Making a nice, creamy risotto had evaded me for years. My downfall in the past was my split attention span (I like to call it multi-tasking) and the assumption that making risotto is similar to making rice or congee: add water and boil. The reality couldn’t be farther from the truth and to think all it took as a little investigation into “how to make risotto”. So, to save you from the same sad fate as my past attempted risotto creations, this is how you really make risotto and it’s surprisingly easy. As an aside, risotto is not something to make if you need to be multi-tasking, as timing is of the essence. It’s not hard, you just need to be able to pay attention to it and have a little patience. The whole process takes less than 30 minutes.
In a medium to large saucepan, heat up the butter, 1/4 cup of the cream, and olive oil (just olive oil if vegan) on medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the chopped onion (and garlic, if you’re using garlic). Simmer until the onions are translucent and nearly breaking down.
In a large pot, pour your stock and wine. Simmer on low heat without a lid. It should not come to a boil.
Back to your onion saucepan – add the rice and stir, still on medium heat. The edges of the rice should also turn translucent, while the centre will remain opaque. Stir the rice to keep it from burning. Lightly toasted is what we want but not burned.
When the rice is translucent, ladle in a cup of broth and stir it into the rice. Keep slowly stirring. The rice will absorb the broth at which time you can ladle in another cup of broth. You will be ladling in a cup of broth at a time – only a cup at a time. This is where that patience and attention comes in. It’s important that you only do a cup at a time and wait until nearly all of the liquid is soaked into the rice before you add another. No need to rush. Too much liquid and your risotto could get really soupy rather than creamy and overcook.
When your risotto is nearing completion – you’ll be able to tell as the kernels are nearly al dente and the consistency will be creamy (you’ll also only have about a cup or two left of your broth) – add the chopped mushrooms and spinach. Continue stirring.
Finish adding enough broth to get your risotto to the perfect consistency and the rice just cooked. I encourage taste testing to make sure. Note that you may not need all the broth – or if you run out, use a little water or more stock. Add the grated parmesan cheese and the last 1/4 cup cream to the risotto, stir to have it melt in (ignore this last step if you’re vegan).
You’re ready to serve! Risotto is best served right away – buon appetito!
I fell in love with jicama in Mexico and have since looked for every opportunity to integrate it into a meal. Last night, we had baby back ribs for dinner and the refreshing, clean flavour of jicama was the perfect complement to the saucy, smokey flavour of the ribs.
Ingredients: (serves 4-5 people)
1/2 jicama, peeled and finely sliced into strips
1 regular cucumber (not English cucumber), peeled and finely sliced into strips
3 limes, juiced
2 stalks of cilantro (coriander), chopped
1 green mango (mango that isn’t quite ripe), peeled and finely sliced into strips
1/4 cup olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons of cracked pepper, or to taste
3/4 tablespoon of cracked salt, or to taste
Combine the sliced jicama, cucumber, and mango in a bowl and hand toss until everything is evenly distributed
Juice the limes over the salad and toss again
Add the olive oil, cilantro, salt and pepper. Toss yet again. Note, you’ll need a lot of salt and pepper to flavour the salad
One of my favourite desserts is the classic Italian panna cotta. It’s a great dessert that’s light in texture and rich in flavour. I never feel heavy after eating it, making it my kind of dessert. The best part, it’s very easy to make and the prep time is fast. That said, it does require a longer time in the fridge for the gelatin to set, so if you’re making it to serve for dinner – it’s best to make it either the day before or early enough in the day for the dessert to set.
Ingredients: (serves 6)
Fruit jelly top:
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 peaches (or other fruit – see below for portions), halved or sliced and pitted
1 packet of gelatine powder (equivalent of 1 tablespoon)
Panna Cotta layer
1/3 cup water
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 packets of gelatin powder (equivalent of 2 tablespoons)
Heat up water and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved.
Add peach halves (or other fruit) and simmer on medium-low heat until the fruit is soft.
Remove the peaches (or other fruit), remove the skins (keep the fruit water).
Take 1/4 of the peach water and add the tablespoon of gelatin in gradually while stirring to avoid clumps. Set the gelatin mixture aside for about 5 minutes – it will thicken.
Pour the gelatin mixture into the rest of the fruit water on low heat and mix until it’s dissolved.
Grease a baking pan and place your peach halves or slices (or other fruit) into the bottom of the pan. I like using a silicone loaf pan. The silicone is flexible, making it incredibly easy to pop the panna cotta out of the pan once it’s set. If you’re using peaches, plums, or pears, place them cut side facing up (uncut side down on the pan) – it makes for a better looking panna cotta when you’re done.
Pour the fruit water over it. Place the pan into the fridge for it to start setting.
Stir in the 2 tablespoons of gelatin powder into the 1/3 cup of water gradually (so it also doesn’t clump) and set it aside for around 5 minutes to set.
Heat up the cream and sugar on medium-low heat and bring it to a simmer. Add the vanilla extract and stir to mix it in.
Add the gelatin-water mixture and stir until it’s all dissolved.
