Spinach and mushroom risotto

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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.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 cups of risotto or arborio rice
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 4 to 5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 5 small brown mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese, grated

Ingredients if vegan: (serves 4)

  • 2 cups of risotto or arborio rice
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4-1/2 to 5 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 5 small brown mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of spinach, chopped

Preparation:

  1. 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.
  2. In a large pot, pour your stock and wine. Simmer on low heat without a lid. It should not come to a boil.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

Peach vanilla panna cotta

PannaCottaOne 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
  • 3-3/4 cream
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 packets of gelatin powder (equivalent of 2 tablespoons)

Preparation: 

  1. Heat up water and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add peach halves (or other fruit) and simmer on medium-low heat until the fruit is soft.
  3. Remove the peaches (or other fruit), remove the skins (keep the fruit water).
  4. 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.
  5. Pour the gelatin mixture into the rest of the fruit water on low heat and mix until it’s dissolved.
  6. 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.
  7. Pour the fruit water over it. Place the pan into the fridge for it to start setting.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Add the gelatin-water mixture and stir until it’s all dissolved.
  11. Cool the mixture in the fridge for around 15-20 minutes or until it’s cooled to about room temperature.
  12. 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.
  13. Put the pan back in the fridge to set. It will take around 6 hours to set fully.
  14. 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.

Enjoy!

Other fruit options:

  • 3 plums, halved or sliced and pitted
  • 2 apples, sliced and cored
  • 2 pears, halved or sliced and cored
  • 1/4 pineapple, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of raspberries
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries
  • 5-6 strawberries, halved or sliced

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay.

Tiramisu made easy

Before trying my hand at this dessert, I always had it in my mind that it was a daunting task that came with a disclaimer. Everyone had a different version: only egg whites, no eggs, heavy cream… and the list goes on. Where to start?

This is my quick version (of many!) that has been a lifesaver when I’ve needed a sweet fix:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 container (275 g) mascarpone
  • 24 savoiardi (ladyfingers)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
  • shaved dark chocolate, for garnish

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