One Italian family's (+ 1 Kiwi) take on the Italian food culture and how truly easy it is to make the real (Italian) McCoy! Plus some very cool musings from an "outsider's" point of view...

We're in London now, so you might discover some insider tips on where to find good Italian food here, as well as around the world.

It's Asparagus Season! Why not try something new?

Prawn & Asparagus Risotto
  1. 500gr green asparagus 
  2. 1 onion (finely diced) 
  3. 1 􏰏 lt vegetable stock 
  4. 200ml white wine 
  5. 4 dessert spoons e􏰀xtra virgin olive oil 
  6. 125g prawns (shelled)
  7. 400g middle􏰂grain rice (arborio) 
  8. 100ml low􏰂fat milk 
  9. 2 pinches nutmeg pepper (to taste) 
  10. 2 dessert spoons parmesan (freshly grated) 

Remove and discard the bases of the asparagus. 􏰅In a small saucepan bring asparagus to the boil and then remove from the water, they should be cooked but still firm. Cut another 2􏰌cm off the base of each asparagus and blend. 􏰇Add onion and mix􏰀 well. Cut remaining stems of asparagus (leaving the tips for later) into thin slices and set aside. 􏰅In a large saucepan simmer your asparagus slices and your onion mix􏰀ture with 􏰑􏰕􏰕100ml vegetable stock, 􏰑􏰕􏰕100ml wine 􏰒 & 2􏰌 dessert spoons of oil over a moderate heat for 􏰊5 minutes.
􏰖Finely chop around half of your prawns, add them to the saucepan and continue to simmer for 􏰑1 minute. 􏰇Add rice and remainder of the wine stirring continuously until the wine is absorbed. Then 􏰁quickly add 􏰑1 glass (200􏰌􏰕􏰕ml) of stock to stop the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. 􏰇As soon as the vegetable stock has been absorbed into the rice, add your sliced asparagus and milk. M􏰐xi􏰀 well. Continue to add your stock one glass at a time (allowing each glass to be absorbed before adding the nex􏰀t) until rice is moist and firm but soft to the core. The entire process of adding your stock should take around 20 minutes. Stir freq􏰁uently to ensure your risotto doesn’t become too dry or stick to the bottom of the saucepan. 􏰇Add remaining prawns, asparagus tips, nutmeg and pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes. 􏰇Add remainder of oil, mi􏰀x well and remove from heat. Stand for 2 minutes before serving hot with a sprinkling of parmesan. 

Risotto is a traditionally from the north of Italy, but a real favourite amongst Italians as a whole. The ingredients are well chosen and each is given enough space to perform admirably. These days, you will find a myriad of different versions. In That Really Cool Italian Cookbook you’ll find risottos that encompass the typical traits of a good risotto – hearty, yet at the same time, sophisticated. Most of the accompanying ingredients will be evenly absorbed into the rice, allowing the perfect moistness that, amongst other traits, determines an Italian ‘risotto’ from any other rice dish. To make a good risotto you definitely want to put your heart into it – you’ll be stirring for a while, so you may as well have fun doing it, right? When making a genuine Italian risotto, use the correct type of rice: ‘Arborio’. Arborio is middle-grain rice, it’s rounder and more absorbent than the typical basmati or long-grain rice. 

Finely chop your onion, the finer the better – some use a half-moon type knife (mezzaluna) with handles at both ends, usually used for herbs & garlic etc., rocking the blade continuously over the pulp. If rocked long enough your onion will become a fine paste, allowing more flavour to absorb into the rice. The process of adding more vegetable stock once the previous ladle, or glassful, has been absorbed, again, ensures a perfectly even spread of flavour. And it adheres to the typical behaviour of the more absorbent Arborio rice. As this is basically the core process of creating an authentic risotto, you’ll want to make sure your rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of your saucepan, so keep stirring as frequently as possible.
Most risottos begin with a light sauté of onion in vegetable stock and/or wine, before adding the rice. From that point you should calculate another 20 minutes or so to completion of the dish. Risotto really holds its heat, so you might want to let it stand for a few minutes before serving. Many Italians will spread their risotto evenly over their entire plate, eating from the outside-in.