Crayfish and prawn risotto with dill and saffron and a Roman holiday


Seafood risotto with prawns, crayfish and asparagus

Some Italian inspiration for a change in the form of this lovely creamy seafood risotto which combines my favourite tastes of saffron, dill and seafood. The thought was brought on by our Roman holiday last weekend. We had a lovely four days in the eternal city and I got to practice my Italian which I have studied with a mobile app since January.

I don't think I am as fluent as the ad for the app promised, but what I had learned came handy as soon as we arrived. The housekeeper at the B&B we were staying at didn't speak a word of English. So I managed to get us through the check-in process and understood most of her explanations of where everything was and that it was not so much a B&B as just a B since there was no breakfast unless you made it yourself. But when she said (as she was leaving us to our own devices), if you have any problems call me, I thought to myself I would not be able to make much sense of her or she of me on the phone. The communication was heavily reliant on lively gesticulation, pointing and pantomime and not many full sentences were coherently delivered or understood.

Husband was not particularly impressed with my Italian (=repeatedly saying "si" whether I understood what the housekeeper was saying or not) at this stage. And I have to admit this whole monoglot housekeeper scenario came a bit too quickly for me. I did a lot better in situations were I had more time to prepare sentences in my head, like purchasing medicine for husband's man flu in a pharmacy when I had had the whole morning to prepare what I would say. Or talking to the taxi driver on our last day asking him to make two stops, one at the hotel so we could pick up our luggage and then at the airport.

Although afterwards I realised I had probably asked for two roasts (arrosto) rather than stops (arresto), but the driver didn't laugh at me, I didn't tell husband and no one will ever know. In all fairness they should make words more different from each other to avoid these sorts of mix-ups.

So I was pretty proud of myself and at this point husband was so impressed that he asked me to act as an interpreter while he wanted to discuss the Roman housing market with the driver. I did manage to ask about the house prices in general and how much a two bedroom flat in the centre of Rome would cost and even understood the answers, but further than that my linguistic skills wouldn't take me.

Still, well done I think. I will continue my studies as we are planning to go to Venice later this year or at least at some point in the next future. I also have a business trip to Milan in September, so can impress my colleagues by casually chatting to hotel staff in Italian.

Otherwise the holiday followed our normal format of energetic (maniacal) sightseeing with the minimum of 10k walked each day and husband happily following me wherever I chose to take us. I once tried to let him lead. I was walking ahead of him on a narrow cobblestoned street in Trastevere and decided I'll let him go first for a change, so I slowed down and tried to fall behind him, but he slowed down at the same rate and by the time I was behind him we had come to a complete stop. "Why did we get stuck", asked husband. I resumed my leading position.

And we had coffees, teas and glasses of wine in pavement cafes people watching and just enjoying the fact we didn't need to be anywhere else. In Vatican I nipped into a little shop to send my father, the philatelist, a postcard with a Vatican stamp on it, because I thought that's the kind of thing that will get him all excited and he can go to his weekly philatelist meeting and show it to the others and they can all be completely awed by this thumb sized miracle. Anyway, when I came out I couldn't find husband anywhere. Finally I spotted him behind one of the drinks vans drinking a Corona sitting on the pavement. He encouraged me (not a difficult job to be honest) to get a drink, so I got one of those little chilled bottles of wine. They had no glasses so there we sat hiding from the Pope and the sun behind the van swigging our sinful drinks straight from our bottles.

Wearing our newly purchased rosary necklaces.

I don't think God minds though. If he did, I don't think he would have let Jesus in on the water to wine trick.

We did a tiny bit of shopping as well. Husband bought the inevitable hat he always buys when we go anywhere and I bought the inevitable scarf.

We also ate lots of good food of course. The lack of breakfast initially was a bit of a disappointment, but on the first night we nipped to the corner shop on our way home and got some cereal, juice, cheese, butter, bread and tomatoes and actually it was really nice to start the days this way, just the two of us putting a simple breakfast on the table planning the day ahead.

And then of course we would eat out wherever we happened to be when we got hungry. My favourite was Linguine allo Scoglio which I had a couple of times and I think husband's favourites were the swordfish and the tagliatelle bolognese. He wasn't impressed with his lamb chops, which he felt were a different dish to the juicy and soft chops I cook for him (bless him). Another disappointment was the seafood pizza which had no cheese and was just "bread, ketchup and cockroaches" (mussels, and clams). Oh, and I had a lovely pizza on the first night. My health-consciousness doesn't allow me to have restaurant pizza often, the last time was a seafood pizza in 2011 in a restaurant in Pimlico, so it was about time. It was gorgeous.

Swordfish - this chef might not be focusing much in his garnishing and plating, but the fish was very tasty.
Pizza allo Scoglio - pizza with mussels, clams and squid
Bread, ketchup and cockroaches or Pizza allo Scoglio as it's known in Italy
Linguine allo Scoglio - pasta with mussels, clams and squid
Linguine allo Scoglio - loved it!

Pizza Cappricciosa with ham, salami, mushrooms, olives and artichoke
Pizza Cappricciosa - because it is so very thin apparently it has less calories than a banana.

I also got pooped on by a pigeon. Only on my arm but husband helpfully told me it was all over my hair and videoed my panicked wet wipe action. There was no poop in my hair. Sometimes husband's taste for comedy surpasses his survival instinct.

Prawn and crayfish risotto with saffron and dill

Risotto alla pescatora - Risotto with prawns, crayfish and saffron.
This risotto is a lovely meal on its own served with a crisp salad. But this time we had it with some seared tuna,
1 leek
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
pinch of saffron
2-3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 lemon, zest and juice
4 cups of low salt fish stock
180g king prawns
150g asparagus spears
120g crayfish tails
50g butter (or less if you want to be healthy)
50g grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

Wash and chop the leek. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a deep non-stick pan and add the leek. Saute for a few minutes and add the rice. Keep frying on medium heat for another 3-4 minutes stirring so it doesn't catch. Add the lemon zest and juice, crushed saffron, dill and wine.

In the meanwhile bring the fish stock to boil in another pan. Once the wine has almost evaporated start adding the fish stock one ladle at a time stirring until it has been absorbed then add another label. Keep going until the rice is almost cooked, then remove the ends of the asparagus spears and cut the spears into one inch pieces and add to the pan. A couple of minutes later add the prawns. Once the prawns are cooked, add a knob of butter, the parmesan and the crayfish. Season to taste, stir until all is incorporated and crayfish are heated through. Serve immediately.

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