Faux Risotto of Squid

I headed out to the suburbs recently to watch a cooking demonstration inside a big fancy kitchen store.

Not being averse to buying multitudes of shiny expensive things at various times in my life, I find myself naturally at home in kitchen stores. Perusing the many isles and fondling crockery. Asking the difference between all the different pressure cookers, running my fingers across the knife blades to feel how sharp they are, and making a coffee on whichever mostly automatic machine they have setup on a bench, just to marvel at how bad it is.

The main reason I was there though, was that the cooking demonstration was being given by Hadleigh Troy, head chef of Restaurant Amuse, and not your average chef. So when I saw “squid risotto” on the menu, I knew it wasn’t going to be the kind of squid risotto your Nonna might have made.

Hadleigh takes an approach to his cooking that borders on the experimental. His use of sophisticated techniques and a focus on textural elements means his food is always unconventional, but always within the bounds of good taste. This “risotto” was no different.

The idea being that instead of cooking rice, you’re actually *making* rice out of squid. Boom. Mind explosion.

Ok, so it may not be the craziest thing you’ve ever heard (I did in fact see Mark Best from Marque Restaurant in Sydney make a similar dish on the Martha Stewart “Australia Week” show last year), but it was novel and delicious, and so I just had to try it myself.

Of course squid is not the same as rice. Arborio or Carnaroli rice commonly used for risotto is a starchy grain. over the period of time you cook it slowly in stock it releases the starch into the liquid which creates the beautiful creamy texture. We need to fake that with the squid version, and so the base “stock” we’re using is actually a cauliflower puree.

And so the recipe goes a little like this:

Recipe: Squid “Risotto”


  • 4 x squid tubes
  • 1 x onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 x clove garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 x cauliflower
  • ~ 1/2 Litre of milk
  • 1 x small bunch dill
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Jamon Serrano (Cured Spanish ham – to garnish)


  • Put the squid tubes into the freezer til they are partially frozen, this makes it much easier to cut them up
  • Cut the squid tubes open, lay them flat, and using a sharp knife, very finely slice each tube into tiny “grain sized” pieces.
  • Cut your cauliflower into pieces and put it into a pot with enough milk to cover it, and simmer it gently til soft (I actually used a Thermomix to heat mine, but the concept is the same).
  • Once the cauli is cooked til soft, drain most of the milk and blend it til it’s a very fine puree. Keep the milk and add it slowly til you get a smooth consistency that’s not too runny.
  • In a hot pan with some olive oil, quickly fry your garlic and onions til soft and golden, then add the squid “rice” and fry over a high sheet for about a minute, until it’s just changing colour.
  • Pour the cauli puree into the rice, and stir through, seasoning with salt and pepper, and a little butter.
  • Finish the dish on the plate with a healthy sprinkling of dill (or other fresh herbs) and a slice of jamon serrano.

Serves: 4

And there you have it. From the shoulders of giants… I served this dish up to some seafood loving friends and it got a great response. I’m not sure I’d go through the pain of cutting squid into rice grain sized pieces on a regular basis, but the textural “crunch” of the squid, and the richness of the cauliflower puree was a great combination that was definitely worth the effort.

Squid "Risotto" riceifiedNautilus Sauvingon BlancThermomixed Cauliflower pureeSquid "Risotto"Squid "Risotto"Squid "Risotto"

Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto Milanese

Whenever I want to rediscover my love of cooking, I go back to the classics. The dishes that I learnt to cook years ago and which have brought me many moments of good eating. For me, that dish is risotto.

In the fanciful youth of this blog I cooked risotto all the time. I was mad for it. I’d toil away with ladle after ladle of stocks (chicken, lamb, duck, mushroom), experimenting with types of rice (Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone Nano), and generally throwing anything into them that I thought might work. Cream, cheese, wine, champagne, fistfuls of parmesan and knobs of butter, all absorbed into the mess that were my creations.

I used to be under the impression that you could make anything into a risotto… and in following that theory I came up with a Chinese risotto, a Japanese Risotto with wasabi, a beef and red wine risotto, and curried chicken risotto. All of which seemed like a good idea at the time, but now haunt my blog like the ghost of bad cooking past, only to appear when a lonely web searcher puts a few fatefully wrong keywords into their search engine.

These days I’ve gone a little more classical with my eating and cooking. I lean towards clean flavours, simple combinations of a few main elements with as little bastardisation of styles as possible. There’s nothing wrong with experimenting of course, but I think you need to know the basics before you can really appreciate anything expanding on it.

