Do you ever get excited - yes, excited - when you try a new recipe that from the very first mouthful you know has changed your life? Let's step it back a bit - not just the first mouthful, but as you are stirring it, making it?
You know you'll make it again (and again) because it tastes yum, is fuss-free to cook, and is almost like a template, readily adaptable to whatever produce is seasonally available - or just plain whatever is available in your pantry or fridge crisper when you come to ponder that night's dinner.
So we're talking dinner here; old faithfuls you can reliably turn to and turn out.
I have a paltry two standbys: my tuna pasta bake and my mojo spaghetti - which this week, I found works well with cooked quinoa. Sauteeing the quinoa makes it crispy around the edges, which is a surprisingly good texture for it.
Now I have a third recipe to get excited about and to add to my old faithful list. Okay, I have only made this twice, but I already know: it's good.
It's a baked risotto. It's delicious, warming, a bit stodgy - which is okay by me with this current cold weather where the days barely reach the double figures - and amazingly, eye-openingly easy. I'd been talking baked risottos with some friends recently and was about to try the recipe S emailed around when I found this one. As soon as I read it had smoky paprika and sherry in it - well, I was a goner.
And making it - start it on the stovetop, pop it in the oven, stir it once then pull it out in mere minutes - minutes! - and the arborio rice is cooked to starchy, creamy perfection. As in, oh my wow perfection. As in, so perfect I instantly rang my mother to tell her she had to make this. And then tell her again when I saw her in person.
So yes, I'm getting excited over baked rice.
Such is my life.
What recipes excite you? What are your reliable old faithfuls?
Baked risotto with roast vegies
Based on a recipe from Valli Little's '5 nights a week' which was a birthday present from my friend C. I mentioned this recipe is like a template; see notes at end for possible variations.
- Preheat oven to 180.
- First roast your vegies. Prep a couple of baking trays and fill with vegies cut to small-bite size pieces. I have used combinations of butternut, sweet potato, yellow and red capsicum, a punnet of cherry tomatoes, and asparagus. Whatever you choose, drizzle with olive oil and top with S&P.
- Pop into oven (even while it is pre-heating) and bake until cooked, keeping an eye on any soft veg and removing them early if necessary.
- Now start your risotto. Use a casserole pot that you can use on the stove top and then transfer to the oven; otherwise, you will need to transfer the mix from, say, a saucepan into a oven dish (does that make sense?).
- In your pot, gently saute one chopped onion and a few roughly chunked cloves of garlic (depending on your garlic tastes and the size of the cloves) in some olive oil. Cook until soft and translucent.
- Add 1 cup arborio and stir for a few minutes till well coated with the oil.
- Add 3/4 tspn smoky paprika and stir.
- Add 150 ml sherry and bring to simmer and cook til evaporated.
- Now add some hot liquids: 1 cup vegie stock and 1 cup water.
- Add a few soft springs of thyme.
- Bring to boil then cover and pop into the oven.
- My recipe said to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring once, but I have a confession to make: both times I've made this, I've turned away to wash the dishes and tidy the kitchen and put the vegie scraps in the compost - and forgotten to put the timer on. But I reckon I was busy for only 15 minutes, in which time it was cooked perfectly.
- To serve, dish up the rice then top with the roasted vegies.
- Use spices, herbs and flavours with your roasted veg like fresh or dried chili, rosemary, sage and so on.
- Use whatever veg you like to roast. I'm trying parsnips next time.
- Use spices like fresh or dried chili instead of (or with) the smoky paprika.
- Use white wine or vermouth instead of sherry.
- Use chicken stock, all stock or all water.
- Stir in more boiled water towards the end if you like a 'soupier' risotto.
- Throw in some frozen peas just before you pop the lot into the oven, to cook in the rice (this works well!)
- Serve with lots of parsley for extra greenery.