I had this dish for the first time over a year ago when I was visiting family in Germany. We were there during Spargel season. If you haven't experienced Spargel season - well, you just haven't lived. For some clarification, Spargel is the German word for asparagus . . . specifically Spargel season refers to white asparagus. And when I say it's everywhere, I mean it literally. And when I say everyone we visited wanted us to eat Spargel, I'm not lying. We drove about an hour or so outside of the city in Schweinfurt to the country to eat Spargel river side. Spargel is a big deal. Huge. Really, it's GINORMOUS!
Traditionally, Spargel is boiled - with potatoes, I believe, and then served on a large platter. A serving size is a pound. Yes, I said a pound. It's a lot. Then you top it with Hollandaise sauce, and eat it with a side of protein. Not to mention there's potatoes and Spargel Soup if you want it (I didn't - I think it's basically the broth that the Spargel was cooked in).
Spargel is king.
I've never been so happy in my life to see green asparagus as I was when my cousin served this risotto along side the traditional Spargel meal. Green asparagus has a different consistency than Spargel; I missed the crunch. I was expecting the risotto to seem heavy, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's light and summery; the lemon and mint remind the world that it's okay to take some time and relax and enjoy the meal.
I made this for a dinner party I had a few weeks back. It was my first time cooking risotto from scratch by myself. I have a vivid memory of stirring risotto in Auntie Mame's kitchen in Bellingham for . . . a birthday or post-wedding celebration, not sure which. FYI - risotto is a lot of work. Totally worth it, but a lot of work.
Asparagus, Mint & Lemon Risotto (originally found at JamieOliver.com)
2 bunches of asparagus, woody ends removed and discarded
1 x basic risotto recipe (found here)
1-1⁄4 pints hot vegetable or chicken stock
7 tablespoons butter
1–2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus a block for grating
Fresh mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1. Finely chop your asparagus stalks into tiny discs, keeping the tips whole.
2. Make your basic risotto recipe.
3. Then put a large saucepan on a medium to high heat and pour in half the stock, followed by all your risotto base and the finely sliced asparagus stalks and the tips.
4. Stirring all the time, gently bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until almost all the stock has been absorbed. Add the rest of the stock a ladleful at a time until the rice and asparagus are cooked. You might not need all your stock.
5. Be careful not to overcook the rice – check it throughout cooking to make sure it’s a pleasure to eat. It should hold its shape but be soft, creamy and oozy, and the overall texture should be slightly looser than you think you want it.
6. Turn off the heat, beat in your butter and Parmesan, mint, almost all the lemon zest and all the juice. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
8. Put a lid on the pan and leave the risotto to rest for a minute.
9. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a scattering of lemon zest and a block of Parmesan on the table.
Note: looking back over the recipe now I realize I probably didn't follow it to the letter of the law. I halved the recipe first off . . . and I threw my asparagus in at the last minute, but I like asparagus with a bit of crunch to it, which is so much better than mushy. Basically if the recipe is more or less followed I think it will turn out - after all cooking is all about having fun.