Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shellfish Risotto with Mixed Mushrooms

This is a quick and easy Italian risotto, where all the liquid is added in one go. The method is well-suited to this shellfish dish, as it means everything cooks together undisturbed. Recipe serves 6.


8 ounces (250 g) live mussels
8 ounces (250 g) live Venus or Carpet Shell clams
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 1/3 cups risotto rice
7 1/2 cups simmering chicken or vegetable stock
2/3 cup white wine
8 ounces (250 g) assorted wild and cultivated mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
4 ounces (125 g) raw peeled prawns, vein removed
1 medium or 2 small squid, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
3 drops truffle oil (optional)
5 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh parsley and chervil
Celery salt and cayenne pepper


1. Scrub the mussels and clams clean and discard any that are open and do not close when tapped with a knife. Set side. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for 6-8 minutes until soft but not browned.
2. Add the rice, stirring to coat the grains in oil, then pour in the stock and wine and cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the prawns, squid, mussels and clams and stir into the rice. Cover the pan and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes until the prawns have turned pink and the mussels and clams have opened. Discard any of the shellfish that remain closed.
4. Switch off the heat. Add the truffle oil, if using, and stir in the herbs. Cover tightly and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes to allow all the flavors to blend. Season to taste with celery salt and a pinch of cayenne, pile into a warmed dish, and serve immediately.

Spinach and Rice Soup

Use very young spinach leaves to prepare this light and fresh-tasting Italian soup. Recipe serves 4.


1 1/2 pound (750 g) fresh spinach leaves, washed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small fresh red chili, seeded and finely chopped
Generous 1 cup risotto rice
5 cups vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shavings of pared Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, to serve


1. Place the spinach in a large pan with just the water that clings to its leaves after washing. Add a large pinch of salt. Heat gently until the spinach has wilted, then remove from the heat and drain, reserving any liquid.
2. Either chop the spinach finely using a large kitchen knife or place in a food processor and process the leaves to a fairly coarse puree.
3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the onion, garlic and chili for 4-5 minutes until softened. Stir in the rice until well coated, then pour in the stock and reserved spinach liquid. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add the spinach, with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the rice is tender. Check the seasoning. Serve in heated bowls, topped with the shavings of cheese.

Tip: Buy Parmesan or Pecorino cheese in one piece from a reputable supplier, and it will be full of flavor and easy to grate or shave with a vegetable peeler.