What’s cooking today: Saffron prawn risotto

What’s cooking today: Saffron prawn risotto
Tony Jackman’s saffron risotto with prawns, in a Mervyn Gers risotto bowl. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

It’s a marriage steeped in Italian food history: saffron-tinged risotto. This recipe is also made with wine, and finished with cream.

First make a good quality crustacean shell stock if you want this dish to have wonderful flavour. It’s easy and well worth the effort. The column that accompanies this recipe has the lowdown on how to cook a perfectly creamy risotto. It’s a kitchen skill worth having in your repertoire. 

Earlier in the day, make a prawn shell stock by boiling prawn heads and shells in 2 litres of water with chopped onion, leeks and carrot, and reducing until you have 1 litre of stock, then straining it into a jug. This will be your cooking stock. Before adding the vegetables and water, cook the crustacea shells in a little olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring, to get their flavours going. (Buy whole prawns so that you can use the heads and shells for the stock.) 


350 g prawn tails, deshelled 

Butter to cook the prawns in 

250 g Arborio rice 

Butter for the onion and garlic 

1 red onion, finely chopped

1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped 

Olive oil, as needed (lots) 

500 ml white wine (dry or a mix of dry and semisweet) 

300 ml cream 

900 ml prawn head stock: made with 1 cup of prawn heads and shells, 3 leeks, 1 onion, 1 carrot, diced 

2 pinches of saffron 

Salt and black pepper to taste 


Fry the prawns in butter for 3 minutes, turning once. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. 

Have your stock in a jug to hand, and the wine opened in its bottle. Cook the onions and garlic in a little butter until softened, and set aside. 

Add a film of olive oil to a deep, heavy pan (I use a Le Creuset buffet, which is perfect for risotto) and add the rice, not rinsed, all at once, directly from the packet. Drizzle more olive oil over, quite generously, and stir gently but constantly while it cooks for 3 or 4 minutes. 

Start adding a ladleful of wine to the rice at a time, cooking gently while moving the contents around carefully, until the wine is all absorbed. 

Do the same with the stock, until the last ladleful has been absorbed. Once half the stock is in, crumble the saffron threads in and keep stirring, adding, stirring. 

If using cream, add some and stir in for a minute or so. 

Quickly heat the prawns in a pan and serve them on top of the risotto. I didn’t see the need for a green garnish here, as herbs, for once, play no role in it, and the prawns themselves became a sort of garnish. Nor did I finish with Parmesan, but you can if you like; you can stir in some cold butter before serving, to enrich the creaminess of the sauce. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a plate by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


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