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Asparagus Risotto with Vanilla Bean and Lime Stock


SO SAD today to say farewell to Tamsin Carvan of Tamsin’s Table, after the most inspiring month of recipes and beautiful photographs of Tamsin’s idyllic farm life in Poowong East, Victoria.  For her final instalment, Tamsin shares a delicate vegetarian risotto in which her homegrown, freshly picked asparagus is the star ingredient. HUGE THANKS to Tamsin for sharing her world and her wisdom with us this month, I hope we can visit again sometime!

25th November, 2014
Tamsin Carvan of Tamsin's Table
Tuesday 25th November 2014

Along with freshly picked broccoli, asparagus cut ten minutes before you intend to eat it is one of the revelations of the backyard patch. It is so sweet and tender that we rarely cook it – it seems a shame to – so we tend to use it in salads, or add it just before a dish is served so that it is warmed through by the residual heat but remains crisp and crunchy. Because we don’t buy fruit or veggies, but live from what we grow here on the farm, I can tell you there is real joy in kneeling down to cut the first of the new season spears, and this risotto recipe is a tribute to that feeling, and a celebration of the abundance that late spring has to offer.

This is not a traditional risotto recipe mainly because I wanted the sweet and delicate asparagus to be right at the forefront, surrounded by flavours that were tangy, tasty, fresh and light. For the same reason there is no meat stock but instead a few cupfuls of tank water with a few aromatic bits and pieces added. However cooking with the seasons is all about letting your ingredients lead the way – so feel free to improvise with whatever you have to hand.

Ingredients (Serves Four)

  • A small brown onion, chopped
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Around 85g unsalted butter
  • A cup and a half of carnaroli (preferably) or other risotto rice
  • A slug of dry sherry (Chamber’s Flor Apera is inexpensive and great to have on hand for cooking)
  • Two strips of lime zest
  • A used vanilla bean
  • A nice big bunch of the freshest asparagus you can find, chopped into 10 cm lengths and separated into tips, stems and ends 
  • A small handful of raw almonds, roughly pounded in a mortar and pestle
  • Two lemons
  • A large handful of grated good quality parmesan cheese


Saute the almonds in 10 grams or so of the butter, a little sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice until nice and crunchy and set aside.

Set a medium pot on the stove containing the ‘stock’: a litre of water, the vanilla bean and the lime zest. Heat until simmering.

Combine a very generous slug of olive oil and about 30g of the butter in a wide, shallow heavy bottomed saucepan along with the onion and a generous pinch of salt.  Cook over low to medium heat until the onion is softened (about five minutes) then add the rice and raise the temperature slightly.  Stir so that the rice is well coated and continue to cook until the edges of the rice look translucent and it smells a little nutty or toasted.

Deglaze the pan with half a glass of the sherry, and stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed.

Start adding in the stock, one ladleful at a time, and stir until the liquid is in large part absorbed before adding the next ladleful.

After ten to twelve minutes, start to test if the rice is cooked – you want it to be soft but with a little bite in the centre of each rice grain.  When you feel the rice is close to being ready, add the asparagus ends (hold back the tips and the more tender parts of the stems for now) and continue to cook until the rice is ready.  I quite like a stiffer style of risotto however adjust the stock to suit if you prefer something soupier.

Remove from the heat, add the cheese and the remaining butter, as well as the juice of one of the lemons, and stir through.  Cover the pot and allow to sit for a minute or two.  Just before serving, add the remaining asparagus, and gently toss through, and check seasoning (you may need more salt and/or lemon juice). Serve with the sautéed almonds and a final squeeze of lemon juice.  Done!

Gorgeous Tamsin Carvan of Tamsin’s Table, with her daughter Martha on their farm in Gippsland, Victoria.  Photo – Eve Wilson.

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