Italian cook up!

Recently I have been doing some creative cooking on Friday nights as a way to wind down and relax with friends. Which is weird, because most people would eat out with friends or avoid creating more work for themselves at the end of the week.

Having said that, it is much cheaper and probably healthier eating in with friends than out. It also helps having an extra pair of hands to do some chopping/washing task. The down side of cooking creatively at home is that you have to wash up afterwards, and you end up with a mish mash of random ingredients you don’t know how to use up.

Cooking with people also reveals certain aspects of your personality. I realise that I’m actually quite controlling in the kitchen. Throughout the night, I heard my self saying “Just let me do it” several times. I would say I’m usually quite accommodating of people in other areas but somehow I end up being surprisingly intolerant in the kitchen. I guess there goes my chance of appearing on My Kitchen Rules haha.

So the last couple of Fridays I ended up making some gnocchi and risotto; both I found therapeutic in cooking. With the gnocchi dish, I served it with pumpkin, ricotta and some fried sage in burnt butter. Sorry for the half eaten photo. I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture…I know, such a blogging novice.

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Recipe 

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 200 gm pumpkin cut into 1-2cm cubes
  • Oil
  • Mixed dried herbs
  • 1 floury potato
  • 00 plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated Parmesan
  • Butter
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • Knobs of ricotta
  1. Place pumpkin with a bit of oil in a pot over low to medium heat. Sprinkle in some herbs, salt and pepper and cover. Let saute until the pumpkin is just soft.
  2. In the mean time, steam potato or if you want bake it until soft.
  3. Pass through a potato ricer into bowl. Let cool a bit.
  4. Mix through an egg yolk gently and season with salt, pepper and a bit of parmesan.
  5. Add in a scant handful of flour and gently fold together.
  6. Flour your bench top and tip the mixture out. Keep adding handfuls of flour and kneading gently until the dough is just dry to touch.
  7. Roll out into sausage shape and cut into little pillows of gnocchi. Keep flouring as you go along. Place gnocchi pieces on a tray and try not to have them touching each other. Keep going until you’ve used up the dough.
  8. Boil up a big pot of water. Add in a tablespoon of salt.
  9. When the water starts to boil, start heating up some butter in the pan until brown. Turn off the heat.
  10. Place gnocchi into boiling water and boil until they start floating to the top. Let it boil at the top for another 10 seconds and then scoop out and into your browned/burnt butter. At this stage you might want to turn on the heat to your pan again.
  11. Add in the pumpkin pieces and season with salt and pepper to your tasting. I also melted in a bit of ricotta at this stage.
  12. When all the gnocchi pieces are in the pan together with the pumpkin, scoop out onto your serving plates.
  13. Add some more butter in the pan until it is just about to brown. Add in your fresh sage leaves and fry until crispy. Pour over your gnocchi.
  14. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and knobs of ricotta.

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The other dish I made was a porcini risotto.

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Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 200 gm arborio rice
  • 100 gm dried porcini mushrooms
  • Around 5 button mushrooms sliced thinly
  • 1 brown onion diced finely
  • 3 cloves of garlic diced finely
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • Oil
  • Half a cup of red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half litre of vegetable stock
  • 3 or 4 little knobs of butter
  • 2 heaped tbsp of grated Parmesan
  • Around 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Finely chopped parsley
  1. Soak porcini mushrooms in cold water until soft. Wash them thoroughly and place in another half litre of water and bring to boil. Then turn heat off and let soak for half an hour. Strain the mushrooms reserving the liquid in a bowl.
  2. Heat oil in pan on medium heat, saute onion, garlic and mushroom with thyme until the onion are slightly translucent.
  3. Turn heat to high. Add in rice and stir around until mixed through with onion and garlic.
  4. Add in wine to rice and let it evaporate into the rice. Keep stirring.
  5. Turn heat down to medium.
  6. Add in the porcini mushrooms.
  7. Add in a ladle of the mushroom soaking liquid. Be careful not to agitate the bottom of the bowl and stir up any unwanted grit.
  8. Keep stirring as you put in the liquid. Do it gently but make sure all the rice get to soak in the liquid.
  9. Keep ladling in the mushroom soaking liquid.
  10. When all the soaking liquid is used up, start using the vegetable stock.
  11. Keep ladling, stirring as you go along.
  12. When the rice is nearly up to your preferred consistency, add in parmesan cheese.
  13. When it the texture of the rice is right, turn off heat and season with salt and pepper to your tasting.
  14. Scatter around the knobs of butter and cover the pan. Let sit for 5 minutes to let the flavours settle and soak up that butter.
  15. Take off lid and add in the lemon juice. Stir around gently to make sure everything is mixed together.
  16. Dish up and garnish with parsley.
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Lamb chops and an unconventional risotto

