Southern Seafood Risotto

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Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

We think of risotto as being inherently northern Italian - rich and creamy with butter and stock — but when cooked with olive oil and a fish fumet and studded with shellfish it takes on the qualities of an altogether lighter and sunnier dish.


  • 225 g/8 oz squid
  • 225 g/8 oz mussels
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 celery stalks
  • large handful of flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 bottle (400 ml/14 fl oz) of dry white wine
  • 450 g/1 lb cooked prawns in their shells
  • sprig of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 14-16 saffron threads
  • 100 ml/3½ fl oz olive oil
  • 350 g/12 oz Arborio rice
  • 225 g/8 oz small clams (optional)
  • salt and pepper



Clean the squid and cut into strips. Scrub and beard the mussels, discarding any which do not close when tapped.

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan, grind to a powder and reserve.

Peel and dice the carrots. Peel the onion and cut it into pieces. Do the same with the shallots. Peel, smash and chop the garlic. Coarsely chop the celery. Destalk the parsley and chop the leaves.


Put the white wine in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Throw in the mussels, put on a lid and cook for 2 minutes, or until the mussels are cooked and have opened. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon. Cut the mussel flesh out with a small knife and reserve in a bowl, returning the shells to the wine in the pan.

Dehead and peel the prawns, putting the prawns with the mussels and adding the heads and shells to the stock-pot.

Add the carrots and onions to the pan, together with the celery, thyme, bay, parsley stalks and 1 litre/1¾ pt of water. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, skim and then simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve into another saucepan, season to taste and keep at a bare simmer on the hob.

Ladle a little of the hot stock over the saffron and leave to steep.

In a suitable large heavy saucepan, fry the shallots in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until translucent. As they soften, add the chopped garlic and cook for a minute. Then add the rice and ground cumin and stir for 2 minutes to coat.

Start to add the fish stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladleful. Repeat until the rice is cooked and creamy, which will take about 20 minutes. If you use up all the stock before the rice is done, put the kettle on and finish with ladlefuls of boiling water.

About 5 minutes before the end of cooking, add the saffron and its steeping liquid together with the clams, if using, and stir briefly until they open. Stir in the mussels and prawns, cover the pan with a lid and take off the heat to rest for 5 minutes.

Put the remaining olive oil in a frying pan and quickly stir-fry the squid over a high heat. This will take literally 60—90 seconds. Stir into the risotto. Adjust the seasoning, if neccessary.


Serve in warmed soup plates, scattered with the chopped parsley.

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