Almost two months into Lockdown, I’m finding I have more food than normal in the house rather than less. Because food comes via deliveries, I order more than if I was just wandering into and around shops in my normal way, buying on almost a day-by-day basis with just a bigger shop once a week. Even the bigger shop doesn’t involve bulk buying; it’s just replacing things I’m running out of; buying heavier things like cartons of juice or milk that is more easily transported home by car than on foot or bus. But now during lockdown, when I’m sitting at my computer ticking items on the Waitrose list, phoning through to shops to bring an order, I more easily get carried away with what I think I ‘need’, or fulfilling a minimum order amount, and then an embarrassment of riches arrives at my door. I open my fridge or cupboards and food almost falls out … I am not going to starve!
Last week I had a delivery from Sandy’s fishmonger, bringing some wonderful smoked salmon, which went into a lovely salad. There was also excellent organic salmon fillets; a large sea bream filleted into two portions; and some large raw tiger prawns, all of which went into my freezer. I had one of the salmon fillets a couple of nights ago and then took out a bag of prawns yesterday to thaw in time for supper.
I decided to make a risotto with the prawns. I often make prawn risotto with peas (Italian style) but with the vegetable drawer in my fridge crammed with fresh veg, it seemed crazy to take out frozen peas. Instead, I drew out a lovely courgette, which I regularly use for risottos but today would combine with the prawns. And I’d add some saffron.
There was a strong ozone whiff of Mediterranean memory playing out here. For risotto + prawns + saffron immediately makes me think of Nice and an amazing lunch I had there last September at Bar des Oiseaux after a visit to the Matisse Museum.
My risotto wasn’t going to come up to that standard – but it could still be very good!
Prawn & Courgette Risotto – Serves One
- 1 shallot, finely sliced
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 courgette, diced into small pieces
- a pinch of dried chilli flakes
- handful (about 10-12) raw tiger prawns
- pinch of saffron
- ½ cup risotto rice
- about 50ml white wine
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the sliced shallot in a large shallow pan with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Gently fry for a minute or two and then add the diced courgette. Cook gently, stirring frequently, until both are softening and slightly colouring.
Meanwhile, In another smaller pan, heat a little olive oil (about a tablespoon) and add the pinch of dried chilli. When the oil is hot, add the prawns. As soon as you can see them colouring on the bottom – only a minute or so – immediately turn over and cook for another minute. Then lift them out onto a plate. Reserve the juices in the pan. Prawns needs to be cooked quickly and barely through to retain their juiciness or they go tough.
Put the saffron in a cup of hot water and set aside. Add the risotto rice to the softened shallot and courgette. Cook, stirring all the time, for a couple of minutes so that the grains of rice are well coated with oil.
Add a little white wine and let it bubble up and absorb briefly. Scrape in the remaining oil from the pan you cooked the prawns in to make the most of their flavour into the risotto. Add the cup of saffron water. Normally it’s best to add liquid to a risotto gradually in small amounts, but I wanted all the saffron to go in at the beginning to get the flavours going, so I put the liquid in in one go, but continued to stir most of the time to get a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper.
When the liquid is almost totally absorbed check the rice to see if it’s done – al dente, so a slight bite still. If it needs a bit more cooking, add some hot water. Check the seasoning. Add the cooked prawns and stir in. Turn the heat off and pop a lid on the pan and leave for just a minute or so for all the flavours to be absorbed and the prawns warm through.
Spoon the risotto into a serving bowl. Drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle over some chopped basil or parsley if you have some. [Basil goes well with courgettes, hence that choice for me.]
I put the bowl on a gorgeous placemat I brought back from Nice last year that captures all those amazing Mediterranean and Matisse colours!
The risotto was gorgeous. It didn’t quite transport me to Nice but it was certainly a lovely summery supper!