Cupboard risotto

This is a bit common and can be refined to taste. If the cupboard is otherwise bare, these are staples in our kitchen.

For two

1 cup risotto rice
3 cups chicken stock simmering
half cup of white wine
a couple of shallots finely sliced
clove of garlic finely chopped
juice of half a lemon
a few big handfuls of baby leaf spinach stemmed (or large spinach stemmed and chopped)
small tin of tuna in oil
olive oil

In a saucepan heat the olive oil along with the oil from the tuna and gently fry the shallot, as it softens add the garlic and turn a few times. Raise heat to high, add wine and burn off.

Turn heat to medium low.

Add rice and fry for a bit until well coated with everything in the pan. Now add the stock. Honestly, don’t bother doing this a tablespoon at a time. Add a third of it at once, stir. When absorbed add another third. Somewhere towards the end of your stock start being circumspect. When it is very close to done, just a little bite left, add the tuna and spinach. Keep stirring, add a little more stock now as you decide is necessary. You want a sort of creamy finish to it and a tiny bit of bite to the rice. Lastly stir through the lemon juice and then the parmesan.

That’s about it. Real chicken stock. Real fish. Naked man to stir risotto very slowly are all possible ways to improve this….

But as is, it is yummy and easy and cheap, which is exactly what I wanted.

Oh yes. Serve with lots of freshly ground black pepper, of course.


PS: If it comes down to it, you can really pare this down. Today, I had no shallots, grating cheese seemed like hard work, and I had tinned fish, but I don’t know how to use the can opener. How I will survive the nuclear holocaust is anybody’s guess.

Rice? Had no risotto rice, but had a small amount of something mysterious and short which definitely belonged in the general genus of ‘rice’. Whack it in.

It was still yum.

Lemon Risotto

Lemon Risotto


one lemon unwaxed
1.5 litres chicken stock
300 ml dry white wine
120g butter
1 small onion, very finely chopped
600g carnaroli rice
90g parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley


Carefully take the finest layer of skin off the lemon with a potato peeler and very very finely chop. Then extract the juice from the lemon.

Heat stock and wine in a saucepan. In a heavy-based frying pan melt half the butter over gently heat and saute onion until softened and translucent. Add rice and raise heat to moderate. Stir to coat the rice with the butter – make sure you don’t burn the rise, I find that takes about 7 minutes, but be sensible and careful. Add 1 cup of stock. Simmer, stirring all the time, and keep adding stock as it disappears, one cup at a time. The rice should always be just covered. After 15-20 minutes taste. When it is perfectly cooked, add cheese, remaining butter, parsley and lemon zest and juice. Cook for another two minutes, then serve.

Divine…I do keep saying that, don’t I?

recipe from Stephanie Alexander The Cook’s Companion

Meat and three veg Indian style

Begin with a pork vindaloo. Add potatoes, carrots in the form of Aloo Gajjar and green beans thus:

Green beans in Garlic Butter


  • 30g unsalted butter (I used ghee)
  • 1 teasp cumin seeds
  • about 4 cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped
  • a little chili powder and salt to taste
  • approximately half a kg green beans, topped, tailed and chopped into about thirds


Melt the butter over low heat and gently fry the cumin seeds (as opposed to the other vegetables where the cumin is popped on high heat). Add the garlic and a minute later the beans, chili and salt. Stir and mix for a couple of minutes. Cover the pan and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Serve.

A subtle dish with the cumin being a connector to the Aloo Gajjar.

We had ‘everyday’ rice with it and a hit mango chutney. It all seemed to come together and hit the mark.



Variations on Japanese spinach (2) hourensou no gomaae

I can’t believe I put the first variation on my blog in 2013. Eeeek!

My friend S-L got me into a site called Just Bento long ago. S-L is a diligent Bento Box preparer, I’m not. I don’t know if this is an explanation or an excuse, but I don’t leave the house to go to my work desk. Cooking lunch in my kitchen is a normal part of my routine. That doesn’t mean I don’t use the recipes. In summer we often have a simple bowl of rice and spinach done one way or another. Last night it was as follows.


  • 1 Tbs. white sesame seeds toasted and roughly ground. Reserve a few whole to decorate the top of the dish before serving.
  • 1/2 Tbs. mirin
  • 1/2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce (I use Tamari)
  • spinach for two, washed and blanched, squeezed to rid it of excess liquid and chopped
  • rice


The spinach can be prepared ahead. It can be blanched with just a teensy amount of water added, length of time will depend on the age of the spinach. We like it chilled, but it can be room temperature.

While the rice is cooking, make the sesame dressing – in fact we had enough spinach that I made a double quantity. It’s all terribly moreish. Mix the seeds, mirin, sugar and soy. I make this with Thai Jasmine rice lightly salted.

