There’s something so comforting about risotto at this time of year. It’s hearty, warm, and makes you feel full and happy. I’m not always a fan of starchy meals as I find they make me feel heavy, but this Asparagus, Spinach and Walnut Risotto is perfect. It contains just the right amount of veggies to make it fresh, while providing decadence with toasted walnuts. Although not traditionally used in risottos, I’m fan of brown rice because I find it heartier than white. It’s a whole grain so contains more essential nutrients and isn’t considered a refined carbohydrate, unlike white rice.
The combination of asparagus, spinach, walnuts and pine nuts is really delicious in this Asparagus, Spinach and Walnut Risotto. That said, I’m all about making recipes accessible to as many people as possible. If you can’t find asparagus in your part of the world right now, it’s also great with green beans or even peas! Additionally, feel free to substitute the walnuts and pine nuts for any other nuts that you prefer. The spinach can also be substituted for another dark leafy green, like chard or nettles. Have fun and get creative!
Notes on the recipe
- This is a fairly simple recipe to make. For the most part you’re just adding liquid and stirring, but it does take time. Risotto generally takes a while to cook because it’s uncovered and the rice absorbs the liquid slowly, in turn releasing its starch slowly (to create a creamy, rather than gummy texture). Stick with it! The results are worth it.
- Be sure to use short grain rice. Long grain, basmati or jasmine don’t have the same starch content so won’t give you that delicious risotto texture!
Asparagus, Spinach and Walnut Risotto (vegan & gluten-free)
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 cup uncooked short grain brown rice, rinsed
- 4 cups vegetable stock/broth (if using stock cubes, dissolve 1 cube in 4 cups boiling water)
- ¼ cup walnut pieces
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- 16 asparagus spears
- Splash of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup full fat coconut milk
- 2 tightly packed cups of baby spinach (or regular spinach, sliced)
To serve (optional)
- 1 cup arugula/rocket
- Lemon wedges
- In a large pan, melt the coconut oil and gently sauté the crushed garlic for 1 minute on a low heat, stirring constantly.
- Add the rice and sauté for 3 minutes on a medium heat, continuing to stir.
- Add ⅔ cup of the stock/broth to the rice and stir.
- Ensure it is bubbling and leave it to cook for about 10-12 minutes until the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally.
- Then stir in another ⅔ cup of the stock and leave to cook for 10-12 minutes, repeating this routine until all the stock is used up.
- Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus and the pine nuts. In a small skillet, gently toast the nuts on the stovetop on low heat for 10 minutes, using a spatula to turn them occasionally.
- When lightly browned, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Trim the woody lower parts of the asparagus spears, and slice each into 3 or 4 pieces. Place on an oven-proof tray.
- Brushing the spears lightly with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper, grill them using your oven’s broiler/grill for 5-10 minutes.
- Asparagus tends to cook fast, so as soon as you see its colour get brighter and it starts to soften, it’s done! Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Once you’ve used up all the stock and the rice is nearly cooked, add ½ cup of coconut milk to it and stir, allowing it to cook for a few more minutes until the milk has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
- Add the spinach to the risotto and allow it to wilt as it continues to cook for a further 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from the heat and stir the grilled asparagus into to the mix.
- To serve, divide the arugula leaves between two bowls and heap the risotto on top.
- Sprinkle the pine nuts and walnuts over the risotto, and serve with lemon wedges. Season to taste if needed with salt and pepper.