Rachel Roddy’s recipe for shrimp, fennel and lemon risotto | Food

A young shrimp is perplexed as to why his whole family is walking backwards. He wants to walk forward, so he decides to teach himself. The first day is a disaster: he trips over his tail and crushes one leg with the other. He practices undefeated. “My son!” his mother cries. “Get a Grip,” his father says, “and walk like your family, who love you so much.” Now the shrimp loves his family too, but he knows he has to keep walking. After a while he meets three frogs. One tells him the world is going wrong, the other that what he’s doing is dangerous, while the third simply says, “Oh my, oh my.” But the shrimp continues until it hears a voice: “I was just like you,” an old shrimp tells him. “Thought I could teach shrimp to walk forward, but they turned their backs on me. Go back, or end up alone like me.” The young shrimp is silent; he knows he is doing the right thing and walks forward.

I first heard the story of the young shrimp in a children’s theater in Rome. It comes from a collection called Favole al Telefono (Phone Stories), by Gianni Rodari† Later it became a bedtime story, read so many times that it got under our skin. And now it pops up at the mention of shrimp, and especially when I pull off 10 legs and feel the problem in the story. But I’ve put them to good use, along with the shells and heads, and make a stock for risotto. There’s also a phone story to chop: Cipollinoa little onion boy who leads a rebellion of garden vegetables – zucchini, radishes, leeks – against their tyrannical landowner, Prince Lemon.

Born in 1920 near Lake Orta in Piedmont, Rodari was the son of a baker turned teacher, watching students respond to stories. When the war started, he joined the resistance and enrolled in the Italian Communist Party, where he wrote articles, including some for children, for the party newspaper l’Unità. In Rome, he continued to write articles, publish stories and books (30 in all), which will be cherished for generations. Like teaching, politics has accompanied Rodari’s life, and his beliefs run through his work. Solidarity, friendship, doing the right thing, being unbalanced and standing up to bullies are recurring themes in his surreal, lively, optimistic stories.

The Telephone Tales begins with the introduction of Signor Bianchi, a traveling salesman who, like Rodari, has a daughter whom he calls every night with a story. Rabbits hunting, a man made of butter, buildings made of ice, a nose that runs away – stories so well that even the ladies at the telephone exchange stopped working and eavesdropping.

And Rodari’s young shrimp? After escaping the risotto troubles, did he go far or make a fortune? We don’t know, just that he still bravely walks forward. buon viaggio

Shrimp, fennel and lemon risotto

Serves 4

400g shrimp in their shellor 300 g peeled shrimp
2 bay leaves
A few peppercorns
1½ liter what?r (or, if using peeled shrimp, 1.4 liters of light fish stock)
1 small onionpeeled and very finely sliced
1 stalk celeryvery finely cut
The soft heart of a small fennel bulbvery finely cut
40g butter
2 tbsp olive oil

350g risotto rice – arborio, carnaroli or vialone nano
150ml dry white wine or prosecco
Zest of 1 unsprayed lemon and fresh fennel leavesto finish

Peel the shrimp, save the shells and use a toothpick to remove any “veins”. Place the shrimp shells, bay leaves and peppercorns in a saucepan, cover with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle boil, then bring to a gentle boil and cook for 20 minutes. Strain into a clean pan and keep the stock warm in the back of the stove. (If using peeled shrimp, put the fish stock in a pan and heat it up as well.)

In a large skillet, gently fry the diced vegetables in the butter and olive oil with a pinch of salt over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the rice and stir so that each grain shimmers and clatters against the sides of the pan. Add the wine and let woosh and vaporize, then look at the clock.

Add the shrimp or fish stock, a spoonful at a time, stirring carefully until all the liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle. Continue adding the stock, ladle by ladle, adding the prawns in the final minutes of cooking: working on the principle that the total cooking time will be 17-20 minutes, depending on the rice. The risotto is ready when the rice is firm and firm, but without a chalky bite, and when the consistency is soft, runny and creamy – keep tasting.

Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the lemon zest and any extra fennel leaves, and serve.