Monday, November 17, 2008

Returning with Risotto...

So, yes, it's been - lots - of months since I've been here. I've been doing my masters degree this year, and it's all been rather insane.

However, I finished yesterday (woo hoo!!), so I am back! :D

To celebrate, I actually felt like cooking for the first time in ages last night, and despite the warmth of the days recently, the nights have been lovely and cool - so risotto it was :) This meal was especially exciting because it gave me an opportunity to use fresh herbs from my very own herb garden for the first time! Hoorah!

The Recipe
1 large sweet potato
1/4 of a butternut pumpkin
olive oil
1 small onion
1t of crushed garlic
~7 medium mushrooms
1c arborio rice
3 stock cubes dissolved in 4c water
~1.5T sweet chilli sauce
3 smallish sprigs of fresh greek oregano
3 twigs of garden thyme
1/3c grated parmesan cheese

...My mouth is watering just typing out the ingredients! Hoorah that I have left overs for lunch :)

Roughly dice the pumpkin and sweet potato. You can make the cubes whatever size, but bear in mind that a) smaller cooks faster and b) they will shrink quite a bit upon baking. Mine were ~2cm cubed. Microwave on high or steam for 5 minutes. Spread onto olive-oiled tray, sprinkle liberally with salt, and place into a hot oven (200C).

Place stock in a covered saucepan and keep on a low heat constantly, to keep the liquid warm (it will cook quicker/easier when added to the rice if it doesn't have to heat up first).

Finely chop the onion. Fry in oil with the garlic until translucent. Slice mushrooms, saute with onion until cooked. Add the rice and 2 ladlefuls of stock. Stir well.

Add sweet chilli sauce.

Add a ladleful of stock periodically, whenever the mixture starts to look a little dry - if you can scrape the rice away and see the bottom of the pot for more than a second, it's ready for more liquid.

Once all the liquid is absorbed, add the (finely chopped) herbs and stir through. Remove from heat if it's starting to dry out. Stir through the baked pumpkin and sweet potato, then stir through the cheese.

Serve hot :)

The Results
Okay, so risotto is a fairly standard meal in our house over winter. That said, we didn't have much this year, as I've been pretty slack when it comes to cooking. But regardless, I've made squillions of varieties of this recipe: and this, officially, is the best. My husband, who is not free with compliments, said he'd gladly pay $40 in a restaurant for this risotto :)

I attribute the great success to two things:

Firstly, instead of taking the quicker cop-out method of just grilling (broiling) the vegies, I actually baked them with salt and olive oil and all. Much, much tastier.

Secondly, the difference that fresh, home-grown herbs make is absolutely INSANE. And Greek oregano is my new favourite: besides the amazing salty-savoury complex flavour it adds to the dish, it's purple and fuzzy! What's not to love?!


As I was making this, I lamented that I didn't have any feta cheese to add, being the feta-addict that I am; but it turns out that it really didn't need it. The flavours were beautifully subtle and complex, and husband was absolutely determined that I must have used more herbs than I had (I'm usually prone to throwing in at least 5 or 6).

So, an all-round fabulous success, and definitely one I'll make again, instead of my usual 'what do I have in the cupboard' approach :)

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