Springsplosion – fennel, lemon and parsley risotto
I’ve never been a fan of aniseed flavours, but here I’ve cooked the bulbs down like onions, then adding the leaves at the last minute. I used baby fennel that I picked up at the farmer’s market but you can get fennel bulbs at the supermarket. This ensures the aniseed flavour isn’t overpowering, and here it is definitely a background flavour. The parsley is also subtle here. What’s great about this is that it’s a great balance between crunchy, green and refreshing, and rich, silky and hearty (from the cheesy, buttery goodness).
I don’t mean to brag, but the combination is pretty spectacular! Absolutely perfect for welcoming spring with open arms, and prettily speckled with bright bright green and slivers of yellow lemon zest. Underlying all that fresh prettiness is plenty of richness from a touch of taleggio and parmesan. So, so sumptuous. I really regret having it so dry though, I really should have been more careful about that. I wouldn’t use wine here either, I think it’s packed with flavour as it is. Plus, you get more wine to yourself this way ;)
Fennel, lemon and parsley risotto with two cheeses
serves 4 as a very light lunch followed by dessert, or a full dinner meal for 2
- 4 baby fennel bulbs or 1 full grown fennel bulb* leaves roughly chopped and bulbs/stalks thinly sliced
- 1-2 shallots, roughly diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- about 40g butter, chopped and divided into two equal lots
- extra virgin olive oil (about 2Tbs)
- 1c arborio, carnaroli or jasmine rice (I use jasmine and it’s fine)
- about 2-3c vegetable stock (3c if low salt, 2c if using salty stuff), brought to a simmer and left on very low heat
- about 1c (packed) flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- optional: 1/4 preserved lemon, finely chopped
- about 50g each parmesan (finely grated) and taleggio, diced**
- freshly ground black pepper
* If using full grown bulb from a store then you’ll have less of the green leafy bits. Just double the amount of flat parsley used or use another tender leaf herb like basil, tarragon, or chervil (stir through chervil just before serving) . Mustardy greens might also work too, like rocket/arugula.
Tip: Use a long-ish handled stirrer for this, so your hands don’t get too hot from all the steam. Put a kettle of water on to boil once you start the cooking process, so you have hot water ready for when you run out of stock.
In a medium large saucepan, melt butter with olive oil on medium heat. Add fennel bulb, shallots and garlic, and stir to coat in oil. Let cook on a single layer, stirring occasionally, until golden brown flecks start to appear. Stir in rice, and turn up heat one notch.
Once it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a ladleful of stock and stir through. Keep stirring, and repeat this process until all stock is gone. Taste – if it’s not really salty at all, you can keep adding hot stock, otherwise, start using hot water. Once rice grains start looking pretty translucent, taste a grain of rice – it should still have a little bite to it, but not be hard. The rice takes about 15-20 minutes to cook. Note: If it’s still not very salty, season with salt, keeping in mind that you’ll be adding cheese in a minute.
Once the rice is cooked, add the green herbs, lemon zest, juice, preserved lemon and pepper, and stir through until they are completely coated in silky rice, then turn off heat. Add cheeses and second half of butter, quickly stir through roughly, and cover. Let sit for 2-5 minutes (in which time you can prep bowls etc). Uncover, stir to mix the melted cheeses through, and serve.