Cool the mixture in the fridge for around 15-20 minutes or until it’s cooled to about room temperature.
Check to make sure the first layer has set. When it has, pour the panna cotta mixture into your baking pan over the fruity layer.
Put the pan back in the fridge to set. It will take around 6 hours to set fully.
Once the panna cotta has set, it’s ready to serve. Tip your baking pan upside down on a serving dish. It should pop out fairly easily.
Note, if you prefer to use canned fruit instead of fresh fruit, use the syrupy water from the can and add water to it until it reaches 1 cup. No need for the 1/2 cup of sugar at the start of the recipe. Just set the fruit aside and pour the syrup-water mixture into a saucepan and let it simmer for 1 minute. Follow the rest of the recipe from step 4.
With the changing seasons, I’ve been feeling the edge of sick creeping in this week. Naturally, a pot of soup like the kind my mom used to make was needed. I decided to make a chinese radish carrot pork soup that always makes me feel better (or at least I feel much better drinking it). This particular soup picks up the rich flavour from the pork while being sweetened from the carrots and figs. As a bonus, this soup is also very easy to make. Once you have the ingredients, it practically makes itself.
Ingredients: (serves 5-6, two bowls each)
300 to 400 grams of pork neck, shoulder, or ribs
1 large carrot, chopped or sliced
1 medium sized Chinese green radish, chopped or sliced
4 dried dates
10 cups of water
salt to taste
Boil water in the pot you’ll be making the soup in. When it’s boiling, place the pork into the pot. Let the meat boil for 2-3 minutes. The pork meat should light brown in colour. The meat does not need to be cooked through at this point. The water will have bubbles start to form on the surface and even become a little foamy (picture on the left).
Pour out the boiled water and rinse your meat. The water at this point will likely be very frothy (picture on the right). These first two steps are important as it’s a cleansing and detoxifying step for the meat – and is also effective in removing fat from your soup.
Fill your pot again with 10 cups of water with the pork still in the pot. Bring the water up to a boil.
Add the chopped radish, carrot, and dates. If you’re using a regular pot, turn the heat down to low and let your soup simmer at least 2 hours. I use a thermal pot for all of my soups – for me, it’s the benefits of a pressure cooker and slow cooker in one. If you’re using a thermal pot, bring the water to a boil and place your pot into the thermal pot and let it sit and cook for at least 2 hours.
Choosing a wok can be an overwhelming task. They come in a multitude of different materials, sizes, and makes. Rather than reviewing each type, I’m just going to cut to the chase. The best woks for the average household are 14″ in size (not too big or small), made of carbon steel, and hand hammered. Check that the sides are thick and strong enough that they don’t bend when you push on them. Luckily, that combination of wok is actually quite inexpensive (I got mine for $13 CAD), despite being hammered out by hand. Depending on the kind of stove you have, you may also need to get one with a slightly flattened bottom so it sits on your stove range. That said, you can get circular wok burner rings for the traditional round bottom woks. It’s also best to avoid the non-stick woks. Not only are you usually paying a lot for these pans, the non-stick surface doesn’t do well under high heat, which is one of the biggest benefits of cooking with a wok.
For a more comprehensive break down of the different types of woks, I really like the overview written on Serious Eats.
Once you have your wok, it needs to be seasoned. There are different ways to achieve the same result. This is the method I like best.
Pad thai is one of my favourite dishes that I can rarely get enough of. While in Thailand, my husband and I would frequently walk down the street from where we were staying to get dishes upon dishes of homemade pad thai made before our very eyes. The ingredients would vary slightly depending on the lady cooking for us, but the result was always delicious. What’s more, the dishes usually cost around $1 to $2 CAD. It inspired me to try to make my own.
The other night, I finally tried my hand at making it. This recipe outlines how I made my pad thai and is simple to follow and straight forward, but does take some time. I’d recommend setting aside about 2 to 3 hours for prep and cooking time if it’s your first time making it – about 1-2 hours once you become more practiced.
Ingredients: (serves 5)
3/4 of a package of dried pad thai rice noodles (package will say “pad thai” on it)
2-1/2 tablespoons of dried tamarind powder or 3 tablespoons of pulp (add more if you like a touch more of a tangy, sour flavour in your pad thai)
1 cup boiling hot water
1/2 cup light soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons of Sriracha
1 bunch of green onions (sometimes called scallions), chopped to 1 to 2 inches in length
1/2 a large carrot, finely sliced into strips or quarters
5 shallots, finely sliced in thin strips
1 package of firm tofu (or deep fried tofu), cut into inch-long strips
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can also use a full cup of either peanut or vegetable oil)
As part of a vegan dinner we were hosting, I wanted to make a molten lava chocolate cake version of the vegan chocolate cake we’ve made before. I couldn’t find any vegan chocolate, so had to get creative and use a slightly modified vegan chocolate icing recipe I have. The result was great. The centre wasn’t quite as luscious as if I had used a dark chocolate, but still turned out well.
Ingredients: (makes 8 small ramekin servings)
1-1/2 cups flour (regular all-purpose flour is fine)