4 Apr 2013
from this to that
A chopped onion and finely diced celery play nicely in a deep pan with olive oil and a pinch of salt. The fire underneath is increased and milky beads of arborio rice (300g) join the fun. They are swished about til each pearl is slicked in gloss. A glass of vermouth sizzles ferociously at first but is cajoled to meld with the others. Ladlefuls of hot stock are gently massaged into the rice waiting patiently until the grains have had their fill of each addition. The ladle passes too and from the stock pot many times until the rice is al dente. Neighbouring this gloopy pan are sliced mushrooms frying in butter and then peas arriving at the eleventh hour. The troops are herded and the two pans become one with a generous wedge of butter and a handful of freshly grated parmesan. Crumbled goat's cheese is the icing on the cake.
650g of baby spinach slims down in salted water. Drained and squished beyond recognition it is chopped finely. Silky ricotta (250g) and a generous grating of nutmeg coupled with an egg and a small handful of parmesan bring life back to the wilted leaves. Salt and pepper snap it to attention.
A crushed clove of garlic canoodles with a tin of chopped tomatoes in a saucepan with a whisker of water and a sprinkling of sugar. A third of this crimson concoction adorns the baking dish where smoothed tablespoons * of the spinach mix come to rest. Snuggled together the little mounds are dolloped with the remaining sauce. Baked for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees C until tinged with gold and then shower with freshly grated parmesan.
A gelatinous slab of tofu is sliced into batons and brushed with a mixture of coconut oil and tamari. Into a moderate oven it goes to warm through and crisp slightly on the edges. Cucumber is julienned, carrot is grated and spinach is shredded, vermicelli noodles are soaked, mint is picked. Virtuous feelings flood one's being. A sticky and utterly moreish sauce is made with 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter, 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, juice of half a lime, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of tamari, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar, a clove of garlic crushed and a whisker of grated ginger. A shallow bowl filled with warm water is added to the table scenery along with rice paper rounds and the carnival begins. Deft hands retrieve softened rice papers and layer them with a colourful ensemble. Sauce drips from hands and mouths and there are giggles a plenty.
A few fine strips of prosciutto sizzle quickly in a pan til crispy and are set aside. Fry more chopped prosciutto with sliced leeks and crushed garlic. 5 cups of chicken stock submerge this sizzly party and bring it's guests to boiling point. 4 cups of the humble frozen peas storm the gathering and bubble away merrily for 5 minutes or so. A stick blender roars into action and is responsible for the party's timely demise. Slices of sourdough are toasted and rubbed lightly with a cut clove of garlic. Generous bowls of vivid green are adorned with blobs of sour cream and whatever of the crispy prosciutto the chef has not devoured whilst pottering in the kitchen.
*Take a tablespoon of the spinach mix and scoop it off gently with another spoon. Repeat once more to make a smooth little mound.
My risotto is a tweaked version of Jamie Oliver's "Risotto Bianca" from Jamie Does Italy. The Spinach Polpettine is from the heavenly Limoncello and Linen Water by Tessa Kiros. The peanutty sauce is inspired by one from Heather Bruggeman's magnificent Whole Foods e-course and the pea soup...well I made that one up when Mother Hubbard's cupboard was bare.