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Showstopping risotto!

A cookery demo appearance at The Suffolk Show for Jonathan Nicholson, chef-owner of The Sail Loft in Southwold calls for a lovely spring risotto of mussels and greens

One distinct highlight of the county’s calendar, if not its premier occasion to best appreciate the delights we call home, is of course The Suffolk Show, a two day-extravaganza in late May, dedicated to farming, food and Suffolk life in all its glory.
I’m thrilled to have been invited to return again to the Cookery Theatre this year to put on a demonstration of lovely local ingredients and my alleged cooking skills. I do enjoy this kind of thing, showcasing what I love but being stuck on the hotplate and at the stove most of the time, I don’t often get to talk to an audience at work and don’t often get to hear all those lovely compliments about our food first-hand. So I relish the time on stage, I admit you do have to be a bit of a show-off for this type of thing but above all. It’s all about encouraging food-lovers to cook and eat Suffolk’s best fresh, seasonal ingredients and support our hard-working farmers and local producers.
In late spring. It’s green shoots springing up everywhere, and in restaurants, those prime tender new season veggies are firmly at the top of the menu, full of flavour, texture and colour on the plate. It is also still a good time to eat wonderful local mussels, raked in the river Deben estuary. So how about a lovely creamy risotto, combining all of this great Suffolk produce…
In terms of the best greens for this primavera risotto (Italian for spring), I have gone with fresh peas, green beans and asparagus but feel free to mix it up with whatever lovely produce your local greengrocer or supermarket is stocking.

And it would be great to see you at the Suffolk Show at the end of May, go to www.suffolkshow.co.uk for all the details so come and say ‘hello’!

Enjoy, Jonny

The Sail Loft, Ferry Road, Southwold IP18 6HQ
Our beachside café-bar-restaurant, proudly using local, seasonal, Suffolk ingredients – find us near the campsite and lifeboat station.
W: www.sailloftsouthwold.uk   T: 01502 725713

Primavera Risotto with River Deben Mussels

100ml Aspall dry cyder

I small onion, peeled and shredded

4 big handfuls Deben mussels, cleaned and closed

1 litre approx. of good stock, chicken or vegetable, home-made is well worth the effort

1 long shallot, peeled and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped

Sea salt and black peppermill

250g risotto rice such as arborio

50ml Aspall dry cyder (or Noilly Prat)

1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into three diagonally and blanched

150g peas, fresh (or defrosted)

150g green beans, trimmed and blanched

Parmesan shavings and shredded flat-leaf parsley for garnish

First open your mussels by bringing the cyder to a good simmer with the onion. On full heat, add in the mussels and cover. Shake every minute and continue cooking until they are all bar a few opened-up. Strain through a sieve over another pan to keep the juices. Set mussels to one side somewhere warm. Bring the stock to a simmer. In a deep sauté pan over a low-medium heat, cook the shallot and garlic with a melted knob of butter until soft but without colouring, stirring occasionally.  Season lightly at this stage. Turn up to medium, add in the rice and fry whilst stirring until it starts to dry out and ‘crackle’. Pour in the cyder (or vermouth) and mussel juices, stirring until fully absorbed. Note the time, turn the heat down to low-medium and add a ladleful of stock. Keep stirring regularly and once absorbed, stir in another ladleful, repeating as it gets absorbed, whilst starting the vegetables. After 10 minutes, turn the stock pan to high and add in the vegetables to heat through by returning them to a simmer and then remove by draining with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Back to the risotto, cook whilst stirring every 30 seconds and adding stock, until most has been used up and after a total of 15 – 20 minutes from the start, check to see how al dente the rice is and then adjust the seasoning. Keep cooking until the rice is tender but not ‘squidgy’ (ie not rice pudding). Shell the mussels when you have time and to serve, mix the veggies and the mussel meats through the risotto. Dish up on warm plates, scattered with parsley and parmesan.