with Aunty Rata
Aunty Rata has a soft spot for Italian food although it would be fair to say that pasta aside; it can be a little tricky to produce good quality stuff in the field. On the other hand, if you practice at home first, there is no reason why you can’t progress to assembling a reasonable approximation of the authentic dishes out in the hills as well. One Italian dish particularly suited to filling up hungry trampers is risotto. Properly made risotto is just like ice cream only warmer – smooth, creamy and incredibly rich. I’m going to give you what I loosely classify as an authentic recipe for risotto plus the cheats version which to my mind isn’t really risotto at all but it tastes okay so what the hell….Once you get the hang of risotto you can use pretty much any combination of vegetables. It is obviously best to go for whatever is in season and it is worth considering whether your chosen vegetables have compatible flavours. You definitely need a good stirring implement; Aunty Rata uses a wooden spoon.
Basic Risotto (serves 4-6)
- Half a cup of arborio rice per person#
- 1 tsp stock powder per person (vege, seafood, chicken or beef)
- cup water per person 50g butter
- tablespoons olive oil
- I large onion finely chopped or a pkt of spring onions finely chopped
- Half a head of celery finely chopped
- 2 tsp chopped garlic
- 250ml of dry white wine* or vermouth
- 100g parmesan cheese
#arborio is the proper rice for risotto but basmati will do at a pinch
*Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. It should be good enough to drink but not so good you cannot resist drinking it instead of using it to make the risotto .
- In a billy heat the olive oil and melt half the butter. Add the chopped onions, garlic and celery and cook until soft. Add the rice.
- Lightly fry the rice stirring it continuously so it does not burn or stick to the bottom of the billy. This is crucial. I didn’t say risotto was for the lazy or inattentive. When the rice is well coated with the butter/oil mix add the wine and stir as the rice absorbs the liquid.
- Once the wine is absorbed start adding the water one cup at a time. With each cup of water add a teaspoon of stock. Wait for the liquid to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next cup. Stir continuously until the rice is cooked. If you run out of liquid before the rice is cooked just add more water.
- When the rice is on the verge of being cooked but before it becomes a glutinous stodge (the Italians refer to this as al dente) turn off the cooker.
- Add the rest of the butter and the parmesan cheese to the rice and mix everything together.
- Put a lid on the billy and leave the risotto to sit for 2 minutes before serving. This helps create the fabulous warm ice cream texture you are after.
Mushroom risotto – substitute celery for chopped mushrooms about 100g per person. Don’t bother with onions.
Pumpkin and feta risotto – substitute celery and onion for pumpkin about a handful of peeled and cubed bits per person and substitute the parmesan for 200g of feta cubed, add some baby spinach leaves if you feel like it. Note you will need extra water to ensure the pumpkin is properly cooked.
Squishy pea risotto – substitute celery for dehydrated peas or fresh or frozen peas (yes I know they will not be frozen by the time you come to cook them, no problem), about a quarter of a cup per person, dehydrated peas should be soaked in cold water to rehydrate a bit before you start cooking. Up to you whether you bother with the onion.
Diamond Rice Risotto (serves 4-6)
- 3 x 200g pkts of Diamond Rice Risotto*
- 1 soup sachet per packet of risotto#
- 2 TB olive oil
- 50g butter
- Fresh vege equivalent to 2 carrots and 2 courgettes and a pepper – whatever is in season and/or dehydrated vegetables (1pkt)
- Water as required – you’ll probably need 1 cup per person
*Available in supermarkets in the rice aisle, up to you which flavour, mushroom is nice. Open the packets and make sure you have half a cup of rice per person. If you are short bring extra basmati rice.
# Soup flavour should match flavour of the Rice Risotto e.g. mushroom soup for Mushroom Rice Risotto, vegetable soup for Chinese Flavoured Rice Risotto etc
- Rehydrate dried vege in cold water in someone’s dinner bowl.
- Open rice risotto packets and tip all the rice mix into a billy. Add the olive oil and half the butter. Turn on the heat and fry the rice till it browns. Don’t let it stick the billy.
- Add water along with the soup sachets and flavour sachets that come out of the rice risotto box.
- When the rice is nearly cooked add the chopped fresh vege, the rehydrated dried vege and the rest of the butter. Add more water if necessary.
- When the rice is al dente turn off the cooker and leave the risotto with the lid on for 2 minutes then serve.