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Oyster risotto with deep-fried gutweed

This truly spectacular and luxurious starter is the clincher in any argument about whether raw oysters are better than cooked oysters - they aren't. When preparing the gutweed, make sure you dry it very well and use a heavy-bottomed, deep pan to fry it in. It spits ferociously (to be honest, it explodes), so do take care!


To make the risotto, heat the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the leeks and onion and sweat gently for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the rice and stir until the grains are coated with buttery oil, then add the wine and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring, until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Now start adding the hot fish stock, a ladleful at a time, waiting for each ladleful to be almost completely absorbed before adding the next one. Add the reserved oyster juices to the rice. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water instead.

The final result should be smooth and creamy, with the rice still a little al dente. Stir the fennel into the risotto, along with the Pernod, if using.

When the rice is almost done, prepare the gutweed and oysters. Heat about an 8cm depth of oil in a deep saucepan until it registers 180°C on a frying thermometer, or until a cube of stale white bread dropped into the oil turns golden within a minute.

Deep-fry the gutweed in batches: carefully lower into the pan using tongs and fry for 4–6 seconds only, then remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain while you deep-fry the rest.

Melt some butter in a heavy, non-stick frying pan and sauté the oysters until nicely browned. Check the seasoning of the risotto and divide between warmed plates.

Arrange an oyster on each one and sprinkle on the fried gutweed. Eat at once.

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For the risotto

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks, white part only, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 150g arborio or other risotto rice
  • A small glass of white wine
  • 500ml hot fish stock
  • 1-2 tbsp wild fennel fronds, finely chopped (optional)
  • A dash of Pernod (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the gutweed

  • Sunflower or groundnut oil for deep-frying
  • A small handful of gutweed, well rinsed and patted dry

For the oysters

  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 6 large oysters, shelled, juices reserved

This recipe is taken from...

River Cottage Edible Seashore Handbook