Prawns have to be one of the most versatile ingredients you can use in the kitchen. They work well in pretty much every savoury dish I can think of. They’re great served cold in a prawn cocktail (a Christmas tradition in our household) yet robust enough to hold their own in even the most agressive of curries. In fact they’re pretty great on their own – grilled shrimp and some crusty bread is hard to beat! They’re also a good source of protein that’s low in calories. A major bonus when you’re trying to be a little more conscious of what you’re eating.
And, even though you see them everywhere I still think they feel a little bit special. It’s probably my 1980s childhood speaking but there’s something about the way they change from a dull, forgettable grey to a vibrant coral pink when you cook them that just screams “glamour”.
This week we had our friend around for dinner to say thank you for looking after our cats while we were away on holiday. Naturally I wanted to cook something that felt like a proper thank you, as well as being simple enough to prepare whilst we were catching up on gossip. I find that a risotto is a great choice for that sort of evening. It has a sense of “special” but can also be made in 20 minutes – at least it can if you cook the onions in advance.
There is also something rather therapeutic about stirring a risotto whilst chatting away to friends. In fact, being able to act as both cook and host was very important for me when designing our new kitchen. As a result the hob and prep area share the same area as the breakfast bar, allowing me to be both a part of the conversation and easily hand out samples to anyone within easy reach.
Anyway, back to the food. As I mentioned above I think that prawns go with pretty much anything. Here their sweetness is contrasted with the zesty punch of fresh lemon. The juice is mixed in with the stock used to cook the risotto, to provide a gentle lemony background. But it’s the fresh zest added towards the end of cooking that really packs a punch. This isn’t shy on the lemon front but damn it tastes good.
Oh and before anyone passes comment… I am aware that I have broken a bit of a traditional culinary rule here by adding cheese to a seafood-based recipe. Even though the risotto would be thick and creamy enough on its own – thanks to the starch from the rice – I quite like the umami hit that comes from Parmesan. If you don’t feel comfortable adding it then don’t feel you have to. It’s your loss…
Lemon and Prawn Risotto
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 small Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove Garlic crushed
- 150 g Risotto Rice
- 150 ml Vermouth or White Wine
- 500 ml Good Quality Vegetable or Chicken Stock kept warm
- 1 Lemon zested and juiced
- 2 tbsp Fresh Parsley finely chopped
- ½ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 2 tbsp Freshly Grated Parmesan optional
- 125 g Raw King Prawns peeled and de-veined
- Put a few prawns to one side, as a garnish, and cut the rest into generous bite sized pieces. You can either cook the prawns for the garnish now or do it whilst the risotto is cooking.
- Add the juice of the lemon to your stock and put it into a pan over a low heat to keep it warm.
- Heat a good sized, deep frying pan or heavy saucepan over a medium heat. Add the olive oil, followed by the onion and sauté for 10-15 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir frequently as you don’t want the onion to burn.
- Add the garlic to the pan and cook for a further 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly to ensure that the garlic is cooked through but doesn’t burn. Remove the onion mixture from the pan and put to one side. Leave as much residual oil in the pan as possible – if you can’t see any oil in the pan you may need to add a little more.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add in the rice. Stir it in the oil until it’s well coated and the ends of each grain have gone slightly translucent. Pour in the vermouth, or wine – it will bubble vigorously but you want to keep stirring the rice constantly until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Add a generous ladle of the stock mixture to the pan, whilst continuing to stir the rice constantly as it absorbs the liquid. When almost all of the stock has been absorbed add another ladle to the pan, and so on. You may not need all of the stock – so proceed with caution to avoid making the risotto too wet. It should take around 18 minutes for the rice to be cooked through
- When the rice is almost cooked, but still retaining a little bite add the onion mixture back to the pan, along with the chopped prawns, lemon zest, parsley and black pepper. This will add some moisture to the risotto and may affect the amount of stock required. When the prawns are cooked through and the rice is tender add the parmesan cheese and stir well.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Immediately serve the risotto into warmed bowls and garnish with the cooked prawns.