Champagne saffron risotto with garlic prawns

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Yes, I just made risotto last week. Yes, it’s quite heavy and not the healthiest meal. But when your sister tells you about the possibility of putting champagne in risotto, and you see those beautiful saffron threads you bought in Kerala and have only used once… well, what can you do but succumb to the temptation of trying yet another variety of risotto?

The title speaks for itself. It is glorious. I had a pre-birthday party last weekend and there were quite a few bottles of bubbly involved, one of which was left half full in the fridge. Being a resourceful person, I couldn’t resist trying out my sister’s suggestion of using it for risotto (apparently she had it at an Italian wedding!). My friend (of apple cake fame) was also coming over for dinner, which was the perfect occasion. Although he mainly came to eat the destiny brownies that were served up for dessert, I think he enjoyed the risotto too…

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They say you should never cook with a wine you’re not willing to drink…

I wanted to keep this risotto quite simple to let the flavour of the champagne and saffron take over. The prawns were a lovely addition, and I served it with nothing but some stewed zucchini on the side. This is the easiest side dish ever – just put a bit of vegetable stock and water in a saucepan (not enough to cover the zucchini) and stew the zucchini bits for 5 minutes until they are tender (don’t overboil, you want to be able to bite into them properly).

Serves 4-5 people

  • 20g butter
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 500g risotto rice (arborio or similar)
  • 300ml champagne, cava or prosecco
  • 1200 ml chicken stock
  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 360 raw king prawns
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Grated mozzarella or Parmesan, freshly ground black pepper and Creole salt, to serve

Boil up the chicken stock in a separate saucepan and leave to simmer quietly on the stove. Add the saffron threads. (I don’t normally do this, but I felt since I was using cava and saffron in a recipe, I should do it all properly!)

In a large, deep-bottomed, non-stick pan, melt the butter and fry the onions on medium-high for around 5 minutes, until they are nice and soft (patience is key). Pour in the rice and stir until coated and slightly translucent (3-4 minutes). Add the champagne and stir until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.

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Turn the heat to medium and ladle in some saffron-y chicken stock from the saucepan. Stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Add some more stock. Stir until absorbed. Add some more. Stir. Continue this process for around 20-25 minutes until the rice is almost done (so still with a bit of bite). Don’t be tempted to just pour in all the stock and wait for it to be absorbed, this slow cooking process is key to a good risotto!

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Risotto on the left, stock on the right and zucchini in the back!

Continue the rice process (ideally have someone else quickly take over) while you heat the olive oil in a little frying pan and fry the garlic until fragrant (3-4 minutes). Add the prawns with the salt and stir and fry until they are fully pink. As soon as they turn pink, turn off the heat (you don’t want them to become chewy!) and stir them into the risotto, which by now should be perfectly done.

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Serve onto plates and top with cheese, pepper and Creole salt as a garnish. The zucchini side dish mentioned above can be made in advance and reheated – it fits perfectly.

As we say in Switzerland: En Guete!

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