MY PANTRY DILEMMA
I sit on the couch surrounded by boxes, stacked floor to ceiling. I’m sure there’s a TV in here somewhere; no I know there’s one. I am in my thirties and I have been living here for ten years. My house has been turned upside down by a bachelor.
A coffee - quickly!
Kitchen: same scenario, more boxes. I have no choice but to begin emptying these boxes in order to liberate my Baby Gaggia and coffee grinder cowering in their corner behind the boxes.
He’s moved in finally, with more than 40years worth of stuff.
You live happily single. Your household is just as you want it, enjoying your space, and then one day you fall happily in love; it results in a merge of households. Then unfolds the dilemma of the modern couple: whose stuff stays and what has to go by the wayside? In my case, as the Epicurean with a small kitchen, there is another question – what the hell am I going to do with the contents of his pantry; a bachelor pantry brimming with caveman cuisine?
In my cottage sized kitchen I have had to be sensible about the use of space. I buy fresh produce and a small amount of gourmet grocery, leaving the cupboards brimming with gadgets and crockery. Stockpiling Extra Virgin Olive Oil when it’s on special has been impossible. So what could I do with this influx of stuff?
Thankfully, deep in these boxes lay things that should never see the light of day. Jars of condiments 10 years out of date were piled stickily alongside greying bottles of sawdust, err, herbs and rancid spreadables. But the worst was yet to come: cereal boxes alive with weevils and pantry moths. …Eeew!
An hour later the bin was over flowing. There was a box allocated for charity and a pile for eBay, but still I had no space for the rest of the stuff. So I consolidated bottles of olive oil, vinegar, Vegemite, jam, fish sauce and mustard. I rearranged cupboards and found room for his family sized tins of Milo and Quik.
But still sitting on a nearly cleared counter were 4 kilos of Arborio rice and a dozen packets of pasta. How could a man who seldom cooked, have accumulated all this? What could I do with all this starch – create a pasta mural and a risotto mosaic?
I was stumped.
Porcini Risotto with Garfield Barramundi and roasted tomatoes
1 pkt Dried porcini mushrooms
2 cloves purple garlic, minced
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 cups Arborio or Calasparra rice
1.5 cups verjuice
1.5 litres porcini stock
500ml Vegetable or Duck stock
Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano
clove of garlic
2 pieces dried mandarin peel
Fresh rosemary stems
Lemon infused olive oil
5 Ed Charles (Tomatoes)
Murray River salt/ coarse flaked salt
Rehydrate porcini mushrooms in hot water until reconstituted. Drain and reserve the water which should now be brown. Heat stock and strain in the reserved water from soaking the mushrooms.
In a paella pan, warm olive oil on the stove until the pan is well lubricated. Soften diced onion and garlic in the oil. Add rice and toss around until the grains are coated with oil and translucent.
Add verjuice and stir until absorbed, then tip in the stock a cup at a time, allowing rice to absorb fluids each time, but reserving one litre to add later in the process. As the pan is shallow absorbtion will happen quickly without the need to stir constantly. Season rice with salt and pepper, and a sprinkling on grated nutmeg. Add mushrooms and allow to cool. Fold shaved Parmegiano Reggiano into the cold rice.
Wipe fish dry with paper towel. Stuff the cavity of one with fresh dill, the other with coriander. Place torn pieces of mandarin peel (this will take the pungent smelliness from the fish) and minced garlic in with the herbs. Score deep gashes in the sides of the fish. Place a bed of rosemary on top of the risotto and lay the fish on it. Rub the fish with lemon infused olive oil. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, sumac and za'atar.
Cut tomatoes in half and lay around the fish, covering the risotto. Sprinkle with powdered fructose, salt and black pepper. Pour the reserved stock into the pan, but not over the fish or tomatoes. Slide the pan into a wood fired oven surrounded by jovial food bloggers at the inaugural Bloggers Banquet.
Turn the pan mid way through cooking using a long handled paddle. When the flesh in the scored sides of the fish looks opaque yet juicy, armed with a hoe, asbestos gloves and a welding mask, remove the paella pan from the inferno. The fish and rice will continue to cook for a short while after the pan is removed from the oven. Serve with Mr Stickyfingers' chargrilled vegetable salad.
A photo pictorial and discussion of the inaugural Bloggers Banquet can be found at Flickr. Backlinks to attending Bloggers: Vida, Duncan, Neil, Jack, Claire, Anna, Katie, Jamie, PG, Cindy, Josh, Elliot, Sarah, Thanh, Jon
A warm round of applause to Ed Charles for organising the event.