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Twice as Rice
© Sue Courtney
12 August 2001

I had never successfully cooked rice risotto. It was time consuming and labour intensive. Then I found this method in a cookbook and it turned out to be incredibly simple.

The key is not in the 'cooking', but in the 'not' cooking. This rice cooks itself.

Basic Method for Painless Risotto
The idea is to saute the rice grains in frying pan, cover with liquid, bring to he boil, turn the element off, cover the pan and leave until the rice grains absorb the liquid. Then, more liquid is added the process is repeated. Hey presto, the rice is cooked.

There are so many ways that the rice can be flavoured to 'make' the meal.

Here's a tasty combination.

Risotto Cake Rice Risotto with Fennel, Olive and Sauvignon Blanc
You will need
Garlic infused olive oil (made by adding whole, peeled, garlic cloves to the oil and leaving to infuse for a few weeks before using).
1/2 teaspoon chicken stock powder
Half a fennel bulb (halved top to bottom, not thru the waistline)
1 dozen pitted black Spanish olives - more if you are an olive addict
1 cup rice
1 cup zingy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
1 cup water

Choose a fennel bulb with some fern attached if you can. Some have fern growing near the base. Halve and preserve one halve for later use.
Chop remaining half into small pieces.
Heat 1 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a fry pan.
Sauté the chopped fennel until golden.
Add the rice and ensure the grains well coated.
Sprinkle rice with chicken stock powder
Add about half a cup of the sauvignon blanc and half a cup of water.
Bring to the boil stirring well.
Turn off the element and allow rice to sit to absorb all the liquid.

Then add about another half cup of wine and half a cup of water, bring to the boil, then turn off element an allow water to absorb.

Test, if rice is tender to the bite, then it is ready, otherwise repeat again.

Now take the pitted black Spanish olives and chop into pieces.
Chop some of the green fennel stem into pieces and some fennel fern.
Add these to the resting rice. Stir well to incorporate.

You can serve this risotto straight from the pan or try this variation.

Risotto Cakes
(See photo above)
Press cooked risotto into small, individual dishes and chill.
When you want to serve, turn out so it sits on the plate like a 'cake'.
Heat in the microwave on medium for 1 minute.
Decorate with sprigs of fennel fern for decoration and the remainder of the sauvignon blanc for drinking.

Serve on its own as a starter dish, or combine with something else for a main.
Try it with a fillet of crispy-skinned salmon.

Risotto and Salmon Crispy Skin Salmon. Cut one piece of salmon per person, across the fillet.
Make a mixture of a teaspoon of flour per fillet seasoned with salt and pepper.
Coat skin side of fillet with the flour mixture.
Heat some butter and oil in a pan.
When hot, add the fillet skin side down and cook until the skin has crispened.
Turn fillet over and cook for about 1 minute. This should ensure that the fillet is 'rare' and moist and tender in the middle.

Serve the salmon fillet as an accompaniment to the Fennel and Olive Rice Risotto Cake - see photo.

This is such a simple meal to prepare and takes very little effort. In fact the biggest effort might be finidng the fennel bulb, although the best fruit and veg outlets should have these in stock. I used 'Finnochio' sweet Florence fennel from Taupaki in northwest Auckland. It came in a sealfresh bag. Try your own variations. Chicken and mushroom risotto cooked with pinot noir ain't bad either.

Bon Appetit

© Sue Courtney.

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