14 November 2007

Risotto Monster


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 n
ever 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 Jars of condiments 10 years out of date were piled stickily alongside greying bottles of sawdust, err, herbs and rancid spreadables.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

2 barramundi
Fresh Dill
Fresh coriander
clove of garlic
2 pieces dried mandarin peel
Fresh rosemary stems
Lemon infused olive oil

5 Ed Charles (Tomatoes)
Fructose powder
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.


Anonymous said...

Compliments to the chef! Although I can't eat the fish, this was the best smelling fish dish I've ever come across (in part because the fish was clearly so fresh that it barely smelt!). The herbs were beautifully fragrant and everyone clearly loved the fish too:)

Loved the tale of the kitchen audit and merger!

neil said...

Mr Stickyfingers came with 4 kg of arborio rice, well that's a nice catch - don't throw him back in a hurry. Weevils and pantry moths, sounds like he knows Ed.

Ed Charles said...

It was amazing fish and kudos to you for managing to cook it perfectly. this is one to try in the (charcoal-fired) Weber at home. Later i'll try and identify everybody on the Flickr pics and will soon post my own.

Ed Charles said...

Yes Neil , we still have a few moths flickering around...I can't believe you remembered that.

stickyfingers said...

I've just found out I've made it on to Foodporn Watch - that can be an addictive time void to disappear into.

Thanks guys - Duncan it struck me later that as someone who doesn't eat fish because of the smell it was unusual that you thought it smelt nice. Now for me, that is a huge compliment.

As you said, freshness is key as is the magic mandarin peel - a mandatory for Chinese pantries. There is some kind of chemical reaction there that neutralises the fishy malodour. It can also be used in lamb dishes for the same reason. The guys at Garfield also move the fish into different ponds a week before culling, where they purge the mud etc from their systems and improves the quality of the flesh.

Ed - I think Weber's are much more manageable on that front. Less fuel consumption too. I think I would do the fish before breads or pizza because with the stock in the pan, the steam released allows the contents to cope with higher temps.

Oooh pantry moths **squirm** I'm still finding pupae in the architraves - eeew!

Back to the grindstone now...

Vida said...

Hilarious story... loved reading it... best of luck to you both!! Vida x

stickyfingers said...

Thanks Vida - I wrote that story a very long time ago, but hadn't the right risotto recipe nor - until now - the premise to pair it back with.

I'm now in my forties and amazingly we still are eating our way through that damn risotto and swatting the occasional pantry moth I'm sure they have dormant eggs hiding in high nooks and crannies right throughout the house.

I'd love to make my Amaretto Bread and Butter pudding in that wood oven.

Vida said...

Oh, I thought you just moved in together, hence the "wishing you luck"... I have the occassional little moth, impossible to get rid of because I think each time I throw everything out and then replace it, I "purchase" more eggs in the new packets, yuk... I have been meaning to tell you how impressed I am that you a) have a photo attached to your name and comments and b) that it MOVES, man I could watch that girl flip those pancakes (or is it a wok) forever, she is mesmerising!!! You are an inspiration in SOOOOO many ways!!! Vida x x x

stickyfingers said...

Vida I'm blushing!

I think that lots of pantry moth eggs come in packets, especially from the imported stuff, so I have started to buy flours and almond meal loose from the South Melbourne market in smaller amounts and keep it in airtight jars and containers. If I'm baking I will now only buy exactly what I need for the recipe and no extra.

Vida said...

Good advice, but I am the type of person who likes to have a million things on had and hence I get the rotten moth thing happening, too much stuff in to small a space... one day I might learn... off to bake Thanh's muffins now... Vida x

Ed said...

All this talk of moths inspired me to stalk the house with a narrow-ended bamboo stick to kill-off some of the lavae. I've often wondered if they would come from some of those open sacks of product from the market. I've never seen any flapping around South Melbourne. What do you think.

Anonymous said...

