from one generation to the next
Contemporary Australia’s love affair with Italian food has never lost its ardour, rather, the relationship has become more like that of an old married couple who have grown comfortable in one another’s company. Italian inspired pasta dishes appear on week night family menus across the land, but many home cooks are intimidated by the mystique surrounding risotto. This baked risotto cake is simple to prepare, there are no tricky tecniques, easy even for an inexperienced cook.
I started cooking from Claudia Roden’s “The Food of Italy” when it was hot off the presses in 1990. From its contents I first made perfect pesto and salsa verde. I have adapted the recipe for Rice and Spinach Cake to create this flexible, never fail baked risotto cake. The food splattered page and numerous pencil annotations on the page are indicative of my ever changing variations.
Because the risotto cake travels well it makes perfect picnic food. Serves 8 – 10 with a simple salad.
1 tablespoon olive oil
500g Arborio rice
¼ cup snipped chives
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
30g melted butter, cooled
60g grated parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
¼ cup finely sliced dried tomatoes
Good grinding black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese extra
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 30cm round springform cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Thoroughly wash the spinach leaves, then transfer to a large pot, sprinkle with olive oil. Put the pot over a high heat and quickly cook the spinach until it wilts. Refresh under cold water. Squeeze as much water from the spinach as you can, chop the leaves roughly then set aside.
Cook the rice in well salted boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and refresh.
In a large bowl combine the rice, spinach, chives, parsley, butter, cheese, nutmeg, eggs, and dried tomatoes. Season well and stir thoroughly.
Tip the rice mixture into the prepared cake tin. Press it down and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
Arrange halved tomato slices over the top surface of the risotto then sprinkle with the extra parmesan cheese.
Cover the tin with aluminium foil and bake for ½ hour. Remove the foil and continue to back for a further ½ hour. The risotto cake is ready when it feels firm in the centre.
Remove from the oven, rest for 10 minutes, then remove the sides of the tin.
Serve hot or cold.