Wild Asparagus and Opal Basil Risotto with Chilled Green Tomato Jelly
Portion/Yield:Serves 2 main course portions or 4 starter portions
Tomatoes and asparagus are two seasonal ingredients that I absolutely love. I love the textures, colours and flavours of this dish. The cold fragrant tomato jelly against the warm carnaroli risotto pearls laced with the highly perfumed opal basil. It’s simply a clever and outstanding piece of cooking even if I have to say so myself. Now that is perhaps slightly big headed but then I’m at least allowed once to admit that something has been done well!
I’m not normally a big fan of risottos however this recipe is an exception. Do not expect to serve this dish piping hot, it will be warm with chilled elements, not to everyone taste and liking though.
Ingredients & Method
For the Green Tomato Jelly
- 300g green tomatoes
- 1.5g agar agar
- Sea salt and pepper
- 10g finely grated pecorino cheese (use vegetarian cheese if you make this dish for vegetarian diners)
For the Wild Asparagus and Opal Basil Risotto
- 50g fennel, diced
- 100g banana shallots, chopped
- 30g unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sea salt and pepper
- 200g Carnaroli risotto rice
- 100ml white wine
- 400ml vegetable stock, bring to the boil
- 50g mascarpone cheese
- 20g pecorino cheese (use vegetarian cheese if you make this dish for vegetarian diners)
- 16 spears of wild asparagus (Ornithogalum Pyrenaicum)
- Opal basil leaves
First prepare the jelly, blend the green tomatoes with salt and pepper to a smooth puree, weigh 250g of the green tomato puree with the agar agar into a small saucepan. Bring the puree to the boil over high heat, stir continuously whilst boiling for 30 seconds, remove the puree from the heat and pour straight into a flat tray. Do not move the tray until it’s completely set, about 30 minutes. Do to be tempted to move the jelly to the fridge as the slightest disturbance while the jelly is in the liquid from will prevent it from setting. Once the jelly has solidified cut into 5mm squares and top each square with finely grated pecorino cheese. Chill until needed
For the risotto, heat a medium size saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, add the oil and saute the diced fennel and shallots with seasoning until transparent, about 6 -8 minutes. Add the risotto rice and cook for two minutes whilst stirring continuously. Add the wine, cook for 2 minutes until the wine is absorbed.
Add ladles of the boiling hot stock to the risotto, cook until all the stock is incorporated and the rice has a firm but cooked bite. Stirring is important.
Wash the wild asparagus, cut the heads into spears and blanch till al-dente in boiling water, refresh. Cut the stalks into fine rounds. Stir the asparagus stalks into the cooked risotto, add the mascarpone and grated pecorino cheese and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Serve the risotto on warm plates. Garnish the risotto with the blanched wild asparagus spears and opal basil leaves, drizzle good extra virgin olive oil and dot the green tomato jelly over the risotto. The agar agar allows the jelly to withstand heat and does not melt immediate.
Agar agar is available from health food stores or Chinese supermarkets. Look for the powder form of agar agar. It’s a completely natural and vegan ingredient. Agar agar is very sensitive and you must bring the liquid that you wish to set with the agar agar to the boil and pour it into a dish and do not move until the jelly is set completely. If you disturb the jelly before it’s set it will not work! Do not be tempted. You also require very small amounts of agar agar to set liquids so it’s worth to invest in very accurate scales that measure as low as 1 gram.