We also have these spinach dishes with Soba Noodle Salad Stephanie Alexander style.

Just Bento points out that Westerners often eat spinach raw, whereas Japanese people never do. Yes, she says, some nutrients are lost, but on the other hand, a lot more spinach is eaten. True. We ate far more cooked last night than we would have eaten raw. My understanding is that cooking spinach helps the absorption by the body of some of the goodness, so in fact maybe this means a balance of raw and cooked spinach is the best path.

Thai black rice salad

I mistakenly made an enormous bucket of Thai black rice yesterday and wondered what one does with it, once it’s cold and left over.

I decided to sort of salad it.


  • cold cooked Thai black rice
  • plain natural yoghurt, full fat
  • chopped mint
  • chopped chives
  • slivered shallot
  • 1 small clover garlic finely chopped

That’s it. Mix. I’d say easy on the shallot, I put in too much. Other herbs to taste, lemon, salt, pepper….the usual.

The black rice turned the yoghurt into a nice purple colour.

We had it with falafels which were shallow fried in some ghee which had previously cooked shallots, so it had some flavour from that.

We still have a mountain of the rice in the fridge.

Pistachio and prune pilaf

or…what my friend missed. Yesterday, having invited a friend around for lunch, I served up mince and lumpy mash. A sort of deconstructed shepherd’s pie? Not really. It was Indian, not the savoury mince Australians make. I wanted a different taste from the kheemas I usually make, so I cooked the (beef) mince with garlic, ginger, onion, Julie Sahni’s master curry powder, which I make often, chopped tomatoes, and at the end before serving, asparagus (instead of peas), chopped coriander and lemon juice. How bad could that turn out?

It was okay, but I wonder what I could have done to make it more than that? I mean, apart from serving it with a yoghurt and cucumber raita on the side, plus kasundi made by an Adelaide friend, and starring on the day, lumpy mash. I suck at mash.

Today we revisited the mysterious Indian mince dish but it was given a step up by the rice we had with it. Not that the rice was perfect, it definitely needs a little more than it got today. Nonetheless, for a start:


  • 450 ml basmati, washed and soaked for 30 minutes, then drained
  • 600 ml water
  • half a teaspoon tumeric
  • salt
  • several onions halved and finely sliced
  • half a cup of pistachios – salted because that’s what I had, shelled and chopped
  • half a dozen prunes pitted and chopped
  • grapeseed oil – I’d run out of ghee, which would have been better


  • Put the basmati in a pot with the water, tumeric and salt to taste. I was easy on the salt on account of the pistachios being salted, but I should have been less cautious. Bring to boil, stirring a few times, cover and reduce to a simmer.
  • While the rice is cooking, in a non-stick pan fry the onions to a rich brown colour. By the time that’s happened, the rice will be dry on top. Quickly put the onions onto the top of the rice and let sit, covered, whilst
  • fry the prunes and pistachios in whatever bit of oil is left in the frying pan and then add them to the top of the rice.
  • When you are sure that the rice is cooked through, gently fold the onions, prunes and pistachios through the rice, let it sit for a bit longer before serving.

My next attempt at this will be better. Obviously, more in the tradition of a pilaf, stock would be better than salt. I’d run out of ghee, with its rich taste. Grapeseed oil shares the capacity for being used at high heat, but is neutral in taste. While the rice was cooking I should have added more whole spices, along the lines of Jaffrey’s yellow rice. Whole cumin seeds at the end, sizzled in oil/ghee would also have been a good addition too.

I wonder too if adding finely chopped onion to the rice from the start, as well as the fried sliced onion might be a plan. Garlic? For the first time in my life as a person who cooks, I’ve run out of garlic. Unbelievable.

Stir-fry rice, Indian style

I often make this ‘everyday’ basmati rice and have leftovers. We did this with it tonight.


  • leftover everyday basmati rice (or similar)
  • best quality freshly seeded and chopped tomato – I used about 15 cherry tomatoes for 2 serves
  • chopped mint and flat leaf parsley
  • chopped pistachios


Gently stir-fry rice in a non-stick pan – no ghee/oil is needed as the rice was cooked in this in the first instance. Add other ingredients, continue stirring until all are heated through.

Serve with….

On the side

We had plain yoghurt to which was added coarsely grated and squeezed (to get rid of some of the liquid) cucumber, a finely chopped clover of garlic, salt, pepper and ground roasted cumin.


  • The rice dish is vegetarian, but it could happily have some chicken mixed into it.
  • And obviously variation of herbs and nuts is possible too.

Fabulous and a few minutes to make, given the rice is already done.

Pilau rice

This is a Rosemary Moon recipe I hadn’t made for yonks. In salad days I’ve been known to add marinated BBQed kebab chunks.

