Updated: May 8, 2021
by Theo Randall from The Italian Deli Cookbook (Quadrille)
photography: Lizzie Mayson
Fresh, healthy and vegan, this is first thing I cook when English asparagus comes into season. Sugar snaps give such a lovely flavour and an interesting texture, while the garlic makes the risotto rich and nutty. Roasted garlic is a family favourite: I make Max and Lola roast potatoes with whole cloves of garlic in their skins – they still fight over who gets the most garlic.
300g (10½oz) asparagus, roughly chopped, tough ends trimmed
300g (10½oz) sugar snap peas
4 mint leaves
200g (7oz) frozen peas
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated, skins on
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
350g (12oz) Carnaroli (or Arborio) risotto rice
75ml (2½fl oz) dry white wine
1.5 litres (52fl oz) hot vegetable stock (see recipe below)
4 basil leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the asparagus, sugar snap peas, mint leaves and frozen peas. Cook for 3 minutes, then scoop out a cupful of cooking water. Drain the remainder and set aside. Pour the cupful of reserved cooking water back into the pan and bring to the boil. Boil the garlic cloves for 10 minutes, until soft.
Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a separate saucepan with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Reserve the cooking water. Fry the garlic on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, turning the cloves occasionally so the garlic goes lightly golden.
Using a hand blender or liquidizer, blitz half the cooked vegetables with a splash of the cooking water until you have a thick green purée. Set aside.
Place a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil along with the celery and onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook for another 3 minutes, then pour in the wine and cook until absorbed. Gradually start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the rice still has a bite but is not crunchy. The risotto should be very wet at this stage, almost soupy. Add the remaining vegetables and cook for a further 6 minutes, then add the vegetable purée and basil leaves. Cook and stir for 5 minutes until the liquid is reduced, combined and coats the rice. Check the seasoning, then place a tight-fitting lid on the pan and turn off the heat. Leave for 2 minutes, then remove the lid and give the risotto a good stir. Peel the cooked garlic. Serve the risotto in bowls, topped with the garlic, sprinkled with some black pepper and drizzled with more olive oil.
Nigel stirred in a good knob of butter & a handful of grated Parmesan just before the end of cooking & let it stand for a couple of minutes, to really melt in.
Makes about 2 litres (70fl oz)
2 carrots, peeled and quartered
1 leek, halved
2 celery sticks, halved
a few parsley sprigs
a few thyme sprigs
(not lemon thyme)
a couple of dried porcini mushrooms or handful of fresh button mushrooms
½ tsp sea salt
Place all the ingredients in a large pan with 3 litres (105fl oz) of water. Set over a high heat and bring to the boil. Allow to boil until the liquid has reduced by half (about 30 minutes). Drain into a clean container, allow to cool, then cover and store in fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer indefinitely.