When Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard is Bare…

July 2, 2009 at 2:59 am (Uncategorized)

It really is nice weather we’re having, by the way. Another perfect and surprisingly warm day here in Man Town and I am feeling fine. I still haven’t had that coffee… I’m wondering if I should try and kick the habit since I’ve gone these last days without it and lived, though barely, to tell the tale. Maybe it should become an occasional treat instead of a daily fix… I mean, ritual. I could not tell you the last time I went five days without a cup of coffee or two. Or three. No, three was increasingly rare. Two pretty standard. But now I’m wondering if I should see what happens. And things are indeed starting to happen. A carton of milk has gone off, for starters. I normally barrel through 2 L every few days because I drink white coffee, so this is unheard of in the House of J. But I caught a whiff this morning as I splashed a drop into my tea that made me have to check the use-by date for the first time in I don’t even know how long. Ew. I kind of want a coffee, and I kind of want to deprive myself of it. I’m not sure which is the real sickness.

Anyway, I’m going to tell you about my pot luck risotto, because it really happened out of sheer desperation. It was Monday, and I was in no mood for a trip to the supermarket or Harris Farm Market to buy supplies. Truth be told, I didn’t even feel like cooking, but I knew Llew would be home late because it was end-of-financial-year madness at the office. If I wanted dinner, I’d have to make it myself. So it was really a matter of making do with what I had in the fridge. Sometimes this is a real test of my will to survive. Monday was a good example, because I was approaching the end of the fortnightly grocery cycle. I’m due to stock up today. So I hung my head in the fridge for a while and did a quick recon. Then I checked the pantry. I had half a bag of arborio rice left which said EAT ME before that pathetic brown pasta Llew made me buy and which I have no intention of ever eating could even get a word in. Risotto, I thought, here we come!

From the fridge came a random array of foodstuffs, and I’m just going to take you through what I did with it.

I chopped a good sized brown onion.

I removed the roast garlic cloves from the bulb that was leftover from a roast dinner.

I chopped up some bacon rashers.

I finely sliced a bag of button mushrooms.

I put a mix of olive oil and butter in the pan, and sauteed the onion, then added the bacon, then added the mushrooms. Then I poured in the rice and coated it thoroughly.

I added some chicken stock. This was not homemade. Some of the supermarket ones are pretty good these days, and I always have some handy. Stirring, stirring all the while.

I threw in the remnants of a bottle of white wine. Not much, just whatever was there.

Then I chopped up a small block of feta and threw that in too.

I had some thyme and rosemary, so they became the herbs du jour, no questions asked, and I was confident they both went well with feta, bacon, and mushrooms. I put in my roast garlic cloves and added some more stock.

It was coming along really well at this point, it smelled divine, I was already pretty sure I was onto a winner, so I just lightly sprinkled in some chilli flakes, and then finely chopped the half a red capsicum/pepper I had leftover from a salad. I wanted it to be the last in so it would retain just a little crunch.

It was still cooking on a low heat at this stage, and the rice was still absorbing liquid, so I added some water from the kettle. It wasn’t boiled. It was just right next to me. A decent splash.

I seasoned it liberally with pepper. No salt; the feta and stock were already doing that job nicely.

Then I removed it from the heat and let it sit there, the rice cooking through from residual heat. Llew confirmed he wouldn’t be home until about 11 pm, so I served myself dinner, gave it a little jazz in the microwave, and while that was happening grated some parmesan to sprinkle on top. And as much as I hate eating alone, I am pleased to say I had myself a mighty fine meal. Better, Llewie got a home-cooked meal when he finally staggered in the door, and there were leftovers (which did not last long).

It often looks like there’s nothing in the fridge, but really, that’s rarely true. There’s usually the makings of a really simple, delicious meal just waiting to be brought to life. And there’s something incredibly satisfying about winging it so completely and coming up trumps. It made me feel better, like anything was possible in other parts of my life too.

POSTSCRIPT: Okay, I had a coffee after lunch, but two strange, unprecedented things occurred. I didn’t finish it, and I didn’t enjoy it. Oh my god, what’s happening to me??



  1. kate4samh said,

    You are evolving Di!! Just go with it!!

  2. litlove said,

    That sounds completely delicious! You domestic goddess, you.

  3. Pete said,

    Sounds delicious. Move over Nigella. And as for the coffee, I was interested to read Orhan Pamuk say that he always has a cup of coffee to hand when he’s writing. It’s like a ritual with him, which he picked up from some other great writer (possibly in the Paris Review). Perhaps there’s something to that idea but maybe it could be substituted with another beverage of choice?

  4. Lilian Nattel said,

    I’ll have your coffee. 😉

  5. doctordi said,

    Kate, my evolution has ground to a halt!

    Litlove, it was really good. A total accident, but a happy one.

    Pete, I think if I tried to move Nigella anywhere she’d just bounce me offscreen with a bold nudge of her formidable bosom. And even though I was being slightly sarcastic about coffee drinking as a ritual yesterday, that was probably the withdrawal talking, because I do genuinely find it has those ritualistic properties for me, and I enjoy observing them. I made a great stovetop pot of coffee this morning and the brief madness subsided!!

    Lilian, I wish I could make you a cup!

  6. Grad said,

    It really is so satisfying to make a lovely meal from random bits. When I’m able to do so, it makes me feel very frugal and waste-not want-not. Besides I love risotto. This sounds perfecto-mento.

  7. doctordi said,

    I agree, Grad. It’s somehow much more pleasing than making something in strict adherence to a recipe. That virtuous feeling doesn’t hurt, either. I love risotto, too. But don’t you think restaurants often make really disappointing ones? All the best risotto I’ve ever eaten has been lovingly prepared in somebody’s home.

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