Venetian seafood risotto

Preparation time
30 mins to 1 hour

Cooking time
1 to 2 hours

Serves 4

I have written recipes for seafood risotto before but never made it with the distinctive mix of spices so particular to Venice, which I call a Byzantine spice mix. As with all my mixed seafood dishes, the ingredients are only what I would like. Feel free to use whatever you do.

By Rick Stein

From Series 1


For the Byzantine spice mix

  • 1 slice of nutmeg
  • pinch coriander seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 1cm/½in cinnamon stick
  • pinch ground ginger
  • 1 green cardamom pod, seeds only
  • ⅛ tsp turmeric
  • ⅛ tsp chilli powder

For the fish stock

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 100g/3½oz celery, sliced
  • 100g/3½oz carrots, sliced
  • 25g/1oz button mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • thyme sprig
  • 1kg/2lb 4oz flatfish bones (such as brill, sole, plaice) or fillets

For the prawn stock

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 250g/9oz prawn heads and shells
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • ½ tsp salt

For the risotto

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 350g/12oz carnaroli rice
  • ¼ tsp Byzantine spice mix
  • 125ml/4fl oz dry white wine
  • 1½ litre/2½ pints fish stock, hot
  • 8 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 150ml/5fl oz prawn stock
  • 2 red mullet fillets, cut diagonally into strips
  • 1 squid, body cut into rings, plus tentacles
  • 100g/3½oz small shrimps
  • knob of butter
  • 100g/3½oz white crab meat
  • small handful chopped flatleaf parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Recipe tips


  1. For the spice mix, grind all of the ingredients using a pestle and mortar or an electric grinder. Store in an airtight tin or box.

  2. For the fish stock, put all the ingredients except the fish bones into a large pan, add 2¼ litres/3¾ pints water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the fish bones (or fish fillet) and bring back up to a simmer, skimming off any scum as it rises to the surface. Simmer for a further 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a clean pan and simmer a little longer, if necessary, until reduced to about 1¼ litres/2 pints. Keep warm.

  3. For the prawn stock, heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and the prawn heads and shells. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato purée, salt and 300ml/10fl oz water. Cook for 10 minutes, then pass through a sieve, pushing down on the shells to extract as much of the prawn flavour as you can. Discard the shells, set the stock aside and keep warm.

  4. For the risotto, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the shallots and garlic gently until softened. Add the rice and fry it in the oil for 2 minutes, then add the Byzantine spice mix and stir it through the rice.

  5. Add the white wine, bring to a simmer and allow to evaporate, then add a ladle of the hot fish stock.

  6. When this has been absorbed, add the next ladle, and continue to do so, stirring after each addition, until you have only a couple of ladlefuls left, this should take about 16-18 minutes. Add the mussels and prawn stock.

  7. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan until simmering and fry the red mullet strips, squid rings and tentacles and shrimps briskly for 2–3 minutes.

  8. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the seafood into the risotto with the remaining fish stock and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until absorbed.

  9. Stir in the butter, crab meat and parsley, and serve immediately.

Recipe Tips

If you want to make the fish stock and prawn stock in advance, leave them to cool and refrigerate or freeze. The recipe for the prawn stock will make more than required but the stock will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

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