It used to be that asparagus was a real treat in the UK, available only from about mid-May to the end of June and English asparagus was something we looked forward to - eating it quickly simmered for a short time and drizzled with butter, or cold with hollandaise or the spears seared on a griddle and drizzled with a little olive oil. Nowadays, asparagus is available all year round, and you can follow its ‘season’ around the globe…. I’ve eaten asparagus raised in Mexico, California, Peru, Kenya, Spain etc! This following recipe is what I use when the local stuff is not around
1 litre chicken stock
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
300g risotto rice ( I use Carnaroli, but don’t know if that brand is available outside Europe)
25g freshly grated Parmesan (or more if you like a really 'strong' cheese bite to the risotto)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Wash and prepare the asparagus stems. I just snap off the ends and (only if necessary) pare off any tough skin from the lower part of the stems.
Cut each stem in half across the middle of the stem. Roughly slice the lower halves.
Divide the stock between 2 pans and bring both to the boil. Add the sliced asparagus stalks to one, return to the boil, then cover and simmer for anything up to 10 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, pour the oil into a wide saute pan and set over a low heat. Gently fry the diced onion until soft. Cut off the tips of the remaining raw asparagus and slice the stems into pea-sized rounds. Add both rounds and tips to the sautéed onion with the butter and cook for 2 minutes before stirring in the rice, making sure it is well coated in the fat. Fry for 2 more minutes, then stir in 2-3 ladles of the plain simmering stock. Keep stirring regularly, adding more stock as the rice absorbs the liquid.
Meanwhile, purée the chopped asparagus stems with the stock they've been simmering in. Strain back into the pan. When you have finished the plain stock, slowly add the asparagus purée stock to the rice. After about 20 minutes, all the stock will be absorbed and the rice should be cooked, with a slight bite. Stir in the Parmesan, season and serve. Add some extra lightly cooked asparagus if you like.