This is the perfect risotto for the last few days of summer before we go into full autumn mode. I created it a while back for my book An Appetite for Ale and you could easily make it dairy free by eliminating the butter and skipping the crème fraîche or cream.
The key thing, and I learnt this from Italian cookery writer Valentina Harris is to 'toast' or cook the rice long enough before you add the liquid and to make sure the stock is warm as you add it. That gives the risotto a lovely creamy texture instead of becoming savoury stodge.
Frozen north Atlantic prawns are fine for this recipe but try and buy the freshest fennel you can as it has so much more taste.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion or 1/2 a medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 small bulb of fennel (about 200g), trimmed and finely sliced
150g arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano risotto rice
1/2 a glass (about 75ml) dry white wine
500ml hot vegetable stock or stock made with 2 level tsp Marigold vegetable bouillon powder
1 tsp Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (nam pla)
1 small leek, trimmed, cleaned and finely sliced
200g fresh or thawed, frozen prawns
1 tbsp creme fraiche or double cream (optional)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
Salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, add the butter then, when it has melted tip in the chopped onion and fennel, stir, cover and cook gently until soft (about 5 minutes) Remove the lid, turn the heat up a little, tip in the rice, stir and cook for 2-3 minutes until the grains have turned opaque and are beginning to catch on the bottom of the pan. Add the wine, stir and let it bubble up and evaporate. Add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, whenever the liquid in the risotto is absorbed, stirring it every couple of minutes. After 10 minutes add the sliced leek. Keep stirring the risotto and adding stock until it starts to look creamy and the rice is tender but still has a little bite to it (about another 8-10 minutes) Turn the heat off, stir in the prawns and any liquid that has accumulated under them, the dill and the cream if using, cover and leave for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice then spoon the risotto into warm bowls.
What to drink: We really enjoyed this with Colomba, a light, aromatic Corsican wheat beer but you could equally well drink a crisp dry Italian white such as a Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, a Gavi or even a decent pinot grigio
It’s difficult. We sympathise. Despite being an entirely different shape and size we have an uncanny ability to turn up in the same outfit (usually black) and order the same dishes. We both wear glasses, swathe ourselves in scarves and fancy Daniel Craig.
© 2015-21 Fiona Beckett & Fiona Sims (the2fionas.com), photography © Gary Latham, website by Scend