Lemon risotto with crisp sage
Herbs are essential in summer cooking. Their bright colour and fragrance gives immediate freshness to all sorts of dishes, raw or cooked. I particularly like to eat sage fried, it takes on a wonderful crisp texture and softens its potent flavour. Choose Italian lemons with bright zest and thick skins.
This recipe originally appeared in House & Garden magazine
1.25 litres light chicken stock
40g unsalted butter
4 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 head of fennel, finely chopped
300g risotto rice
1 unwaxed, organic lemon
100ml Martini Bianco (sweet white vermouth)
2 tablespoons olive oil
30g sage leaves
20g unsalted butter
20g grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
- Bring the stock to the boil, set aside and keep warm.
- Put a low, wide, heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat. Add the butter and when it starts to foam, add the celery and fennel with a large pinch of salt.
- Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
- Meanwhile, cut wide strips of zest from the lemon and slice into fine shreds. Reserve the rest of the lemon for later.
- Add the shreds of zest, rice and another large pinch of salt to the pan. Fry for a minute, stirring well so the outside edges of the rice become translucent. Add the vermouth, stirring as it bubbles.
- When the vermouth has been absorbed into the rice, add a ladle of stock, stir the rice again and allow it to cook until the stock is absorbed.
- Continue adding stock and stirring, keeping the heat high enough so that there are always a few bubbles and enough liquid to keep the rice wet.
- While the risotto cooks, fry the sage leaves: heat the oil to high in a frying pan and fry the leaves for a few seconds on each side, in batches if necessary. Drain on kitchen paper.
- When the rice is beginning to feel al dente (after about 15-20 minutes) turn off the heat and add the remaining butter and Parmesan. Stir vigorously to create a creamy sauce surrounding the grains of rice.
- Add the juice of half the lemon and stir again, the risotto should be wet enough to exude liquid when spooned onto a plate, this is your chance to add more stock (or water) as necessary. Taste for seasoning, add salt and black pepper and more lemon juice if required.
- Serve with lots of sage leaves scattered over each plate and extra Parmesan.