Just the thought of risotto alla Milanese – a classic Italian dish, makes me very happy. I pride myself in my risotto making ability and have fine-tuned the technique over the years. It’s a simple dish that relies quite heavily on a few basic skills by the cook. If you get it wrong you land up with stodgy dry rice. It requires almost constant attention, which is why I prefer making it with a friend sitting in my kitchen sipping on a glass of wine. A good risotto needs to be velvety and luscious with the rice grains still maintaining a firm bite in the centre. Although risotto alla Milanese is traditionally served with Ossobuco, I absolutely love it with these prawns that are simply pan-fried to perfection in brown butter. If you haven’t yet discovered the joys of a brown butter sauce with shellfish, you have something magical to look forward to.
I’m collaborating with De Wetshof Estate in Robertson to come up with delicious recipes to pair with their range of incredible Chardonnay and it’s a dream assignment. I get to find ways to marry each of their wines with a particular dish. Although they are all Chardonnay, each wine is grown on different sites with different soil and microclimates. I’ve visited the farm and been on a tour of the various vineyards, so I got to see this closely. This dish is paired with their Limestone Hill 2017– a unwooded Chardonnay and probably my favourite of the range. It’s really no surprise that this wine boasts so much gold bling from all the awards. To me it’s perfect and well-balanced with citrus notes and ripe fruit flavours that can stand up to food so well. All that cuts through the buttery richness of this dish and when I drank it with the meal my taste buds did a few joyful backflips.
I decided at the last minute to add fennel. I know this is not traditional but I’m obsessed with it. It goes perfectly with risotto and with shellfish and adds just a subtle dimension. A classic addition to finish off this dish would be bone marrow, but I added a generous dose of butter, essential to finishing of risotto. You need to add it at the end when there is still quite a lot of liquid and the rice is perfectly al dente. It emulsifies to form the luscious sauce heat is critical to a good risotto.
I only cook on gas and risotto needs a lot of heat to get the timing right. I once had the misfortune of cooking it on a friend’s old electric stove and it was a total disaster. The stock must be the best you can find, make or procure. It’s such a big component to the dish, you really want the best and I used homemade chicken stock. The same applies to the wine that goes in, I obviously used the De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay and only had to sacrifice ½ cup to the dish.
To maximize on the flavour of the saffron you need to let it infuse with about a cup of the hot stock first and then only add this around 15 minutes in. The whole dish will take about 25 minutes to make. You will want to get the prawns ready to cook around the time the risotto is just finishing up and then serve them all immediately with grated Parmesan. Timing is everything here so don’t leave the rice lurk around the pot for ages after it is made. 5 minutes tops.
Recipe – serves 2 people
To see all the tasting notes on the wine, click here.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (or half butter and half olive oil)
- ½ brown onion very finely chopped
- 1 small bulb of fennel, finely chopped
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- ½ cup De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay
- About 900ml – 1 litre of very good quality chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 ½ tsp of saffron
- Sea salt flakes & black pepper
- 3 - 4 Tbsp butter to finish the dish
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve
- 12 queen or king sized prawns, peeled, de-veined, heads removed (can keep the small tail on the end)
- 4 Tbsp butter to fry it in
- Heat your stock to a simmer and keep it hot in a pot on the stove. Remove 1 cup of the hot stock and place in a bowl with the saffron. Set this aside to infuse.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium sized heavy based pot, and gently cook the onion and fennel for about 5 minutes until it softens and becomes translucent. You do not want it to take on any colour. Add the rice and cook this for a few minutes until the grains are glossy and they just start to make a crackling sound.
- Add the wine and allow this to bubble and absorb. This will happen quite quickly. You will now be cooking the risotto over a medium heat.
- Start adding ladles of hot stock to the rice and stir constantly until it is absorbed. Repeat this for amount 15 minutes then add the saffron infused stock and watch the colour turn a vibrant yellow.
- Carry on cooking the risotto until it is al dente, and ensure there is still a lot of liquid. Add the butter to the pot and stir to emulsify this.
- Around this last stage, heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium hot heat and then add the butter. Just as the butter starts to melt and bubble, add the prawns and quickly cook these on both sides until their flesh has turned pink and they have curled up.
- Serve the risotto with the prawns on top and drizzle over any brown butter in the pan. Trust me on this.
*This post is sponsored by De Wetshof Estate
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