Under the Christmas tree I was given some delicious new ingredients to experiment with. The ingredient I was most excited about was some beautiful saffron my mum purchased from a local farmers market produced by Capertee Valley Saffron. The producer recommended toasting the saffron in a frying pan with a sheet of baking paper in the bottom to protect the delicate saffron from direct heat, and to toast the saffron threads to release their aroma and flavour then add to warm water or stock before using in your recipe. I had to hold down my grease proof paper to help the paper and saffron strands to come into contact with the bottom of the fry pan. Ian Hemphill, of Herbie’s Spices fame, in his book ‘Spice Notes and Recipes’ provides many tips on saffron, including that oil will actually prevent saffron from releasing its colour and flavour and most of the colour and flavour will be released into your liquid within 10 minutes so there is no need for long periods of infusing.
Amoungst my herbalist’s recommendations to me last year, she suggested I increase my intake of crab and tarragon so I was trying to think of ways to experiment in the kitchen. I’ve never really cooked with crab (or eaten much of it for that matter), so was feeling a bit nervous about how to incorporate more of it into my diet. I consulted my local fish monger about the different varieties of crab they currently had in stock, and was recommended I try spanner crab (which proved to be quite reasonably priced at $14.99 per kilogram). Taking my fish monger’s advice, I purchased two cooked spanner crabs to make into a risotto. Having no idea what to do with the crab when I got home, I consulted a You Tube clip that gave me instructions on how to pick the meat out of the crab. If you have time to spare you could use the discarded crab legs and claws to enhance your stock for the risotto. If you are not feeling quite so brave to tackle a whole crab, you may be able to purchase fresh or frozen picked crab meat from your fish monger.
If you take notice of the cooking shows on TV and celebrity chefs, you may have been scared off attempting to cook risotto because it has a reputation as difficult to get right. I think risotto is a dish that is really down to personal preference, how liquidy you want the finished product, how al dente or cooked you prefer the rice. Feel free to vary the quantities of liquids to get the texture you prefer. The only advice I will offer is if you cook the rice too fast or over too high a heat, the grains won’t cook through; if you cook the rice too slowly, the rice will become too soft and gluggy. Mastering risotto will be a great thing to add to your cooking repertoire, as the variations only limited by your imagination.
I called this indulgent risotto because crab, saffron and tarragon are generally considered to be luxurious ingredients. I’ve been quite generous with the use of tarragon in this recipe, using it more like a vegetable than a flavour enhancer. If you want an extra rich risotto, you could add a little cream or butter at the end of the cooking instead of, or as well as, the white wine.
Crab, Saffron and Tarragon Risotto
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 4 spring onions
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 cup of arborio rice
- pinch of saffron (about 15 threads)
- 2 cups of warm water
- 2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder (I use vegeta brand)
- 2 limes
- Meat from 2 or 3 spanner crabs
- 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
- 50 to 100ml white wine (or to taste)
- Finely chop the spring onions, using the white part and as much of the green as you like (I generally keep chopping for another 5 to 10 cm past the white part).
- Finely chop or crush the garlic.
- Zest and juice the limes.
- Line a frying pan with grease proof paper. Add the saffron on top of the grease proof paper and toast over a medium heat until the aroma and flavour is released.
- Add the toasted saffron to the warm water, add the lime juice and the vegetable stock powder. Stir to combine.
- Discard the grease proof paper you used to toast the saffron from the frying pan.
- Heat the pan over a medium high heat and add the coconut oil the chopped spring onions, garlic and rice. Cook until the rice is coated in oil and the onions are slightly softened.
- Add a little stock (approximately 100mls at a time) to the fry pan and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until all of the stock has been absorbed. Taste to test the rice, it should be slightly too firm but almost ready.
- Add the white wine to the fry pan, continue cooking until the wine bubbles then turn off the heat.
- Add the crab meat, the lime zest and chopped tarragon.
- Stir to combine and let the residual heat warm the crab and wilt the tarragon. Your risotto is ready to serve. Enjoy.
What is your favourite risotto recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?