It’s been a slightly strange day with changed plans, though I did get to see my lovely friends Jane and Terry this morning, which is a sunshine way to start the day. Evening plans were postponed so I dug around in the freezer, throwing away some things I deemed far too old to risk. I’m not a great freezer user and I forget what’s there. I make things like Bolognese ragù, Boeuf Bourguignon and soup in bulk to freeze portions, and there are always some frozen peas … and gelato, of course – usually tubs of Grom from Waitrose. But I tend to buy things almost day to day and fresh, which is easy when you’re on your own, so forget odd things that have slipped further and further out of sight in the freezer.
The half pack of organic raw prawns, bought only about a month ago, were certainly OK but perhaps good to use them up. Out they came. Some packs of fairly recently homemade chicken stock sat in the bottom basket. Ummmm. Well a risotto would be good. I thought I could fold the prawns into the rice with some peas and fresh mint, as I’ve done many times, but then felt inspired to do something a little different.
In Wholefoods in Richmond I picked up a radicchio. For a long time I resisted Wholefoods on the basis that some of the stuff is very expensive, and I wasn’t happy that they were part of Amazon. It didn’t feel quite right for my food shop. But actually they have some wonderful, high quality produce that I can’t buy anywhere else – including radicchio! – so more and more I go in there and am often delighted by what I find.
I decided to experiment and thought a little mixture of the prawns and stir-fried radicchio on the top of the risotto – which I would flavour with saffron – would be lovely. And it was!
Saffron Risotto with Prawns & Radicchio – Serves one
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- ¼ radicchio, finely sliced
- extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup risotto rice
- 300ml chicken or vegetable stock, hot
- large pinch of saffron in a little hot water
- salt and pepper
- 75-100g raw king prawns
- balsamic vinegar
Prepare the vegetables. Put the diced shallot into a pan (big enough to cook the risotto) with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a knob of butter. Cook gently until the shallot is softening. Add the risotto rice.
Stir to coat each grain of rice well and cook for a minute or two. Now start adding the hot stock ladleful by ladleful. After 1 or 2 spoons, add the soaked saffron.
Continue to add all the stock a little at a time, stirring continuously. This is the only way to get a nice creamy consistency to your risotto. Once you’ve used up the stock, check the rice is nicely cooked al dente (a slight bite left to it). If it’s not quite tender enough, add a little hot water. Check seasoning. I didn’t add any to near the end as the stock was salted. Turn off the heat.
Add another knob of butter and a little grating of Parmesan and leave to melt. Put the lid on to keep it warm while you prepare the prawns and radicchio.
Now! … before any Italians get upset about cheese with the coming prawns (Italians don’t normally serve Parmesan with fish dishes), I did give this some serious thought. I was making in effect a Risotto alla Milanese and this requires Parmesan. But also I recently saw in the Venice episode of Fred Sirieix’s Remarkable Places to Eat, Fred and Angela Hartnett visit one of her favourite restaurants on the island of Burano. It was particularly exciting as I’d been to Al Gatto Nero with my friend Annie a few years ago and remembered how wonderful it was. Here, Angela assured Fred, they would find the best seafood risotto anywhere. As we watched the chef make the risotto, Angela, Fred – and I! – were surprised to see him add Parmesan. To a fish risotto! Well … hopefully you’ll forgive me doing the same. Though actually my risotto wasn’t fish itself, only the topping.
Put a little olive oil in the medium-sized frying pan. Quickly fry the prawns, turning when the first side is pink. Remove to a plate.
Put in the sliced radicchio – with a little more olive oil, if necessary. Fry quickly for just a couple of minutes until the radicchio starts to wilt. Put the prawns back in and just a little balsamic vinegar for some sweetness. Stir. Turn off heat.
Remove the lid from the risotto. Beat in the melted butter and Parmesan. This step is called mantecato – basically beating, which makes the risotto nice and creamy.
Spoon the risotto onto a serving plate. Then top with the radicchio and prawn mix. Drizzle over a little more olive oil and add a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley, if you have some. I didn’t add more Parmesan; I wanted my Italian friends to talk to me again 🙂
Oh wow! I was really pleased with my experiment. Such gorgeous flavours: the lovely creamy risotto with that distinct saffron flavour; the bitter radicchio and the sweet prawns with just a touch of added sweetness from the balsamic. It looked pretty good too!