Autumn Comfort Food - Seafood, Garden Pea and Fennel Risotto
The weather in Cornwall, even for the start of Autumn, has been stunning and I’ve been able to work outside on my furniture for much of the time, rather than being stuck inside my workshop.
However, once the sun disappears over the grassy hill at the top of our garden and down the valley out of sight, is starts to get a little chilly and you can feel Autumn in the air. Even the cow’s in the adjoining field moo in protest at the they lose the failing light and warm sun on their backs.
It’s this time of year that we say goodbye to the salads and BBQ’s at The Cornish House and welcome more Autumnal cuisine – food you wouldn’t dream of cooking in the height of summer. Real comfort food that warms the cockles.
I’m one of those strange people that really enjoys cooking but I have to be in the mood for it, and there’s nothing like working until your fingers feel a little numb, that make me want to pull out my beautiful French Le Creuset from the cupboard, ready to work some magic.
As we are only at the start of Autumn and not fully into major comfort food eating, bed sock wearing season, I take a look in my pantry and see what I can rustle up.
As touched on in an earlier post [http://www.thecornishhouse.com/single-post/2016/09/24/Goodbye-Jerry-Margo-Hello-Barbara-Tom], I still have a glut of vegetables growing quite nicely in my raised vegetable beds - fennel and peas being just some. So with no further ado, I decide to revert back to one of my old faithful recipes and all time crowd pleasers that I have stored in my dusty old brain cells ready for such an occasion - my Seafood Garden Pea and Fennel Risotto.
It’s one of my husband’s favourite meals and I’ve only just added the onions, garlic, celery, fennel, olive oil and butter to the pan when I hear him in the kitchen snuffling around behind me like a hungry bear just out of hibernation.
The secret to cooking risotto is a) not having your hungry husband in the kitchen and b) cooking it slowly (it takes about 40 minutes from beginning to end) and it needs stirring pretty much continuously to help all those flavours and liquids evaporate into the rice.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have over the years.
Seafood, Garden Pea and Fennel Risotto
Approximately 2 pints of chicken, vegetable or fish stock;
1 knob of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ a head of celery, finely chopped
½ bulb fennel, finely chopped, herby tops reserved
Handful of podded garden peas
400g / 14oz Arborio rice
2 wineglasses of dry white vermouth or dry white wine
1.5kg mixed seafood – mussels, prawns, squid, clams, red mullet, monkfish, bream – all work well
Pinch of crushed dried chilli (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped except for the odd sprig
70g / 2 ½ oz butter
1 tbsp of mascarpone
Heat the stock in a pan. In a separate pan heat the olive oil and butter. Add the chopped onions, garlic, celery and fennel and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.
The rice will begin to lightly fry so keep stirring it into the vegetables. After a minute or so, the rice will start to take on a translucent colour. Add the vermouth or wine and keep stirring. The aroma released at this point is just amazing. Any harsh alcohol flavours quickly evaporate but lightly marinates the rice.
Once the vermouth or wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and add a good pinch of salt and pepper. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the liquid doesn’t evaporate too quickly. Keep adding ladleful’s of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes.
Halfway into this cooking time, add the seafood, the garden peas and a pinch of crushed dried chilli and stir in gently. Allow it to cook and then taste the rice, is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but has a slight bite. Check the seasoning. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, just add some boiling water.
Remove from the heat and add the butter, chopped parsley and mascarpone. Stir well, place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This is the most important part of making a risotto as this is when it transforms into a gorgeous creamy texture.
Serve as soon as possible, adding a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top and the herby fennel tops and a few parsley or basil leaves.
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