Moving gives me nightmares. I'll be faced with this nightmare soon again :(

Just give me that fish , with tomatoes :) ..I'll forget about the nightmare for 30 mins.

stickyfingers said...

Thanks Tigerfish, good luck with your move - I too dread them.

Vida enjoy the muffins - another thing I was too full to eat the other night.

As for the moths Ed, we have seen a significant decrease in numbers since I started buying loose flour. Their eggs are fine brown specks and so far haven't been evident.

We did get some in a packet of dried fruit. Thankfully I had put the pack in Tupperware and when I fished out the container, the little buggers had hatched, eaten through the plastic bag, then grown into moths and died in the container.

I now do this with anything suspect including pasta, and don't stockpile ANYTHING. Besides, our kitchen's so small and packed with both our stuff, that I can't have everything on hand to spontaneously make anything I fancy. Baking for me is rare and cooking has to be done around what I've just bought or grown.

Vida said...

Ed the stalker with a bamboo stick.. what a sight!!! Those little suckers get through the toughest plastic, they get in jars, they just seem to be able to get into anything short of silverfoil and I can't cover everything in silver... Good luck Ed... Vida x x x

grocer said...

i had to laugh that you even let him in the front door with that lot! fortunately the culinary education of the grocer's wife has been post domestic arrangements and thus no such marmite, or green spuds for me! I'm impressed he had 4 kg of risotto.

as for the barramundi it was fantastic, and am a little embarassed at the thought of me picking up a clean fork for "just a taste" and ending up sitting with ella just eating it straight out of the pan! yum.

having been behind (or in front depending on perspective) the pizza oven for a while I hadn't really eaten until then, but can assure you that had the barra gone in any earlier it would have been flash charred! it was hot hot hot for a long time in there!


ps - special request: i would love a post on the dried mandarin. do you make it yourself? some of it's uses and why and how it works. until monday night i had never tried it and I'm not much of a mandarin eater (the fruit not the people - boom ching) but the fragrant zing it added was fantabulosis!

Jackie Middleton said...

The dreaded pantry moth...
I had a sever infestation a couple of years ago and have since discovered that the eggs are often on the outside of the packets as well. I now always decant spices etc into zip lock bags or put the whole packet, whether open or not into the zip lock. The pantry is a nightmare for finding things but I don't get any moths or crawlies.

stickyfingers said...

Grocer - I may have written it on PG's blog once, but the ultimate compliment is to see people happily eating something I've cooked. My heart and soul is buried in the bottom of every dish I create.

Jack - perhaps now we've all sampled silk worm pupae, next time we can collect pantry moth crawlies, put them in a tin and serve them up roasted?

grocer said...

count me out.
and yes sticky, i have seen it written somewhere, i feel the same when people enjoy something i put heart and soul into, but still can't help feel but embarassed when I do the same.


thanh7580 said...

I normally don't eat much fish, just don't like that fishy flavour. But when fish is really fresh, as the one you did, it tastes great and I eat lots of it.

I'm surprised people put up with the quality of fish here in Australia. A lot of it is very "unfresh" compared to Asia where literally the fish is still alive or just killed that morning. I guess it's hard to have live fish considering we live in such a large country and transporting them would be a real problem.

Ed said...

Barramundi monster, that's nothing. i had the martini monster over Friday night and it almost ruined my weekend.
Sticky it was a close toss-up between the barra and the macaron so I'm afraid i had to mention both in my column in the H-S tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I'm collecting moths for the next blogger event - stir fried.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jane, you're in the paper (and me too)! Ed has kindly mentioned us in his Tuesday column.

stickyfingers said...

I have a tendency to turn into the Martini Monster myself. Thank you Ed for your mention in City Style - I was really chuffed.

Thought I shouldn't post for a few days as a consequence, so that this post stayed at the top of the page - then a 'dodgy' Foxtel connection interfered with my wireless network and I couldn't get online anyway.