Weekend cooking: A first time for everything

I’m not quite sure why I decided to do it but I finally did.

I made risotto.

That little box of arborio rice has been sitting in my pantry for a few months now. Untouched. Hidden away.

While I love to zoom in on risotto in restaurants, the thought of making it had always seemed so daunting. Too complicated. And turns out, it wasn’t.

Here I should explain that the risotto I cooked would probably appall any Italian. I just used whatever I had in my fridge and pantry which meant no wine, no Parmesan, essential ingredients for a good risotto! Instead I made a simple shiitake mushroom peas and edamame risotto with Gouda cheese. And yeah the edamame and peas were the frozen kind. Then I added a little lime juice (no lemons on hand) for a hint of extra freshness. Sorry, it’s an iphone photo.

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Yet it turned out well! It was tasty and creamy and just the perfect lunch for a rainy day. It didn’t take too long to cook either, as long as it usually takes me to cook rice porridge, except with a bit more stirring and tasting (with rice porridge it’s better when soft but risotto really needs to be al dente).

I was glad I gave risotto a try! I’m definitely going to try out different ingredients next time. Prawns and peas. Butternut squash. Asparagus and mushrooms. Plenty of ideas to try!

Another kitchen experiment this week was the cooking of Brussels sprouts for the first time. Brussels sprouts don’t really feature in Asian cooking and I can count the number of times I’ve eaten them on one hand. An absolutely yummy brown butter version at Perbacco, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco, in particular stands out. It made me want more! So I tried to replicate that, with plenty of garlic, butter and some lime juice (I really need to get lemons). It was great. And wee reader enjoyed it so much he had it three dinners in a row.

Another first was our Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve been in the US for three thanksgivings so far. The first was at a lovely Chinese restaurant with friends (foie gras fried rice!), the second at another friend’s house for a potluck dinner, complete with turkey, Chinese roast meats and a ridiculous number of desserts. The next year we were in Singapore and so no Thanksgiving there. This year we went a different route and invited a few other Singaporeans over for a hotpot dinner. A hotpot meal isn’t as complicated as a turkey dinner. Chop up the vegetables (here I used napa cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, bunashimeiji, carrots), dice the tofu, set out the presliced meats (beef and black pork) and other assorted items from the supermarket like an oden set, cuttlefish and fish balls, fish cakes. And of course prepare the broths – we had picked up a dual pot from the Asian supermarket so two broths were needed – one was a miso-based soup and the other more of a vegetable stock. On hindsight I would’ve liked to have something more spicy, maybe a tom yum soup type thing. And to finish, an almond jelly with longan.

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Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs.

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17 comments

  1. Beth F

    I adore risotto and make it at least once a month. Your table for the hotpot looks fantastic. I’d love to be one of the diners.

  2. Claire (The Captive Reader)

    I only made risotto for the first time this year, having always been intimidated by it, and now it is one of my stand-bys. So easy! So versatile! And so very delicious! Your hotpot spread also looks delicious.

  3. Janel

    Your risotto sounds tasty, but I love your hotpot! I would like to try making one someday. I think my picky eater son would enjoy having the choice to make whatever he wants.

    • olduvai

      Thanks for stopping by, Janel. Hotpot is a great – and relatively simple – dinner for a big group and for picky eaters of all kinds!

  4. JoV

    My friend from Singapore came over last October and brought a hotpot which sits on a hot plate from Singapore. We have a ball with the soup and the grill. I hope you enjoy it!

  5. Heather

    I havew made rissotto a few times and loved it. Am now afraid to try it at a restaurant incase I don’t like their version.

    How do you proceed with the hotpot once you have everything set out like in your photo? I’ve not had it and haven’t heard about it.

    • olduvai

      Hi Heather, hotpot is pretty much free and easy! It’s best to drop in the vegetables and shiitake mushrooms in the broth first as they take a while to cook. Each person gets a pair of chopsticks and a ladle, and it’s best to use these to gently swish the sliced meat in the broth so that it gets just cooked. We like to dip it in a Japanese-style sesame dressing or a Taiwanese ‘barbecue’ sauce. As the dinner moves on, the soup just gets tastier and tastier with all the meat and seafood and vegetables cooked in it.

  6. michelle

    I love risotto and it is easier to make then we think. I remember the first time I made it; it is really all about the constant stirring.

    • olduvai

      Hi Michelle, thanks for stopping by! Risotto just has that image of being difficult to make, and I’ve been fooled too long! :P