I initially wanted to do this with a poached duck egg instead of scallops, but was unable to find any. (I did however find a frigging great ostrich egg for nigh on £20 – what on earth would you do with it? I’m intrigued.) The scallops work really well, but should you do it with a poached egg replace the creme fraiche with Parmesan.
A bunch of asparagus
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
160g risotto rice
125ml dry white wine
1.2 litre hot vegetable/chicken stock
1 tbsp creme fraiche
A bunch of wild garlic
Zest of half a lemon
6 plump scallops
Olive oil, salt, pepper
– Remove the scallops from the fridge. Preheat the oven to 190C. Toss the asparagus in olive oil and the sliced garlic, season with salt and pepper.
– Meanwhile melt the butter in a saucepan and gently sweat the shallot and celery until soft and translucent. Season, and add the rice. Crank up the heat and stir for 2 minutes before adding the wine. Simmer until reduced then add a ladle of stock. Simmer until absorbed by rice and continue adding stock for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.*
– Bung the asparagus in the preheated oven. Finely chop the wild garlic and add to the risotto. Cook for another couple of minutes before tasting the rice. It should be almost there with just a wee bit of bite to it. Adjust the seasoning before adding a final ladle of stock, lemon zest and creme fraiche. Turn off the heat and leave whilst you cook the scallops (keep stirring every now and then).
– Heat a little oil in a frying pan until hot (but not quite smoking) and add the scallops. Fry for 60 seconds on each side before serving with the risotto and asparagus. Italians can be very sniffy about having cheese with fish but if you want to add Parmesan I say go for it. It’s your dinner.
*NB with risotto you don’t have to slavishly stir it. American chef Mario Batali suggests that a bit of sticking is fine, as when you come to scrape up the rogue bits of rice you break down the starch, making for a creamier risotto.