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Cooking with Raymond

Mussel and Saffron Risotto

An excellent little dish, which demonstrates so well why these two classic flavours work well together!

Name of dish: Mussel Saffron Risotto
Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 35 mins
Serves: 4 people
Mussels

Ingredients

For the risotto:

  • 300ml water
  • 50g/½ onion, finely chopped
  • 5g/1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 200g risotto rice (Cannelloni or Arborio)
  • 1g/2 bay leaves cut in half
  • 1 sachet saffron powder or pistils (Chef's note 1)
  • 2g/2 pinches salt
  • ½g/1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 100ml white wine, dry
  • 200ml mussel cooking juices (see next stage)
  • 40g pak choi, roughly chopped
  • 80g peas, frozen or fresh
  • 40g baby spinach
  • 40g rocket
  • 50g parmesan, finely grated

For the mussels:

  • 50g/½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1g/2 bay leaf
  • 2g/2 sprigs thyme
  • 15g/1 tbsp butter, unsalted
  • 1½kg mussels, washed and de-bearded (Chef's note 2)
  • 100ml white wine, dry

To finish the mussel jus:

  • 10g butter, (optional)
  • 20g/½ bunch flat parsley leaves, chopped roughly
  • 100ml reserved mussel cooking liquor
  • 250g picked mussels (approx)

Method

Cooking the mussels

  1. On a medium heat, sweat the onion, bay leaves, and thyme in the butter for 1 minute.
  2. Add the mussels and white wine cover with a lid and cook for 3 minutes until the mussels open. (Chef's note 3)
  3. Drain through a sieve, extract the mussel and discard the shell.
  4. Reserve 200ml of the cooking liquor for the risotto and in a small saucepan, cover the mussels with the remaining 100ml and cool in the fridge.

Method for the risotto

  1. On a medium heat, sweat the onion, bay leaves, and thyme in the butter for 1 minute. Add the mussels and white wine, cover with a lid and cook for 3 minutes until the mussels open. (Chef's note 3)
  2. Drain through a sieve, extract the mussels and discard the shells.
  3. Reserve 200ml of the cooking liquor for the risotto and in a small saucepan, cover the mussels with the remaining 100ml and cool in the fridge.
  4. When you are ready to prepare the risotto, sweat the onion and garlic in the butter on a low heat until soft (approx 2 minutes)
  5. Add the rice, bay leaf and saffron and continue to cook on medium heat for 2 minutes, season lightly with salt and pepper. (Chef's note 4)
  6. Add the white wine and half of the mussel cooking liquor and stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid before adding the rest.
  7. Repeat the same process with the water and cook until it is absorbed into the rice (Chef's note 5)
  8. To cook the rice to perfection it will take 20 - 25 minutes depending on the quality of your rice.
  9. Each grain should be surrounded with its own sauce and have a little bite to it when it is cooked.
  10. At this stage gently warm the reserved mussels in their juices and mix in the butter and chopped parsley. (Chef's note 6)
  11. Stir all the vegetables into the risotto, cook for 1 minute to wilt the greens, add the grated parmesan and finish by adding the mussels. At this point you can adjust the consistency with the mussel cooking liquor, but be aware of its saltiness.
  12. Taste, correct the seasoning and serve into four hot bowls.

Variations

  1. Fish stock can be used instead of water for added depth of flavour.
  2. Cockles, clams, scallops, organic prawns or lobster may be substituted for mussels.
  3. Add your own favourite variety of green vegetables.
  4. Diced tomatoes when they are in season would bring colour to the dish

Chef's notes

  1. Different brands of saffron will have varying degrees of strength, so I would always recommend adding half a packet first and add the rest after the colour and flavour has developed.
  2. First the mussel must be extremely fresh. A fresh mussel is completely closed and heavy with seawater. The smell is fragrant and sea-like.
  3. Cooking mussels - discard any mussels that remain closed as these are dead.
  4. Do not add too much salt at this stage because the risotto will be salty from adding the mussel liquor.
  5. The consistency of the rice is important for the success of the risotto. It should have a beautiful creamy texture; each grain must be separate. Practice makes perfect! Stirring is important as it distributes heat perfectly.
  6. To reheat the mussels only simmer for 1 minute so as not to over cook them.

The Menu

Raymond Blanc

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The Inspectors' verdicts

David Moore and Sarah Willingham

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David and Sarah on the winners.

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