This recipe is from my new book, The Cook's Garden (NH$49.95). It’s a lovely dish to serve on cool spring nights, or for lunch in the garden. You can add other spring herbs and vegetables (such as sweet young peas) and sliced button mushrooms for a more robust dish. The rice should always be creamy when cooked but still al dente (slightly chewy).
- fresh asparagus - 3 bunches (approx 500g)
- olive oil - 2 tablespoons
- unsalted butter - 45g
- onion - 1, peeled and finely chopped
- garlic - 2 cloves, crushed
- arborio rice - 330g
- dry white wine - 125ml
- home made chicken stock - 1.25 Litres - 1.5 Litres, boiling
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- extra butter - optional
- parmesan cheese - 60g, freshly grated, plus extra for grating
Steam the asparagus until just cooked, and cut into 3-cm (1¼-in) lengths. Reserve some of the tips for garnishing.
Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy frying pan and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. Tip in the rice and stir until all the grains are coated with the butter and onion mixture. Pour in the wine and stir with a wooden spoon until the wine has almost disappeared.
Add a ladleful of the boiling stock and stir into the rice. Once the liquid has disappeared, add another ladleful. Continue like this, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the rice is creamy but still al dente and all the liquid has been absorbed (it may take the smaller quantity of stock). This will take about 30 minutes. Season to taste.
Add the asparagus and extra butter (if using) and combine well, being careful not to damage the tips. Turn off the heat and cover with a lid for one minute. Remove lid, stir through the grated cheese and serve immediately. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, reserved asparagus tips and shaved parmesan cheese.
Note: for a more intense asparagus flavour, blanch the asparagus in salted simmering water until al dente, then use the water in which it was cooked plus some of the chicken stock.