Good Friday is perhaps a fitting day to awaken my slumbering blog. A day when many look to the fruits of the sea for nourishment.
What I want to write about is last weekend however. A heady monthly occasion whereby I've just been paid and I act like a weekend millionaire. This month I celebrated by making a seafood risotto full of what the market could offer for Filipa and our lovely friend Em's. Fresh prawns, squid and monkfish, joined by some scottish mussels and plump scallops.
I've read a lot of recipes for seafood risotto and thought what... the.....funk?! Some demand the inclusion of fennel and whipping cream, others fish heads and tinned clams. I've even seen brandy sneaked in. I confess that I haven't actually bitten the bullet and tried any of these additions so maybe I'm missing out. But then if you're going to the time and expense of making something special then you want to know that it works and that the whole thing isn't in danger of being a disaster.
This is my tweaked recipe and dear reader, it works. It's based on the seafood principles of Rick Stein and the risotto workings of Jamie Oliver combined with all that I can gleam from Leith's teachings on bouillon and stocks.
If you're not totally confident then I would suggest that you don't serve a starter beforehand. Risotto really does need your attention 100% and any interlude will probably result in a sticky mess or a long wait for your guests. Serve instead centre stage, flanked by great bread, salad and excellent crisp dry white wine to make the whole thing sing as the curtain comes down and your belly hopefully applauds all that has gone before.
400g prawns, shell on
small bag of say 30 mussels
200g monkfish thinly sliced
50g squid, cleaned and thinly sliced
3 or 4 scallops
For the stock
25ml olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 carrot roughly chopped
1 celery stick
1/8 teaspoon of saffron
1.2 litres fish stock - good quality cubes or pots are fine
Cooking liquid from the mussels.
For the risotto
1tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
350g risotto rice like Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
1 garlic clove chopped
150ml dry white wine
Scattering of flat leaf parsley to serve
Read the whole recipe before getting stuck in! Total time will probably be 60 to 90 mins and it will serve 4 royally. Peel the prawns but keep the shells for the stock. Set prawns aside until needed. Wash and scrape the mussels and pull out the beards. Cook on a high heat in a large pan with a splash of water until they open. Strain through a sieve and save the juices for the stock pot later. Shell the mussels, but keep 8 or 10 whole for presentation later. Set aside mussels. Note that you need a lot of prep bowls for this recipe so be prepared!
Heat oil in a large pan and fry the garlic, carrot, celery, and leek for 5 minutes on a low heat. Add the prawn shells and fry for 2 more minutes then add the tomato, saffron, fish stock and mussel liquor. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes then push through a sieve.
Get your stock simmering next to you. Melt the butter in another heavy-based pan like a Le Creuset and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until softened. Add the rice and stir continuously for a couple of minutes until hot and well-coated with butter. Pour in the wine. This should smell amazing!
Add one ladle full of stock at a time to your risotto. Stir with a flat wooden spatula slowly and continuously until the rice has absorbed all the stock. Don't add more stock until the last has been absorbed. The heat should be medium so that everything is bubbling along nicely.
Taste the rice after 20 minutes or so. You want it al-dente. Tender but with bite. Stir in the cheese. At this point Giorgio Locatelli says that the risotto should ripple like the waves of the sea, so there should be enough liquid for movement when disturbed. Taste for seasoning and grind in some pepper. You may not need to salt but a little bit will probably heighten the flavours.
While the risotto is cooking, brush the rest of the seafood including the mussels with olive oil and grill for 3-4 minutes. Then carefully mix the seafood into the risotto. Leave a few pieces of seafood and the mussels in shells on top for effect and scatter the parsley.