Hi Everyone, I am still in a field in Shropshire so today to tempt your taste buds, you have Linda from With Knife and Fork. Enjoy and I will see you all soon. Happy Cooking! Jo
With monotonous regularity someone somewhere will go on about how an education system founded in “the 3 Rs” is just what we need to get back to basics and raise standards. Its always worried me a little that these three R’s don’t all start with “R”, hasn’t anyone but me spotted or is it phonetics for adults. Perhaps, despite the huff and puff that is was better in the past, its assumed those basics didn’t ever get through and so none of us know that only Reading actually begins with the letter R and that wRiting and aRithmetic start with other letters than “R”. Granted the “W” in wRiting is pretty silent in pronunciation but the “A” in ARithmetic isn’t, although there is an argument the R is for ‘Reckoning’ not ‘aRithmetic’. But the fundamental point of the three R’s is: get the basics right and all the rest will follow as day follows night. There is at least a grain of truth in the idea that basics are important but it’s usually touted at the cost of freedom to experiment. It’s as if only one approach can work, basics or experimenting, not both. Perhaps we should find a place for AND instead of OR because in reality you need some of both to get along.
And so it is with cooking, no idea of the basics can lead to a fear of making mistakes, thinking things are harder then they are and perhaps not even trying to cook. Too great a spirit of experimentation can give us inedible dishes and disasters (from experienced chef and novice alike), whilst sticking to the tried and tested without daring to experiment leads to never trying anything new. A lack of one or other means no chance of looking in the fridge and working out how to create an interesting meal from what is there to hand. Knowing what might work together doesn’t only come from having cooked for years and around every cuisine. It can come from a wider range of places, meals others have cooked, cookbooks flicked through, food programs watched and magazines studied. We might think there is too much by way of TV programs, books, magazines, new places to eat, food blogs but each can form a part of someone’s education about food and cooking. If more people are inspired to get in the kitchen for whatever reason to learn some basics AND experiment then we are a little nearer to better food.
So in a spirit of using basics and experimenting here is “Three P’s Risotto”, cooked up by me using a technique I know, ingredients I had and a bit of background knowledge but without following a recipe. Here are the P’s:
P1 = Parmesan
P2 = Pancetta
P3 = Peas (fresh in this case but they could be frozen)
All three were lurking in my fridge this week and all needing to be used up. Rice and legumes are a classic combination in more than one cuisine, I know this from books but I’ve never actually cooked Risi e Bisi or Caribbean Rice and Peas. But knowing they exist and knowing the basics of risotto making means I can look in the fridge and come up with my own variation that, whilst it might make an Italian Nona turn in her grave, certainly tasted pretty good and was nice and easy too.
Here’s what I used and how I made it, for two people:
- 4oz risotto rice
- 1 mug/cup of shelled peas (frozen is fine)
- 1 pack of ready cubed pancetta
- 1 onion chopped
- as much or as little Parmesan as you like or have to hand
- 1 glass white wine
- 500ml of stock (water will do)
- oil, olive for preference but what ever you normally use
- Heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion over a low heat until translucent (about 10mins).
- Add the pancetta and cook for several minutes.
- Add the rice and cook, stirring for 2 minutes to coat in oil.
- Add the glass of wine and bring to the simmer, stir, keep simmering until the wine has nearly gone, stir regularly but there is no need to stir continuously.
- Add the stock (best if its already hot) a ladleful at a time and continue cooking at a simmer and stirring regularly, as the stock is absorbed add another ladle full until it’s nearly all used.
- Test the rice to see if it’s nearly cooked. It should still have a bit of bite. This can take anything from 20-40 minutes I find that despite what lots of books say it’s rare for it to take under 30 minutes. Maybe I’m not doing it right, so what!
- Add the peas and cook for a few minutes more. Add the Parmesan reserving some for people to add at the table.
- Serve. Season at table. Add more Parmesan if you wish. Eat. Enjoy.
And if you don’t have peas well broad beans would work too and of course it could work with bacon or even salami or just with the peas. If you don’t have risotto rice well then look what you do have and adapt it to pasta or some kind of pilau or stir fry with the things you do have. Whichever way some knowledge of basics and some experimentation will stand you in good stead. Simple tasty. Not authentic but it’s good and you made it yourself.