“What to do for tea tonight?” That was going round my head all afternoon. I didn’t have anything in specifically and I had no inspiration.
Then a rummage through my freezer unearthed the last of the Scallops my friend brought round and also the last of the Salmon side I had portioned up a few months back.
Then it hit me.
Last week I had bought some Arborio rice from Lidl. This is not a line they usually do. And also in the same shopping trip, I had bought some Pecorino cheese. Pecorino is the sheep’s version of Parmesan. I had a portion of frozen peas left and some lemons in the fridge. “It’s all there.” I thought.
I defrosted the Scallops and a large amount of liquid came off them so as not to waste anything this was the first liquid added to the rice.
To make a Risotto, first gently fry some finely chopped onion or shallot and a clove of garlic. Then fry the rice as well till it goes slightly translucent, then you can start adding your liquid. As I said the scallop juice went in first, followed by my home-made chicken stock.
Keep adding the stock and keep stirring – it releases the starch which makes your risotto creamy. Near the end of the cooking add a good handful of the cheese and the juice of a Lemon.
Then I put my salmon into a frying pan and, as before, I fried the skin side till it was nice and crispy and then turned it over.
When I turned the salmon over , I also put the Scallops in to fry as well.
While this was cooking, I made the pea purée.
I took my peas and microwaved them in some water till cooked. I then drained the water off and blitzed the peas with a knob of butter and some of my stock till smooth.
There you go, all your bits are made and ready to serve. All you need is a twist of black pepper and you’re away.
This cries out “Drink white wine with me!” which the missus did. I had a glass of Shiraz, which I thought was also a good partner, as the risotto had a pungency that could match the wine.
It was bloody fantastic. I do like that risotto/fish combination and I will be doing it again for sure.
There had been no significant plans to do anything like this before I started it. To be honest, I was expecting us to be eating leftover soup… but then, a little bit of inspiration and cupboard-surfing later, we had a full on meal to eat.
Down at the allotment, a couple of days before, we’d rescued the last of the leeks – and whilst they were past their prime, they were still perfectly edible. Ideal for soup. We also had some potatoes that were also getting a little bit beyond themselves. Ideal for soup, too. So a ‘Vichysoise’ was planned.
I had a fresh chicken stock I’d made (see Mugsie’s article – the only thing different was I threw in 4 garlic cloves) and the potatoes and leeks. Chop, season, chuck together and cook. Job done.
Vichysoise is just ‘Leek & Potato’ soup, but served cold – ideal for summers. It was raining when we had it, so it stayed hot, with some leftover for the next day.
So what has any of this got to do with black rice? Well, I’ll tell you…
The next evening, I looked at the soup and realised two things. Firstly, there wasn’t really enough for two as a meal, and second, the starches had broken down overnight and left a soup you could almost eat with a knife and fork. It would liquefy a little when warmed through but I looked at it and thought, why couldn’t I use this as a sauce – it was tasty, savoury and already there and waiting.
Next started the search for things to put with it. In a cupboard I found a bag of black rice that I had picked up a few months ago the last time I visited a Chinese supermarket. I’d never eaten it or cooked with it before which was the main reason I’d bought it… and then I’d never got around to doing anything with it. I thought that the colours of the two things would be perfect… black rice and white sauce (almost) – it would be like McCartney & Wonder all over again.
I also had a pack of lean beef mince that I’d bought to make meatballs with at some point – ok, it could be a bit wierd… but there was the inspiration behind this next recipe.
Black Rice with Spicy Meatballs and Savoury Sauce.
Lean beef mince – 1 pack
Black Rice – 1 cup
Onion – 1 finely chopped
Pecorino or Parmesan Cheese – 1 large handful, finely grated
Garlic Powder – a hefty spoonful
Ground Black Pepper – a hefty spoonful
Paprika (HOT/PICANTE) – 2 hefty spoonful
Breadcrumbs – 2 handfuls
Smoked Salt – a hefty spoonful
and, of course, you pre-prepared ‘sauce’
There weren’t any cooking instructions on the back of the rice packet, so I started with a basic – 1 cup of rice/2 cups of water absorption method. But when I put a cup of rice into the pan, it didn’t really look like that much, and when I tipped out the rest of the pack, it came to 2 cups of dry rice in total. OK, so there might be a bit left over but better that than starve… right?
This was a tactical error!! It needed more water in the cooking process. Probably ending up with something nearer a 4:1 ratio. And I ended up with enough rice to resurface my driveway. We definitely weren’t going to starve!
Curious stuff this black rice. When it’s done, it is very much a ‘sticky’ rice. Which isn’t a bad thing. It has a nutty flavour and when it is cooking in the pan it looks like you are simmering up a bowl of crude oil! But just the colour alone adds a great visual impact to the plate – although, as you will see later, my presentation isn’t going to win any prizes (but definitely a couple for taste!)
To make the meat balls you basically combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and thoroughly squish it together with your hands. This is one of those jobs that I really enjoy in the kitchen – you get messy and really hands on. You shouldn’t need anything other than the breadcrumbs to bind the mixture together and when it is mixed well, form it into balls and set to one side. [I actually made mine a bit more long than round, so maybe they should be called something a bit different like ‘oblongalls’?]
So your rice is nearly cooked.
Your meat just needs browning off in a frying pan – 5 mins each side.
Warm your sauce through, drain the rice and your ready to serve. A final touch of luxury is to just stir a little salted butter through the rice to give it a wonderful glaze.
Plate up – hopefully a little more artistically than I did and tuck in. (Apologies for the gratuitous tomatoes and basil leaf – they were purely added for a splash of colour and added nothing to the dish whatsoever!)
The meatballs and black rice went together really well, but the real revelation was using the soup as a sauce. It was just the right amount of richness and intensity of flavour to bring the other ingredients together.
Watch out for Black Rice II, the sequel… I told you I made too much of the bloody stuff!