So this weekend turned out to be quite decent in the foodie arena. The family and I tried out the new Mama Luciana’s in Glenashley and, despite my restaurant-chain fears, it proved to be quite alright. Very decent pizzas and pastas were had by all, and they serve a mean antipasto starter vibe, with all the requisite parma ham, coppa and pickles. It’s nothing that’s going to change the world, but with a dearth of decent restaurants on this side of the river, it’s good to have another place to go for dinner without having to pack a tent and padkos for the journey.
But now for the cooking. On Saturday evening I went over to my friends Marc and Sinead’s place with the express purpose of making the most indulgent cookies possible. I’ve had a recipe by Nigella Lawson just waiting on my desktop for such an occasion, though was slightly wary of the vast amounts of chocolate it calls for. When she cooks it on her show, the conceit is that a friend has just broken up with her boyfriend, and these are ostensibly the comfort food. Hence the scads of chocolate.
So, watching out not to stand on their newly-acquired kitten Dakota (who is incidentally, possibly the cutest feline in the world) and putting trepidation to one side, Sinead and I embarked on the various choppings, meltings and mixings. After all of this, we were left with a (quite dry) batter to dollop in great lumps on the baking tray. I was slightly worried about the consistency, but we forged ahead and baked them nonetheless. I took them out early because I was worried about them burning, and despite their initial gooeyness, when they set, we were left with the most amazing biscuits I think I have ever had in my life. Incredibly rich, and just calling out for a cup of tea, but still amazing.
The next day, I rekindled my love-affair with risotto.
Now, I’ve been making risotto since puberty. I learned how from the Carlton Food Network back in the day. Usually, though, it always turned out way too stodgy. Though, on the up-side, when rolled into balls, dredged in bread-crumbs, and deep fried they made a kick-ass starter. I’ve been craving it lately though, so I thought I’d have another go.
I did some recipe hunting, and by synthesising a few together, I think I’ve come up with something pretty good. I started with the usual shallot, garlic and butter loveliness, added the Arborio and a very healthy glug of wine and reduced.
I’ve learned that stock has to be warm, otherwise it messes the risotto juju up. Warm stock is happy stock, after all. Now, some patience is required. Very gently one introduces the stock to the risotto until it they are well acquainted. I kinda play it by ear at this point, and wait to reach the squidge-crunch-creamy sweet spot, when you’ve got perfectly al dente rice suspended in a marvellously rich ooze. What could add to this combination you ask? Well, the zest of one and a half lemons, for one. And a knob of butter. And a handful of parmesan. When stirred together, magic results. A handful or so of peas also helps.
So that’s it, one would think. Not quite.
Because I wasn’t so keen on the salmon the rest of the family was going for, I decided to poach an egg (the proper way), to have with my risotto dinner vibe. With a healthy handful of shredded rocket and coriander and another good measure of parmesan, I was done. I cannot emphasise enough how delicious this was. I know most people would’ve turned their noses up at the egg, but something about the runny yolk mixing in with the risotto was doing something else to me. Paired with a lovely Tokara Zondernaam Sauvignon Blanc, I can’t think of a better Sunday dinner. Also, with a decent panful of leftovers, I was treated to a perfect gloomy Monday lunch at work. That citrusy goodness got me through the first day back after the weekend the way nothing else could’ve. I just took the leaves separately, added some nice Mozzies ham and I was set.
So, I threatened to include a music bit to my posts, so here it is. At M & S’s, I was obliquely introduced to the Avett Brothers, who I still need to explore more before I make any firm decisions. For the risotto, I started with a bit of Francoise Hardy – inspired by a friend’s Facebook status – which was nice for that Sunday evening, glass of wine and cooking feeling. Otherwise, I rediscovered Bill Callahan (ex-beau of Joanna Newsom) after a long absence – “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle.” For a bit of slightly deppro, but incredibly engaging freaky-folky-country you can’t do much better. There are definite shades of Johnny Cash and Bonnie Prince Billy in the album, but with a healthy New Weird America sensibility.
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