I made this as part of my Geneva on a severe budget cooking experiment: 4 weeks on 20CHF a day. This dish is lovely and it costs all of about 3.50CHF to make. And that’s buying the best aged basmati from my local Indian grocer. Don’t buy rice from the supermarket. The difference between it, and what you can get at an Indian shop is enormous. Just ask for the best they have: you can’t go wrong.

Pilau rice with chana masala
Pilau rice with chana masala


basmati rice to 450ml line in a measuring cup
a couple of tablespoons of ghee
1 large onion cut in half from top to bottom and sliced finely
4 garlic cloves peeled and finely diced
8 whole cloves
8 green cardamom pods, tops slit open
2-4 inches cinnamon stick in pieces
8 peppercorns
1 teasp turmeric
600ml water
chicken stock cube or salt to taste, perhaps 1 teasp
butter for frying
30g dried sultanas
30g slivered or flaked almonds


Wash rice and soak for 30 minutes, then drain for 30 minutes.

Melt ghee in saucepan and gently fry onion over medium heat, stirring, until it softens and then starts to brown. Add the garlic and whole spices and fry, stirring until onions are golden brown. Add rice and turmeric and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Turn heat down and keep cooking and stirring for another couple of minutes – don’t burn! Add stock or water and salt, bring to boil while stirring now and again. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit another 10 minutes or so. In a small pan heat the butter and fry the sultanas and then the almonds. Stir gently into the rice with a fork.

This adds 20 minutes cooking time to the rice because it takes so long to cook the onions, but it’s worth it.

Serves 2 for 3 meals. Reheat in non-stick pan.

Pilau rice, a variation.

Hands down, Indians do the best things to rice. If the rice is good, I’d happily stand at the pot eating it and not bother with the rest of the meal at all.

You can serve this on the side of meat/vegetarian dishes, or you can toss meat through it. Occasionally I’ve added marinated BBQed kebab chunks left over from another meal.

Pilau rice


Basmati rice measured to 450 ml
600 ml chicken stock or salted water
60g ghee
1 large onion, finely sliced
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
8 whole cloves
8 cardamoms, the top of each split open
2 cinnamon sticks, each c. 2” long, broken nup
8 whole pepper corns
1 teasp turmeric
15g butter
30g dried sultanas
30g flaked almonds


Wash the rice under running water until it runs clear, then soak in water for 30 minutes and then drain for 30 minutes.

Melt the ghee in a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion until soft, but not yet browning. Add the garlic and spices less the turmeric, and stir until onions are golden brown. Add the rice and turmeric. The idea now is to make sure the rice grains are coated in the ghee, this takes a couple of minutes, stirring vigilantly. Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer on as low heat as possible for about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for another 10 minutes or so. This is such a nice thing to be able to do to the rice as it frees up hotplates to do other things with while it happily sits. It will stay warm and happy off the heat for half an hour if you need that much time.

Melt the butter over a low heat and fry the sultanas until they change colour and swell. Put on a plate and then fry the almonds until a little browned. Remove. Mix the sultanas and almonds into the rice. For looks you pile all this onto a warmed serving plate, leaving a few of the almonds and sultanas to sprinkle on top as a garnish. I quite like to leave it all in the saucepan, serve the rice from there and then I can put the lid back on and keep it warm until people ask for more…which will be very, very soon.

Rice with peas

This is a very gentle rice dish, common in India. It goes with everything. I use MJ’s instructions.

To cook the rice:

1) measure rice up to 450ml in a measuring jug

2) put it in a sieve and thoroughly run water through it until the water runs clear. It will be cloudy at first.

3) put it in a bowl and cover it with water to soak for 30 minutes

4) drain in the sieve and let sit to drain more for 30 minutes

Now you can do all sorts of things to it. Today we had rice with peas.


The prepared rice
One onion finely chopped
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cups of peas fresh or frozen
600ml water or stock (I use chicken if not cooking for vegetarians)
1 teasp of salt or a stock cube if using water rather than stock
3 tblsp ghee or oil


In a medium sized saucepan on medium heat, heat the ghee.

When hot put in the cumin seeds and stir for a few seconds while they sizzle. Quickly add the onion and fry until it starts to become a little brown – flecked brown.
Add the rice and peas and stir for a couple of minutes to make sure the rice is well coated with the ghee. You can turn down the heat if the rice is sticking to the pan.
Now add the stock, or water and salt or stock cube. Turn heat to high and stir gently until the water is boiling.

Turn heat to very low and cover pan with lid.

In about 13-15 minutes check that the rice is nicely cooked, it should be dry and soft, no liquid. You may wish to let it sit for ten minutes off the heat at this point. It will stay piping hot. Gently stir as the grains of rice are very fragile so that the rice becomes separate and not stuck together.