Finally, I have a post that is not about seafood.
I had these lovely lamb chops today and was thinking of what to serve it with. I usually have plain boiled rice with everything, which is like oxygen for Asians like me…. but I wanted to have something a bit special. Even though it is summer in Australia and the temperature is like 30 degrees, I decided to make a pumpkin risotto! I didn’t have any arborio  rice either, but who cares.. I used some thai long grain rice instead… talk about a multicultural dish lol. For the lamb chops I went for a moroccan style spice rub, which actually translates to a whole lot of paprika, cumin and coriander powder.

Here’s a picture of the dish.. I am yet to make the pictures look profesh and good… and I know that the liquid pooling at the bottom of the dish looks kind of yuck and insipid, but I promise that it is delicious, its actually the meat juices from the lamb.  Let’s just focus our eyes on that charring instead mmmm

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Recipe

Ingredients

NOTE: start your risotto off first then when its about done, start on your lamb. A degree of multi-tasking is needed

Lamb

  • 6 lamb cutlets
  • 3/4 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1tsp coriander powder
  • 0.5 tsp chilli powder
  • 0.5 tbsp sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • Drizzle of oil and more for frying
  • A wedge of lemon to use later
  1. Combine everything except the lemon, and rub into the lamb. Let it sit and marinate for at least an hour.
  2. Heat a pan on medium to high heat and pour in some oil and wait until the pan is hot
  3. Carefully place in cutlets one at a time and evenly spaced around pan. If there’s not enough space, don’t force it, you may have to wait and fry off some of the others first.
  4. After frying for around 3 minutes, turn over.. You may have to judge for yourself. I prefer medium-rare (but leaning towards medium). Fry for another 3-4 minutes.
  5. Once its about to be done, squeeze in some lemon juice, covering all the lamb cutlets and take out of pan.

Risotto

  • 1-2 cups of rice (really depends on how much you want, 1 cup should feed 2 people fine). I used long grain but if you have arborio, go ahead and use that
  • half an onion chopped finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
  • 150-200 gram pumpkin (cubed into really small pieces, around 1.5 cm cubed)
  • Sprinkle of sage
  • salt and pepper
  • sugar
  • Oil
  • A sprinkle of mixed herbs such as thyme, rosemary
  • Chicken stock (buy around 2 litres just incase your rice takes a while to cook)
  • Splosh of white wine (optional)
  • half a cup of cooked corn kernels (I just cut some off a cob and boiled it for around 1 minute)
  1. First you need to cook your pumpkin. Heat oil on medium heat on pan/pot (with a lid) and place in pumpkin cubes. Let cook for around 2 minutes.
  2. Add in some salt and pepper and a sprinkle of sage. Mix it abit and turn the heat to low-medium and cover with lid. This will allow the pumpkin to cook faster and steam in their own liquid. Cook for around 8-10 minutes until it is soft and mashable
  3. Mash up the pumpkin and set aside in a bowl
  4. Heat oil on medium heat in a clean pan
  5. Add in onion and garlic and fry for a bit until translucent, then add in a sprinkle of mixed herbs. Mix for a bit and then add the rice.
  6. Stir the rice and let it fry off for a while (~1 min), then add in the white wine and let the alcohol cook off a bit.
  7. Add in a ladle of chicken stock (evenly) and stir the rice a bit. Now is the point of time where you are stuck at the stove until the risotto is done.
  8. When the rice has absorbed the chicken stock, then add in another ladle. When you stir, you are massaging the rice and helping it release a bit of the starch to make it creamy. Don’t mix too vigorously but gently and making sure the rice from the sides are being pushed to the middle and to the bottom where the heat is.
  9. Keep ladling in chicken stock and letting it get absorbed into the rice until done. You will have to try a bit of the risotto to see whether it is to the texture you want. Ideally, you want the rice to just be cooked without any hard or chalky white bit in the centre.
  10. At this step, you want to season lightly with salt and pepper and remember to taste! 
  11. After it is to your desired taste, add in the mashed pumpkin and corn kernels. Stir and make sure the pumpkin has dispersed fully throughout the rice. You want to have that orange tinge. Taste again
  12. Dish out and serve with your lamb. Enjoy!