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Prawn and Asparagus Risotto

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Serves: 4
1.2 litres / 2 pints vegetable stock
375g / 13 oz fresh asparagus spears, cut into 5cm / 2in lengths
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
350g / 12 oz arborio rice
450g / 1 lb raw jumbo prawns, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp olive paste or tapenade
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil, plus extra to garnish
salt and pepper
fresh Parmesan cheese, to garnish

Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes until just tender. Strain, reserving the stock, and refresh the asparagus under cold running water. Drain and set aside. Return the stock to the saucepan and keep simmering gently over a low heat while you are cooking the risotto.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds. Reduce the heat, add the rice and mix to coat in oil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, or until the grains are translucent.

Gradually add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time. Stir constantly and add more liquid as the rice absorbs each addition. Increase the heat to medium so that the liquid bubbles. Cook for 20 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is creamy. Add the prawns and asparagus when you add the last ladleful of stock.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the olive paste and basil and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto onto warmed plates and serve immediately, garnished with Parmesan cheese and basil sprigs.

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