Tuesday, November 07, 2006

November 5, 2006: Risotto cakes

Michael hopped into a taxi, off to Cairns, at about 2:00 and the afternoon stretched out in front of me. My main task was to prepare something for dinner that would hopefully extend to a few weekday lunches too. I spread out some cookbooks, searching for a recipe, something that I like more than Michael does. I've always enjoyed a good mushroom risotto and the only way to make this creamy treat even more decadent is to crumb and fry it! I used a recipe for chestnut risotto cakes that I've made a couple of times before, though not for well over a year. I've always replaced the chestnuts with a smaller amount of pine nuts, and usually used fresh mushrooms instead of dried porcinis. This time we had some dried porcinis at home from Mediterranean Wholesalers, so I gave 'em a go.

These are at their best with a squeeze of lemon juice and mountain of fresh greens (they assuage a bit of the guilt that goes along with this pleasure). The polenta crust is crunchy, the centre is gooey with cheese, and the mushrooms and pine nuts are dots of extra flavour. These risotto cakes are also pretty good at room temperature, and I've taken a big flat lunchbox of them (garnished with the recommended lemon and greens) to a picnic with great success. On this evening I settled in with something of a chick flick and tackled my plate with relish. A girl, even a girl home alone with a chick flick, doesn't need dessert after a dinner as indulgent as this.

Risotto Cakes
(adapted from Chestnut Risotto Cakes in CookSmart(TM) Vegetarian)

15g dried porcini mushrooms
100mL hot water
80g pine nuts
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
500mL vege stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
175g arborio rice
30g butter (I used 50g and thought this was too much)
75g parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g polenta
vegetable oil for shallow-frying
lemon wedges and mixed salad greens to serve

1. Pour the hot water over the porcinis in a small bowl and let them soak for at least 10 minutes. While you're waiting, dry roast the pine nuts in a frypan for a couple of minutes. Keep an eye on them because they can go from golden to burnt quickly! Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic.

2. Drain the mushrooms and strain the liquid they were in. Pour the mushroom liquid into a small saucepan, along with the stock, and heat it (no need to boil). Chop up the mushrooms. Haul out a large saucepan, heat the olive oil in it, add the rice and stir to coat the grains in oil.

3. Add the hot stock to the rice and bring it all to the boil. Reduce the heat, put the lid on ajar, and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the stock is absorbed. You don't need to be quite as fussy as you would with a traditional risotto, but make sure it's not sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Transfer the rice to a large bowl.

4. While the rice is absorbing the stock, pull out yet another frypan. Melt the butter and gently cook the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes. Once the rice is in the bowl, add the onion along with the mushrooms, pine nuts, cheese and egg. Mix well.

5. I find this step a bit easier to do once the mix has cooled a bit, so consider putting it in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Pour the polenta out on a plate. Scoop out generous dessertspoonfuls of risotto and shape them into little patties, rolling them in the polenta. You'll probably find that a few pine nuts fall out. Eat 'em up now, they're too expensive to waste and oh so tasty! Heat the vege oil, half a centimetre deep in the now-empty onion pan, and fry the patties until golden. More pine nuts might escape and fry solo. Scoop 'em out and wait for them to cool before you eat them. Drain the patties briefly on absorbant paper before serving on a bed of salad leaves. Don't forget the lemon juice!



  1. My lovely Italian neighbour always sends some of these little babies over our way. She's the best and so are risotto cakes! Yours looks wonderful.

  2. Lucky you, jenjen!

    I've been enjoying your blog for a while, BTW. Beautiful photography, and the emphasis on sweets and baking certainly appeals to me. :-)