of, the mangetout or asparagus. We usually serve risotto with a little oil or pesto and one or two other vegetables on the side, to add a variety of taste and texture; in this case the beetroot. A simple salad of lettuce leaves is a perfect partner too.
IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO SERVE THE ROASTED BEETROOT with this, start it first and if it is done too early, simply hold it in a warm oven until you want it.
Snap the tough ends off the asparagus spears and rinse them - asparagus can hold very fine grit, especially in the heads. Bring about
Heat a tablespoon each of the olive oil and butter in a heavy pan and start the onion and garlic cooking in it. After five minutes or so, stir the rice into the onion and cook it gently for a further five minutes or more, stirring often to avoid burning the rice. This seals the individual grains and controls the amount of starch leaked, critical in distinguishing risotto from porridge. Now turn up the heat and pour in the wine, stirring all the time until it has evaporated. Turn the heat down again and pour in a ladleful of hot stock, about 150mls - use a soup ladle, a big cup or a small jug; what you need is just enough liquid to keep the rice simmering, without drowning it or stopping the cooking. In effect, the rice is braising rather than simmering, I suppose. Stir it often and gently until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, then add another measure of stock, and so on.
Check individual grains of rice regularly once about two thirds of the stock has been used, because it’s impossible to predict exactly how much liquid the rice will absorb. The rice is done when the grains are cooked through but retain some firmness. The liquid should be almost totally absorbed and the risotto slightly creamy from released starch. The process should take about 20 minutes from the time you put in the wine, but start checking grains much earlier than that.
When you put in what you expect to be the final ladle of stock, chop the asparagus and mangetout and stir them and the pinenuts in too. The mangetout will cook just a little, but that’s as much as it likes to be cooked anyway. When the liquid is all but gone, take the risotto off the heat and gently stir in the remaining butter and olive oil, the parmesan, any fresh herbs you’re using, and plenty of salt and pepper.
Serve a mound of risotto and a few roasted beetroots on each of four warmed plates and drizzle some basil oil around. Offer more parmesan to be sprinkled or shaved over the risotto. And say a prayer for Irish tourists everywhere facing their first soggy risotto today.
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