3 June 2011

Lucky Penny Wines Paired with the Epitome of Spring Risotto

Spring Risotto
There's a new kid in town with an "Aussie" accent and a flavour that will jump out of the glass!!!! A little while ago I was invited to attend an event in Vancouver that my schedule would not allow. I was honoured to still be a part of the excitement of a new wine label being introduced to British Columbia by the makers of Australia's famous [yellow-tail] brand. Lucky Penny is set to inspire our cooking and social scene and stimulate the senses of wine lovers across the country. Of course British Columbia produces many world class wines, but it is good to explore other options.

Crafted by southeastern Australia's Casella Wines, each Lucky Penny offering is a blend of three grape varietals. First on my radar is the Lucky Penny White made from 65% Chardonnay, 20% Viognier, and 15% Pinot Grigio. This combination denotes the flavours of pear and honey with a touch of apricot. The blend achieves the perfect balance of crisp, fresh fruit flavour with a creamy well rounded mouth feel. Approachable, unpretentious and bursting with flavour, the company invites you to discover Lucky Penny, which is a thoroughly enjoyable wine experience.

This young and unique white blend inspired me to create one of my favourite comforting Spring dishes. This was the perfect opportunity to incorporate some of the Australian wine I was lucky enough to receive both as an important ingredient and as an accompaniment. What's my Spring comfort food you ask? That Italian classic...risotto.  Italy's most famous rice dish, is enjoyed the world over. It's utterly delicious and nutritious, versatile and economical and the best part it can be prepared in only 20 minutes. Making a good risotto is rather like riding a bicycle.  It takes a little bit of practice to begin with, and a certain amount of concentration thereafter. Risottos are very sensitive to timing, so there is nothing better than one made in your home kitchen. The dish is simple to prepare so there is no need to be intimidated by this classic dish.

Spring is when everything seems to come alive!!!!! The days are longer and the markets begin to burst with the colours of the bountiful fruits and vegetables of the season. For those who are lucky enough to live near a farmers market as I am, we would be hard pressed not to be aware of which fruits are at the peak of their season. The beauty of cooking with ingredients that are freshest in the Spring months are their pure simplicity. The standout flavours are the fresh, natural ingredients themselves... the sweet taste of a carrot or the pop of a freshly shelled pea. While connecting with the farmers and local producers I had an urge to recreate the one dish that signifies the rebirth of Spring in the More Than Burnt Toast kitchen...a classic risotto.

To make my infamous Spring risotto come alive you require a triad of essential ingredients....fiddleheads, asparagus and Spring leeks. After a morning to trip to one of our local farmers markets I was inspired to rework my old standby recipe not only by using the Lucky Penny wines in the preparation of the dish but by incorporating a "new-to-me ingredient" I came across that would replace the usual leeks and garlic in my risotto with young garlic. Garlic may be available year-round, but the season for young garlic is terribly short, only a few weeks in spring and early summer. I was charmed by this garlic nipped before it has reached adulthood and conveying spring in all its senses. Young garlic looks exactly like scallions but has a sweet, fresh garlic taste and a juiciness you always guessed garlic must possess at some point in its development.  The moment I arrived home I sliced them, stalk and all, and scattered them raw over a salad of locally grown butter lettuce. This is the taste of Spring!

My next find was fiddlehead ferns so young and new that they haven't yet "unfurled" and opened their  leaves. Their end is still curled in a tight spiral, ready to unroll as the sun warms them and they gather strength and size. This spiral shape reminds many people of the end of a violin, hence the name "Fiddlehead." The flavour? It has been described as similar to green beans with a hint of artichoke. But descriptions do not begin to capture the flavour. You must try them to know the wonderful flavour and delightful crunch and snap of fiddleheads. A word of warning though fiddlehead ferns have a toxin that can cause stomach aches when eaten raw. This recipe lightly cooks them, leaving them with a toothsome crunch. The health department recommends cooking them for longer (10 to 15 minutes); but I have never had a problem eating them lightly sauteed, but those without an iron stomach may wish to add the fiddleheads earlier in the risotto process.


Of course asparagus to me is the first true sign of Spring and plays a key role in the success of my infamous Spring risotto. We are blessed here in the valley to have many local producers of this member of the lily family. Did you know that asparagus was first cultivated about 2500 years ago in Greece? The name is a Greek word, meaning stalk or shoot. Asparagus is available year round but it’s peak season runs from February through June. Thus, it is one of the earliest harbingers of Spring and an indispensable commodity
in my Spring menus.

With wine from Australia, fiddleheads foraged from the forest floors of British Colmbia, local asparagus from the valley and recipe and rice from Italy this risotto is definitely a celebration of the world over. Raise a glass of Lucky Penny wine and enjoy rich and generous aromas and flavours with a touch of luck!

