Yippee! Spring is in the air, which means it's time for asparagus to come out and play. It's so wonderfully versatile, but I love it as it's cooked here, in a clean risotto paired with one of its favourite mates: peas (does any other duo announce this season quite so well?). If there are broad beans about, add them, too: it's a party. And a killer salad to think about at this time of year? Boiled asparagus with soft-boiled egg and shaved parmesan. You can't go wrong.
2 bunches asparagus
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
5 cups fresh chicken stock
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ small red onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1½ cups arborio rice
¼ cup dry, white wine
¼ cup parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve
60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
freshly ground pepper
1. Remove the last woody centimetre from the asparagus and cut the remainder into 2cm lengths. Bring a pot of water to the boil, salt and cook asparagus for 2 minutes (after the water has returned to boil). Drain, refresh in iced water; dry and set aside.
2. Cook the peas in plenty of salted boiling water, too. If using fresh peas, cook for about 3 minutes; if using frozen, remove as soon as they rise to the surface. Refresh the peas in iced water, dry and set aside.
3. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan to just under the boil and keep warm on the stove.
4. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan. Add the onion, garlic and a little sea salt and sweat over a low heat until soft.
5. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, or until the starch starts to come out of it. The rice will begin to stick and become opaque. Add the wine and simmer, stirring constantly until it's completely absorbed. Add enough stock to cover the rice and simmer slowly, stirring. As the rice absorbs the stock, add more to keep it moist but don't drown it. If you do, the risotto will lose some of its unctuous quality; if it's too dry, it will stick and retard the creaminess of the finished dish.
6. Continue stirring. After 15-18 minutes most of the stock will have been absorbed and the rice will be tender. At this point, add the asparagus, peas, cheese, butter and any remaining stock. Cover, remove from the heat and rest for 2 minutes.
7. Stir in the parsley and check seasoning. Spoon onto four plates and sprinkle with the extra parmesan. Serve immediately.
Find more of Neil Perry's recipes in the Good Food New Classics cookbook.