Saturday, June 14, 2008

pompeiian risotto

i know, i missed a day yesterday. i've been really tired lately and yesterday friday just got the better of me. it was all i could do to re-heat some pasta and crawl into bed.

but today is saturday and i've been to the bike shop for a new pannier rack for tom, done some shopping, weeded and mulched the veggie patch and now i'm ready for a nap.

but first a little rice and some dating advice.

first the rice. mushroom risotto is one of my favourite things to eat, well any risotto really. that mixture of rice, stock, butter and cheese is irresistible! i've always just made risotto up as i go along, but this time i thought i try a real risotto recipe, from Maurizio Terzini's Something Italian.

The following recipe is straight from the book

Risotto con porcini e grana
  • 2 litres chicken stock
  • 200g dried porcini
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 200ml olive oil
  • 400g shiitake, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 200g field mushrooms, cut into bite sized pieces
  • freshly picked thyme leaves
  • 1 large onion roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 500g arborio
  • 100ml dry white wine
  • 300g grated grana padama
  • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
1. bring stock and porcini to boil and then reduce to simmer
2. in heavy based pan melt 50g butter and half the oil until the butter has melted. had shiitake and field mushrooms and thyme and gently fry 5-6 minutes, until soft. remove from heat.
3. in a large, heavy based pan fry the onion and garlic in 50g butter and the rest of the oil until soft, but not coloured. add the rice and stir gently until combined
4. add wine and simmer gently until liquid has evaporated. season.
5. add a ladlefull of warm stock/porcini at a time until the liquid has evaporated, until rice is al dente.
6. add the mushrooms and simmer for 5 minutes until rice is cooked and the liquid reduced. remove from heat and stir through cheese, parsley and remaining butter

now there are a couple of things i changed:
i only used 20g of porcini (this was dried, maybe once re-hydrated their weight increases drastically). due to them being exorbitantly price i also only used 200g of shiitake. but i don't think it was a problem. the risotto still had plenty of mushroom taste. i probably used more butter too, but maybe less cheese...... i must be ill.

also this is listed as serving 4. this is probably true if you're hosting three very large men who have just come down from Everest followed by a few quick laps around the football oval in the pouring rain. or red army members just in from the long march, or so forth. i got a VERY large portion for dinner and then five lunches out of this. so the cost of the mushrooms was worth it. it was also seriously, seriously good. really really really. i suspect i will only ever make mushroom risotto this way from now on.

now for the history part of Rome week. Pompeii is a really fascinating part of ancient history, and one that most people are familiar with, to one extent or another. most people know that mount Vesuvius, near the bay of Naples, erupted on 24 August AD 79, covering the city of Pompeii with ash and pumice, and the neighbouring city of Herculaneum with lava and mud.

one of the interesting things about the explosion is how much we can learn from it. firstly from a first hand account from Pliny the Younger, written up by the historian Tacitus. of course from an archaeological point of view it offers a snap shot in time. the cities are preserved pretty much as they were on that fateful day, including houses, public buildings, the locals and their dogs, all buried under the ash or mud. and for archaeologists it is a great dating tool. wall paintings survive that allow pretty much spot on dating tools (up until the end of the first century AD of course), and regardless of location wall frescoes are described as first, second, third or fourth Pompeian style. it also tells as a lot about daily life, preserving sites that would have decayed and rotted away, or be destroyed during military conflict in so many other settings. of course there are also the gruesome casts of those who died, and the nudie pictures from the brothels that either hold either shock value or titillation for so many. there are also many lessons to be learnt about how to totally bugger up excavation and conservation.

tomorrow is the last day of rome week. have not decided what i'll go about then. will be eating minestrone, but not sure about the history

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