**Spring Lemon Risotto with Asparagus, Fiddlehead Ferns and Young Garlic**
recipe from the More Than Burnt Toast Kitchen
  • 1 1/2 cups fiddlehead ferns
  • 1 1/2 cups asparagus tips
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large young garlic washed well and sliced thinly(If young garlic is not available you can use leeks and add 1 clove minced garlic)
  • 2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • approximately 5 1/2 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock
  • zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1.  Prepare the vegetables. Boil a medium sized pot of water, and have ready a large bowl of ice water. Thoroughly wash the fiddlehead ferns, then rub them in a kitchen towel to remove any of the brown paper-like chaff. Cut off any brown tips or blemishes. Rinse again if necessary.

 2. Blanch both the asparagus and fiddlehead ferns for about 2 minutes, until bright green, then plunge into the ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

 3. Bring the broth to a simmer, then cover and keep warm over medium-low heat.

 4. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the sliced young garlic, and saute until tender and almost translucent -- about 5 minutes.

 5. Add rice, and stir until grains are translucent at their edges but still opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. Add wine, and stir until liquid is almost completely absorbed. Add the warm stock one cup at a time, stirring until rice has absorbed nearly all of the liquid before adding the next cup.

 6. When rice is almost done, which takes about 15 minutes, stir in the blanched and drained vegetables and the lemon zest. Stir in the last 1/2 cup of stock, then add the cheese and remaining butter.

 7. The final product should be creamy and tender, and the vegetables cooked but with an existing crunch. Serve immediately.

 Serves 4 to 6

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. I've enjoyed Yellow Tail wine many times. I wonder if Lucky Penny is sold in Ontario. I'll have to look for it - thanks for introducing us to it. Have a lovely weekend!

  2. I've heard some very good things about Australian wines and was interested to read your recommendation, Val. Young fiddleheads would be a fantastic addition to risotto. I'll look for them at the market.

  3. Ahhh, fiddlesheads make their spring arrival, looking good in the risotto. Once again, try Yellowtail with the grenache in it...great for red sauces.

  4. Roslyne BuchananJune 03, 2011

    This looks great, Val! I, too, am a fan of Australian wines and Yellow Tail is doing some interesting things. The sparkling has become a summer regular...and it's great for special occasions, too!

  5. I love making risotto and you definitely have contained the essence of spring in this one.

    I don't know how good the wine is, but I'd drink it just based on your photo. You captured that wine so beautifullywith the trees reflected in the glasses. That is one great piece of photography!

  6. A lovely pairing. That risotto sound wonderful. I would love to try ferns.



  7. I like Yellow Tail so I can't walt to try this!

  8. This sounds like a wine I must try. I love how you paired it with the risotto. Have a great weekend

  9. Sad but true, I only ever have wine on hand when I'm making risotto. This wine sounds delicious though! And I love that you used fiddleheads in risotto. The ultimate spring meal!

  10. Risotto is such comfort food for me! Pair it with some wine and that is a friday's favorite for sure :-)

  11. I wonder if my farmers market here has fiddleheads. Whole Foods does not..I was just there today.
    What a lovely risotto, Val. And a nice introduction to a new wine too. The bit of zest in the risotto is just right. I'll let you know what I find at the market. Keeping my fingers crossed 'cause I'd love to try them. My tummy is touchy though, so I better cook them longer.

  12. I am very curious about trying fiddlehead ferns, but I don't see them sold around here, and I don't know if the ferns in my garden are ok to eat: I should find out. Lovely risotto!

  13. I still haven't gotten the nerve to try fiddlehead ferns, even though they look so beautiful in this risotto.

  14. Hi Val - the risotto looks fabulous, especially with those gorgeous fiddleheads! Liking the varietal mix in the wine too.

  15. AnonymousJune 03, 2011

    We haven't tried these wines yet, will look for them. The risotto sounds wonderful, perfectly seasonal with the asparagus and fiddlehead ferns.

  16. I would LOVE this spring risotto of yours, Val. :-) I've never eaten fiddleheads and I'm dying to try them. :-)

  17. I like to accompany my meal with a glass of wine when I can. Usually Argentines wines, but have proven very good Australian wines, as well as other so-called New World. The risotto looks fantastic, very good !!

  18. AnonymousJune 04, 2011

    The risotto looks amazing - I made a similar one last year with fiddleheads and morel mushrooms. MMMMM

    You paired the wine perfectly - and it's a challenge to pair wine with fiddleheads!

  19. wow!!
    you so many great recipes here!!!
    I just posted my first one...
    real italian food from my family! :)

    In case you want to check it out...


  20. Lovely paring Valli I love this type of wine! gloria

  21. Great paring...I also wonder if this wine is around my area. I look forward to fiddleheads every spring and your risotto is the BOMB!

  22. Wow, that really does look like the epitome of spring!

  23. Chardonnay is my drink of choice all year. It would taste wonderful with this springy risotto!

  24. i don't drink a lot of wine and certainly can't speak to pairings, but your risotto is lovely. fiddlehead ferns are fun! :)

  25. There's nothing better than a cold glass of white wine on a warm summery day! And that risotto is to die for too!

  26. Incredible Val. I am very impressed. Such good writing.


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