So the risotto milanese is one of the most classic forms around. It’s essentially a plain risotto flavoured with saffron and parmesan (and traditionally bone marrow). It’s often paired with Osso Buco for a power packed duo of formidable comfort food.

Saffron risotto & Snapper [ redux ] King Snapper

My risotto starts out with finely chopped onion, sautéed in olive oil and a little butter til it’s soft and translucent. At this point I add in a cup or two of rice, tending to favour carnaroli for it’s high level of starch which results in a particularly creamy consistency. The rice gets tossed through the oil and onion mixture until it’s well coated, at which point I turn up the heat just slightly and add a cup of dry white wine (It doesn’t have to be great wine, but generally something you’d drink).

From there the magic of the risotto begins. A pot of chicken stock sits side by side the risotto pan, and I take a ladleful at a time pouring it into the risotto and stirring gently til it absorbs into the rice. You don’t want to rush this process, but people who think it takes hours to make a risotto should not be put off.

The absorption process takes a little time, but the rest of the bottle of wine sitting next to you (this is why it’s important to use something you’d drink) makes it a leisurely affair of stirring and swirling and tasting that I often get lost in the simplicity of (read: I get drunk while cooking).

There are a couple of different ways to add the saffron to the dish. One being to add it to the stock, and the other being to infuse it in some warm water to draw out the colour, and then add the liquid and strands to the risotto towards the end. I normally use a hybrid approach, and have adopted a little trick I saw on a cooking show, whereby the chef crushed some saffron threads in a mortar and pestle with some salt. Creating a rich yellow saffron salt that both seasons the dish and imbues it with saffron flavour. Stingy cooks beware though…a generous dose of saffron is necessary for the richness of flavour this dish deserves.

Then as the rice is becoming softer and closer to that elusive “al dente” we hear so much about, I add a final addition of a large knob of butter and a good handful or two of parmesan cheese (freshly grated is always best, generally a nice Reggiano). This gives the risotto it’s final glossy appearance and creamy texture (without adding any cream).

A quick season with salt and pepper at the finish and this dish is complete. I quite enjoy it on it’s own, or as the base to a host of other options. In the photos above you’ll see I served the risotto under some pan fried fish (Pearl Snapper), that was fried in butter. A combination that I think worked quite nicely, but not one you need to follow.

Because If you’re anything like me, you don’t follow recipes prescriptively, you take a bunch of starting points and references and then head off on your own merry dance… often at your own peril. But when it all comes together and you put that first spoonful into your mouth and it tastes like liquid gold dripped from the wings of angels… It makes all your efforts that little bit more worthwhile.

There’s a buco in my osso

Osso Buco - slow cooking Osso Buco with Sweet Potato mash

Osso buco, that perfect slab of unctuousness coaxed into melt in your mouth tenderness by a luxurious slow cooking. Would you believe that up until a few years ago I had no idea what it even was ? I assumed it was one of those things on the menu at an Italian restaurant that I would never order. Much like gnocchi and saltimbocca (not that I have anything against them, I just haven’t had a good one).

So it wasn’t until I started getting interested in the slow food movement, and slow cooking specifically as a means to softening up less appealing cuts of meat, that I decided it was time to try making osso buco for myself. I’ve had some success with my oxtail dish – coda alla vaccinara, which ranks on my list of tastiest dishes I’ve made in recent times, so I was hoping that the marrow would work it’s magic in this too, and I haven’t been disappointed.

Now normally my recipes on the site are pretty slap dash. Yes they work, and most of them I’d be happy to cook again… but for whatever reason I don’t. I get bored, I wander off, I forget. My attention span is about as short as a three year old in a cafe drawing pictures with colouring pens (actually probably less, because she was good Ed :)). So it’s a testament to taste if I write about something more than once, and if it gets adopted into my regular stable of dishes, then it’s pure gold.

So clearly risotto in it’s many forms is on that list… as is anything containing chorizo in it, and poached eggs. A chorizo risotto with a poached egg on top may just my ultimate mash up dish, but now I’m getting distracted again…

Back to the Osso Buco.

