This dish rings in spring in the best way possible. A creamy carrot-sunflower puree helps keep the risotto vegan while the fresh pea shoots bring the greens.
Making a creamy carrot risotto
While I love making a delicious, cheese-based risotto, there’s something magical about taking this classic dish and making it vegan. My first attempts were alright but as time goes on, I find a few more tricks to make a delicious dish without one ounce of cheese.
This might be a bit like cheating but it gets the job done. Traditional arborio rice releases starch, which is where some of the creaminess comes from. Whole grains don’t quite act the same. However, if you pulse the grain in a food processor or blender a few times, you get a bit of grain dust. This dust turns into the thickening agent in the vegan risotto.
The best part about this: it’s a formula you can use with many different grains. I’ve found this works well with spelt, einkorn, farro, and barley. I’ve also had success with using whole oat groats (although I find the texture to be a bit gummier than the others mentioned).
The Sunflower Cream
In the realm of alternative dairy choices, sunflower seeds are still relatively not used. Sure, you could use almond, cashew, coconut, soy, or oat but I really love the cheapness, ease of use, and flavor of the sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds puree smooth with relatively little soaking time.
Of course, you don’t have to feel obligated to use sunflower seeds. Cashew cream, almond cream, or even something like this millet cream could work (although it’s rare that I double down on two grains in one dish unless I’m making a pilaf).
Also, I’m a bit of a carrot lover and they cook tender in the broth. You could, however, use squash puree, sweet potato puree, or I’ve been know in the summer to use a homemade version of creamed corn.
I realize this recipe is more involved but it’s worth it. Once you get the risotto going, the topping comes together quickly. For the ultimate spring risotto, I love using the pea shoots. I feel like the shoots are everything wonderful about spring: fresh, tender, and vibrant.
Add to that the dill and hazelnuts, it’s a winning salad-like topping. You could also use sunflower seeds in the topping but I like the flavor and crunch of the hazelnuts. My second choices would be almonds slices.
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