Recipe of the week: Raymond Blanc's mussel and saffron risotto

27 May 2021
Recipe of the week: Raymond Blanc's mussel and saffron risotto

Taken from Simply Raymond: Recipes from Home, by Raymond Blanc (Headline Home, £25)

Mussels and saffron are united harmoniously in this classic risotto. There's no need for that constant stirring. Instead, the rice is stirred towards the end of the cooking time to activate the starches – a trick you can use with any risotto you make.

Serves 4

For the mussels

  • 1kg fresh mussels
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1tbs unsalted butter
  • 100ml dry white wine

For the risotto

  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1tbs unsalted butter
  • 200g carnaroli rice (or arborio)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A couple of pinches of saffron powder or strands
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 pinches of sea salt flakes
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 300ml water (or fish stock)

To finish

50g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated 2tsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

  • A handful of flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 100g cooked peas (optional)
  • A handful of baby-leaf spinach (optional)
  • ½ lemon, for squeezing

First, the mussels. Ensure that all the mussels are tightly closed and not damaged before you begin to cook; any mussels that are damaged or open should be discarded.

The preparation can be done in advance. Wash the mussels in a large bowl and under cold running water. Mussels that float at this stage are not very fresh, so discard them. Remove any barnacles and beards, but don't scrub the shells as this can end up colouring the cooking juices. Drain.

In a large saucepan over a medium heat, sweat half the onion, the bay leaves and thyme in the butter for one minute. Increase the heat to high, add the mussels, pour in the wine, cover with a lid and cook for three minutes.

Drain in a sieve over a large bowl and discard any mussels that have not opened. Reserve the cooking juices – you will need about 200ml. Once they have cooled, pick the mussels from their shells, leaving a few in their shells for decoration, and put them all aside.

Now, to the risotto… Melt the butter in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add the remaining onion, cover with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and stir in the rice. Add the bay leaves, saffron and cayenne pepper and lightly season with salt. Stir and continue to cook on a medium heat for two minutes, until the grains of rice are shiny.

Pour in the wine and let it boil for 30 seconds – bubble, bubble – and stir. Pour in the mussel cooking liquor and the water or fish stock and stir again.

Now cook on the gentlest simmer, with just a single bubble breaking the surface. Cover with a lid and leave for 20 minutes, but it mustn't boil.

Now it's time for five minutes of some serious and fast stirring. At full speed, stir the risotto. The grains rub against each other, extracting the starch, and this gives the rice its creaminess. Yet every grain remains whole, unbroken. Taste – the rice should have a slight bite.

Add the cheese, butter and parsley to the risotto, along with the cooked peas and spinach, if using, all the cooked mussels and a strong squeeze of lemon. Stir, taste and correct the seasoning just before serving.

Photography by Chris Terry

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