The recipe I based mine around is a simpler version of the common ones, with a few small twists. I personally don’t think carrots and celery add much to the flavour (well they do, but not in a good way), and I much prefer red wine to white wine for the cooking. This is for once something that I’ve taken to refining a little over the many times I’ve made it now. So you my appreciative audience can benefit from my willingness to rinse and repeat this one a few times over to get it just right.
You still don’t get exact measurements though… they’re for the weak :)

Osso Buco alla Matt

The ingredients

  • 4 chunky pieces of osso buco – Veal seems to popular but if you’re a little different you can think outside the box and take the hole in the bone definition to whichever kind of meat you like. Other examples would be venison, or a very tasty lamb osso buco, that I tried recently after asking the boys at “Meat The Butcher” (still love that name) in Dog Swamp Shopping centre to slice up some lamb shanks for me.
  • flour for dusting
  • 2 onions – chopped finely
  • 4 – 5 cloves garlic – chopped finely
  • 2 cans tinned roma tomatoes (home made if you got em), and extra passata
  • a bottle of red wine (you won’t use it all, but it’s good to have while you’re cooking)
  • sea salt and cracked pepper.
  • some parsley if you like

How I make mine

So dust the osso buco in flour and shake off any excess, then in a hot pan fry them in olive oil until they’re a golden brown colour all over. Then take them out of the pan to rest a bit and wait for their time back in the sun.

Now add some more oil to the pan and throw in your chopped onions and a little garlic. Cook them slowly down until they’re soft and then bring back the osso buco, laying them on top of a little onion bed, and dousing thoroughly with red wine (1 or 2 cups), pureed tomatoes (1 or 2 cans), and a sprinkling of garlic.

You now turn the heat right down on the pan, making sure that the osso buco are arranged so that they lie flat in the pan, and are mostly covered by the liquid, adding more tomato passata or wine to bring the level up. This is where the magic happens.
Try and find something productive to do for the next few hours while the wine and heat work their way into the sinews and activate the marrow in the middle of the bones. Personally I don’t think you can cook this for long enough (given that you have plenty of liquid so it doesn’t dry out). The longer you cook it, the more mouth wateringly tender it will become.

Along the way, you may want to give it a season with salt and pepper, and somewhere towards the end sprinkle over some more garlic and parsley, give that another half an hour and you’re done.

Be careful taking them out of the pan, as by this stage (2 hours + later) they should be falling away from the bone without you doing anything.

I’ve served mine over a variety of side dishes, a sweet potato mash, a regular potato mash, a pearl barley risotto alla milanese (not as great as it sounds), and I’m also thinking polenta would be fantastic.

Traditionally in Milan it’s served over the risotto alla milanese ( a rich saffron risotto ) with gremolata on top. Not that I’m much of one for tradition, but they are seriously onto something with this combination.

Give this one a shot, it’s 2 hours of your life you won’t get back, but the 30 minutes of eating it afterwards will totally make up for it :)

Lamb Osso Buco - Pearl Barley Risotto alla Milanese

Butternut Pumpkin Risotto

Butternut Pumpkin Risotto with Chorizo flakes

So in lieu of actually writing a new post, I’m resorting to the quintessential one I prepared earlier… this was dinner from a few nights ago… however the recipe is a little ripper that I pulled together last year, formerly Double Pumpkin Risotto, but now refactored into single pumpkin (downsizing is inevitable these days).

Butternut Pumpkin Risotto

  • Risotto rice (Aborio, or even better Carnaroli)
  • Half a butternut pumpkin
  • Leek
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Cream
  • Chicken stock
  • White wine (I used unwooded chardonnay, but i don’t think that’s significant, I just wanted to let you know)
  • fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

How I Made Mine

This one will again be pretty short on specifics because I’ve made so many risottos that writing out the specific technique in detail again is like running my nails down a black board.

So suffice to say you make a risotto like you normally would. Fry the onions/leek/garlic in some butter or olive oil and then add the rice. Coat the rice in the veges and then add the wine, maybe a cup or so. Once the wine has absorbed, start adding the chicken stock (which has been simmering on the stove nearby) a ladle full at a time.

The different thing about this dish though, is the pumpkin purée. I made mine by chopping up the pumpkin into little chunks and putting it into a pot of salted water to boil until soft but not falling apart. When the boiled pumpkin is done, drain it, and put it into a blender along with some thickened cream, salt and pepper, and purée until it’s a nice smooth texture throughout. Seasoning or adding more cream until you get the consistency you’re after… which should be a thick liquid.

