Life’s a Feast: Fennel and lemon zest risotto


Risotto is a hugely versatile dish, traditionally served prior to the main course. It is an Italian specialty that originates back to the 11th century when rice arrived in from the Far East. This recipe combines the sweetness of fennel with an extra little kick from the chilli and lemon zest. The chilli and lemon combination lifts this dish from a homely, moreish everyday meal to a taste sensation you can serve at a dinner party, especially when topped with the prawns. In my husband’s words, “this is the best dish you have cooked all year”. Enjoy!



2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
400g Arborio rice
400ml white wine
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
2 fennel bulbs, outer skins removed and thinly-sliced from base up
Zest of half lemon
Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons butter
100g grated parmesan cheese


20-30 prawns
3 dried chillis, crushed (remove seeds if don’t want it too hot or use fresh ones)
3 cloves garlic, finely-chopped


1. Heat stock in a pot and leave at a gentle simmer. Meanwhile splash olive oil in a pan. Add sliced fennel and ground fennel and cook on a low heat, with lid on, stirring occasionally for about 15 mins until fennel is soft. Set aside.

2. Heat a pot to medium heat and add one tablespoon of butter and olive oil. Add onion and garlic. Stir and cook slowly for about 5-6 mins ensuring they do not colour.

3. Next add rice and turn up heat. Stir constantly until rice becomes a little translucent, about 2 minutes, then pour in wine.

4. Stir until wine has evaporated, then add stock, one ladle at a time, stirring and allowing each ladle to be absorbed into the rice before you add the next.

5. Halfway through the ladling, about 8 mins in, add your cooked fennel mix and combine. Continue until your rice is al dente, between 17-20 mins. Make sure you taste rice to ensure it has a slight crunch.

6. Remove from the heat and add lemon zest, three tablespoons butter and parmesan. Stir well then cover and let sit for 2 or so minutes.

7. While it’s sitting, heat a frypan to a high heat, adding a good splash of olive oil. Season your prawns with salt and cook for a minute on one side then turn and add garlic and two-thirds of the chilli and cook for a further one to two minutes, combining well.

8. Divide the risotto evenly amongst six bowls, top with the prawns and garnish with a little of the fennel tops and leftover chillis.