Asparagus, Pea and Fennel Risotto with Chopped Pistachios

Not too many changes were made to this fennel risotto recipe I posted last year. The original was already really tasty, but I decided to add a bunch of griddled green asparagus and fresh peas. Consequently, a really nice summer risotto chuck full or veggies.The pistachios enhanced the slight sweetness of the fennel and obviously added some nuttiness, as did the green asparagus. If using the Pernod, the risotto can use a good glug, but I don’t recommend to be too close to the pan when you pour it in: the fumes are very strong…

The Recipe (serves about 4 to 6 persons)

For the braised fennel:

  • 50g / 2oz butter
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic (finely sliced)
  • 2 fennel bulbs (finely sliced)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (bruised)

When trimming the fennel, reserve the green fluffy bits and and finely chop them. Use them to stir in at the last minute and sprinkle over the risotto to give that fresh aniseedy flavour.

For the griddled asparagus:

  • 250g / 6oz fresh green asparagus, woody ends removed (or asparagus tips)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

For the risotto:

  • 1lt / 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 300g / 10oz of risotto rice
  • good splash of Pernod (optional)
  • 100ml / 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • 200g / 7oz fresh green peas

To finish

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 50g / 2oz grated parmesan
  • 150g / 5oz shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Start cooking!

  1. Heat the vegetable stock in a sauce pan and keep close to a simmer.
  2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy based pan and add the garlic to soften; add the fennel and fennel seeds and braise with the lid on for approx. 15 minutes.
  3. Heat an empty griddle pan or cast iron pan until very hot. Coat the asparagus with the oil to coat and fry them until almost cooked. When cooled slightly, cut them on the diagonal into 2,5cm / 1″ pieces.
  4. In the meantime, add the olive oil in large heavy based pan on medium heat, add onion and garlic cloves and fry a couple of minutes until soft, but not browned.
  5. Set heat to medium-high, add risotto rice and toast it for a couple of minutes, while stirring often to avoid the onion and garlic sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add the Pernod and white wine and stir in.
  7. When the fluids are well absorbed, add a ladle of stock and stir until well absorbed. Repeat the process until the stock is used and the risotto is cooked. It will take about 20-25 minutes and the rice should still have some bite, but the center should not be chalky.
  8. About 5-10 minutes before the risotto is finished stir in the braised fennel and peas.
  9. Finally, add asparagus pieces, butter and parmesan, stir through and season to taste.
  10. Cover the pan and let the risotto stand for 2 minutes. Then serve with the chopped pistachios and fennel greens

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