So once the risotto is about half way cooked, add the pumpkin purée and stir it through well. The moisture in the purée will continue to be absorbed by the rice, so let it simmer for a while and soften up, before finishing off with a good handful of grated parmesan. I also sprinkled chopped chorizo flakes over the top, which had been quickly fried til slightly crispy.

A delicious winter warmer if ever there was one…

Fennel, Lime & Tatsoi Risotto with Backstrap of Lamb

Fennel, Lime & Tatsoi Risotto with Rare Spiced Lamb

I think learning to make my first risotto was one of the steps that launched me into the world of real cooking. I’d seen so many TV chefs making fancy looking dishes and thought they sounded so involved and elaborate as to be out of reach to the common home cook. So when I first decided to throw caution to the wind and have a go myself, It was with great delight and virtual high fives that I managed to make something actually come out the way it looked in the books.

These days though, I’m almost reaching risotto overkill. It’s still my goto dish when I can’t think of anything else to cook, but it doesn’t hold the same interest as it used to, to the point where it’s almost getting a little passe. I whip out my usual set of ingredients, follow the standard mantra of onions, garlic, leek, butter, rice, wine, and stock, and away we go. Add a bit of this, a bit of that… more stock, and it’s all done.

So I won’t bore you with the details of how I made this dish, other than to say check out any of my other risotto recipes for a more indepth explanation of the process. I think the name says it all really…

Fennel, Lime & Tatsoi Risotto with Rare Spiced Backstrap of Lamb

Points of interest are that I used backstrap of lamb, which is one of the tenderest, juiciest, most deliciousousest (I just wrote that you make you all sound like freaks while you’re reading this) cuts of lamb you will find. It’s not cheap mind… It comes in long thin pieces and was $35/kg from Mondo’s in Inglewood… I have yet to find a cheap Chinese butcher equivalent because apparently they aren’t so keen on lamb.

I basically seasoned the lamb strips with my normal quasi-middle eastern spice profile of olive oil, cumin, fennel, coriander seeds, and lots of salt and pepper. Then seared it quickly in a hot pan with a little butter on both sides… Not for too long as it’s quite a lean piece of meat, and should be served towards rare (in my carnivorous opinion).

Other notes were the lime and fennel in the risotto. I added quite a bit of lime zest and then the juice of a whole lime to lighten the risotto up. I didn’t want it to be too heavy as the lamb would be there for that. The fennel was added later on so it didn’t break down entirely, just got quite soft, and then some Tatsoi was stirred through right at the last minute. You might be familiar with Tatsoi as a salad ingredient. It’s a leafy asian green related to bok choy somehow (I think she married his uncles second cousin)… and it has a real peppery kick to it. Something a bit different anyway.

It all turned out so nicely that I made it twice in the same week :) When food tastes this nice, you can call me passe anyday…

Duck Breast with Shitake Mushroom Risotto

Shitake Mushroom & Almond Risotto with Star Anise Duck Breast

Another quick post here because I’m running behind and no doubt my hordes of loyal readers are clicking refresh each morning only to form a look of disdain as the same tired rhetoric comes up.

A simple seared duck breast and shitake mushroom risotto. The duck breast was rubbed with a spice mixture that I guess might almost equate to Chinese Five Spice if you broke it down. There was Star Anise, Cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds…so ok… four spice if you want to be picky. Dry roasted them in a pan and crushed in the mortar and pestle and then rubbed it into the duck on the skin side. Season with a little olive oil and salt (for good luck), and then place into a hot pan skin side down to sear. Once the skin is nice and crispy, flip it over and seal the bottom, before popping it into the oven to finish off.

The Shitake mushrooms I used were dried. So I soaked them in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes before using them. This had the added benefit of giving me some intense mushroom flavoured water to use in the stock, which was topped up with chicken stock and white wine.

The risotto is made as you would any other. Leeks, onion, garlic, sweat…add rice, coat, add stock x lots, add mushrooms and other bits towards the end, wait til its getting soft but still has a bit of bite… and you’re done.

One thing I have noticed is that if you leave it too long to serve and eat your risotto then it will continue cooking from the heat trapped in the body of rice, and pretty soon you’ll have overcooked stodgy rice puffs, rather than the creamy smooth risotto of 10 minutes beforehand.

Shitake Mushroom & Almond Risotto with Star Anise Duck Breast Star Anise Seared Duck Breast

So after the risotto is done, slice your duck breast in nice sexy little pieces, and layer lovingly on top of the plate, with a sprig or two of fresh coriander for decoration and sensory juxtaposition.