I decided to blog this recipe this week as it is National Vegetarian Week. And because asparagus is in season. And because I love risotto.
I was on a girls weekend away recently and both nights the vegetarian option was risotto but it was served with generous shavings of Parmesan! I have to admit that up to a couple of years ago I was ignorant to the fact that Parmesan and many other cheeses are not suitable for vegetarians as they contain animal rennet. I would have thought that restaurants would be wise to it though. I had a look through some of my staple ingredients in my cupboard and the amount of items that I thought would be fine were not actually vegetarian at all. The lesson is that you can’t assume that anything is suitable for vegetarians unless it actually says so.
Thanks to the lovely @TheHappyVeggie on Twitter I discovered that Dunnes do an Italian style hard cheese that contains a vegetable based rennet so this can be used in place of Parmesan. I usually use chicken stock in risottos but I have used a suitable vegetarian stock here. The lemon and mint really lift the dish for a light summery meal. I only use a few mint leaves but that is plenty for my taste. I cut the asparagus finely because I am lazy and it saves on extra saucepans, but if you wish you can keep the asparagus whole, blanch in hot water and add to the risotto towards the end of cooking. I cook this so that the veg still has a bit of bite but you can add them at the beginning if you like a softer texture. You can use this risotto as a base to make other flavours from if you wish. For instance, you can leave out the lemon and add broad beans to have a risotto primavera. Go mad!
Serves 2 generously or more as a starter.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 1 stick celery
- 1 clove of garlic, finely minced
- 200g arborio or carnaroli rice
- 100ml white wine
- 600ml hot vegetable stock
- 150g asparagus
- 60g fresh peas or frozen peas thawed
- 30g freshly grated Parmesan or vegetarian substitute, plus extra for garnish
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon, preferably unwaxed
- Fresh mint or parsley leaves finely chopped
- Salt & Pepper
- Heat the oil and a knob of butter in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat. Very finely dice the onion and celery and add to the pan. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until the onion is softened but not browned. Season lightly with some salt and pepper now.
- Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
- Pour in the rice and stir until all the grains are completely coated with the butter and oil mixture. Add the white wine and cook until it has mostly evaporated.
- Add a ladleful of the hot stock to the rice, stirring occasionally until it is all absorbed.
- Meanwhile, remove the woody base to the asparagus and discard this. Chop the stem into small slices and keep the tips whole.
- Add the asparagus to the rice when you are ready to add more stock.
- Add the peas when you are about to add the last of the stock.
- Keep gradually adding the stock until all liquids have been absorbed and the rice has a bit of a bite to it. The should be thick and creamy but the rice should still ooze when you put it on the plate. So you may not need to use all of the stock but likewise, you may have to add water to loosen it slightly. The main thing is the rice is still slightly firm.
- When it is done, remove from the heat and quickly add the zest and juice of the lemon, the Parmesan, the fresh herbs and another knob of butter and stir through completely.
- Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. I like a lot of black pepper on top.
- Top with some Parmesan shavings, a little extra lemon zest if you wish and extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately. Risotto cannot sit around or it will become stodgy very quickly. I refer you to my photo above, I ate some to taste before I took a picture (rookie mistake!) and by the time I took the picture the rice was not as creamy as it should be.
This is the Parmesan substitute that I used