April is always a bit of an ‘on/off’ month, it feels like nature is going through rehearsals in preparation of the great summer performance. Despite the cold, I love this time of the year with longer light filled days , blossoming trees and little tender flowers appearing everywhere.
This month I wanted to celebrate the beginning of the asparagus season, which officially starts on the 23rd of April and lasts until the 1st of June. These delicious little green spears of spring are some real antioxidant boosters, they are rich in vitamin B, C, E, K, folate, selenium and zinc and provide some good fiber too. Simply put the perfect spring vegetable, so make sure you load your plates as long as the season lasts.
Now what better to complement their succulent flavour than with some mineral and protein rich mushrooms combined together in a lovely and fragrant risotto? Using cauliflower rice instead of your usual risotto variety gives this traditional dish an interesting twist with an added portion of antioxidants and fiber. It also simplifies the art of making risotto, which I have to admit can be rather challenging. Having failed to make the perfect risotto for my friend Arved last year, I shall dedicate this post to him: Arved, I have solved the problem, no more crunchy risottos coming out of my kitchen :).
No risotto without cheese, but as I always I like to try and find a dairy free alternative , I thought I’d give making nut cheese a go. I chose macadamia nuts for their rich beneficial fats and delicious flavour. They also have some pretty good vitamin and mineral content to claim for themselves. The process of making this cheese is super quick and easy, you just need to grind the nuts in a coffee & spice grinder together with nutritional yeast flakes, this will add a cheesy flavour and some more B vitamins.
Freshly grated organic Parmesan does of course also go rather well , the macadamia cheese just provides you with that little bit extra of minerals, vitamins and good fats, so definitely worth giving it a try.
Have fun creating this antioxidant boosting dish of Spring !
Cauliflower rice mushroom & asparagus risotto with macadamia cheese
Ingredients- Serves: 3-4
1 large head cauliflower, chopped into smaller pieces
400 ml of chicken or vegetable broth
2 -3 tbsp of dried porcini mushrooms
400 g of cremini mushrooms- sliced
200 g of green asparagus
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1-2 medium sized shallot finely chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil, ghee or butter for those who can tolerate it
1 tbsp ghee, butter or cold presser olive oil
1 bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley- finely chopped
3-4 twigs of thyme ( optional)
1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
150g of rocket
Himalayan or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup of macadamia nuts
1-2 tbsp of nutritional yeast
Start preparing the stock in a pot with boiling water, add the Porcini mushrooms, stir well and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
For the macadamia cheese you will need an electric or manual coffee & spice grinder. Simply transfer nuts and nutritional yeast into the grinder and grind until you get a grated Parmesan like texture. For a more cheesy flavour add more nutritional yeast. Transfer the mix into a glass jar, close the lid tightly and store in the fridge.
Wash rocket and leave to dry in a sift. Next, finely chop garlic and shallots, then wash and finely chop parsley and set aside in separate bowls.
The vegetables are best all prepared in advance, so they are ready to be used for each step. The easiest way to do this is to have a bowl ready for each vegetable and herb to keep them separate and ready to go. For the cauliflower, remove the big green outer leaves, then cut the whole head (including the middle stalk) into smaller similar size pieces, wash, drain and set aside. Next, wash and cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces (cutting off any dry ends first), then wash the mushrooms and depending on size just slice and for bigger mushrooms cut into quarters before slicing and set aside.
Now melt ghee or coconut oil at medium heat in a medium sized frying pan, add shallots and garlic and sauté until soft and lightly browned, then add the mushrooms. Keep stirring until mushrooms start producing a lovely and fragrant juice. Now add 1-2 cups of parsley and the freshly washed twigs and leaves of thyme, sauté for a couple of minutes, then add a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper for taste, turn up the heat one more time ,cook for 1 minute before taking it off the hob, cover and set aside.
Next, blitz 1/2 the cauliflower pieces in a food processor until you get a rice like consistency, transfer into a big bowl before blitzing the remaining cauliflower pieces. Raw cauliflower rice is ideal for freezing, so if you feel you have too much, simply transfer into a jar and put in the freezer for your next risotto.
Re-heat the stock, you can either leave the dried and now soaked mushrooms whole or take them out to cut them into smaller pieces and return them to the stock. Once the stock has come to a boil, add the cauliflower and asparagus and simmer at a lower heat for 5 minutes, the texture should remain slightly crunchy.
Drain off any excess stock, but leave enough to give some moisture to the dish. Keep the excess stock in a jar, it can be added to the risotto if needs be or kept for the next day. Then transfer the mushroom mix to the hot cauliflower and asparagus, add a tbsp of ghee, butter or olive oil, mix carefully and simmer for another 1 minute , so everything is nice and hot. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add more parsley if desired.
To serve start with a bed of rocket on each plate, scoop the cauliflower mushrooms and asparagus risotto on top and garish with parsley, thyme and macadamia or Parmesan cheese. I love a side of purple sprouting broccoli with melted ghee and a pinch of Himalayan or sea salt to go with this dish.
Bon Appetite !!