Recipe: creamy risotto with scallops, browned butter and saffron foam

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For me, cooking is mostly relaxing. Instead of yoga for me. And even though I’m a good cook and super efficient under pressure (before a party when I’ve taken too much on for example) it’s less fun to cook under those conditions.

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And if cooking in general is my yoga, then making a risotto is mindfulness. Just standing by the stove stirring slowly and adding another ladle of stock and then stirring some more… it relaxes me.

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I like a creamy and saucy risotto, preferably with some interesting flavour combinations on top. This combination of pan-fried scallops, saffron foam and brown butter might seem daunting to make, and yes, maybe it’s not for beginners, but if you already know how to make a risotto is pretty easy to add the ingredients for the foam to a saucepan while simultaneously cooking scallops and making browned butter, as each of these elements are simple. Just don’t let yourself get stressed. Also, all these things benefit from resting. You can take the risotto off the heat and let it sit for a while without losing heat, after you’ve fried the scallops they like to rest for a few minutes. The browned butter doesn’t need any attention once it’s done and the saffron foam can be re-heated.

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Creamy risotto with scallops, browned butter and saffron foam, serves 2 (with some leftovers)

2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp neutral oil for frying

2 tbsp soffritto (equal parts (finely chopped with a stick blender or food processor) onions, carrots and celery – I usually make a big batch and freeze it in small portions) 

1 small shallots, finely chopped

1/2 garlic clove, finely chopped 

200 g carnaroli rice

150 ml dry white wine

approx 1 l vegetable stock

30 g butter

plenty grated  parmesan

salt and pepper

Saffron foam:

100 ml cream

1 tsp saffron powder or strands + 1 tbsp water 

1 tbsp dry white wine

a little corner of a stock cube (vegetable) crumbled in

salt and pepper

Topping:

6 large scallops, cleaned + butter for frying

2 tbsp browned butter

lemon zest

a little lemon juice

chopped parsley 

Add butter and oil to a large saucepan on medium heat and add the soffritto. Fry for a minute or so, then add the shallots and garlic and fry without browning. Add the rice and stir well so it can soak up all the butter. Add the wine and let some evaporate before adding a ladle of stock. Stir until the rice has absorbed most of the stock, then add another ladle and repeat until the rice is cooked (takes approx 15-20 minutes) and you’ve used up all the stock. As I prefer my risotto quite saucy so I don’t let all the stock from the last ladle absorb into the rice.  Lower the heat and mix in butter and plenty of parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and put aside. 

Mix water and saffron in a little bowl. Add all the other ingredients for the foam to a non-stick saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the saffron mixture when dissolved and mix well. Season to taste and set aside. 

Add large knob of butter to a frying pan on medium-high heat. Dry the scallops with kitchen roll and fry them until golden, approx 2 minutes on each side (they should be cooked on both sides but still opaque in the middle). Season and set aside. 

Divide the risotto between low bowls and top with the scallops. Foam up the cream mixture with a stick blender and spoon the foam over the scallops and risotto. Spoon on some browned butter. Finish off with lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon and chopped parsley. 

London: New York Italian at Hai Cenato?

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Jason Atherton’s empire continues to grow and the latest restaurant to open was this New York-y Italian restaurant in the new Nova development by Victoria. It’s in goof company with Rail House Café, Aster, Franco Manca etc. nearby.

The first time I came was early one Sunday evening with my friends Helen and Pete and their son Eddie. We’d had a lovely Sunday afternoon exploring the Natural History Museum, had eclairs and coffee at wonderful Maitre Choux and a walk to Buckingham Palacea and were happy to sit down and tuck into some food just as the skies opened.

Hai Cenato? (means ‘Have you had dinner?’ in Italian) certainly feels New York-y with it’s high ceilings, long bar counter, sketched portraits and cosy feel. It’s nice but relaxes and the menu echoes that with pasta dishes, rosso and bianca pizzas and meats from the grill.  and modern yet cosy interior.

They also have a kids menu and children eat free on Sundays, which is a nice touch.

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Eddie chose a pasta with tomato sauce and plenty of grated parmesan from the kids menu  and was very pleased with his choice.

Helen and I both chose the corzetti pasta with bolognese sauce sage, browned butter and grated Berkswell cheese. It was absolutely delicious and felt very indulgent. The sauce was really rich and could have done with a bit more pasta because of the richness but it was a nice size portion. We also shared a side of amazing crushed potatoes that soaked up the last of my bolognese.

Pete chose a lovely vibrant green risotto with oeas, broad beans and crab that was just perfectly executed.

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We were certainly full after our main courses but still fancied pudding and after a quick browse on the (excellent) dessert menu I chose the brioche with salted caramel ice cream. I just love salted caramel and expected a dainty dessert, perfect to finish off my meal but instead I got a large (burger size) brioche bun and THREE scoops of salted caramel ice cream (insert surprised emoji here). The flavour combination was spot on of course but the portion size ridiculous, especially after such starchy food as pasta or pizza.

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Helen’s chocolate and coffee fondant with creme fraiche, puffed rice and caramel was more the size we had expected and absolutely delicious!

We had a lovely dinner here, but also experienced some (I hope they are) teething problems like slow service and I got poured a flat glass of prosecco which just shouldn’t have left the bar and it took ages to get a new one. It’s not the end of the world of course, but I expect an overall smooth and lovely experience when I go to a restaurant, especially when it’s a quiet evening.

I went back last week with my friend Nick for pizza and a glass of wine and the service was a lot better (i.e. smooth) and the place buzzing with people. Oh, and the pizza? DIVINE!

Hai Cenato?, 2 Sir Simon Milton Square, London SW1E 5DJ

Asparagus risotto

Right now our diet mainly consists of rhubarb and aspargus. I love both, so it is not a problem but one has to come up with a few new ways of eating it, not to grow bored.

When it was rainy and cold last week, I made a creamy asparagus risotto. Seasonal comfort food. 🙂

Asparagus risotto, serves 2-3

300 g aborio rice

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 glass dry white wine (or rosé)

olive oil

1 l chicken stock

100 ml grated parmesan

200 g asparagus

salt and pepper

To serve:

chopped parsley

more parmesan

Heat up the oilve oil in a large pan and fry the onions on medium heat for a few minutes. Add the rise and watch it go transparent. Pour in the wine and let half of it evaporate Add a ladle of stock and stir while it is simmering. When the pan is dry, add another ladle and continue doing this until the rice is soft (about 20 minutes). Cut the asparagus into smaller pieces and fry them in oil on medium heat for five minutes. Set aside. When the rice is cooked, add the parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Add the asparagus and serve straight away. Add some parmesan and parsley to each plate.