Italian specialist, chef Bill Marchetti, now associated with Spaghetti Kitchen shares tips on what to avoid while cooking an Italian dish. “Never dunk the cooked pasta in cold water. That way the starch washes away. It is important to have the sauce ready well in advance so that you can put the cooked pasta in it immediately. The sauce sticks to the pasta instead of the bowl which is what you want,” he says. Use a wooden, not metallic spoon while cooking risotto. “It will prevent the rice grains from breaking up.” Chose your oil olive carefully. It is not always necessary to cook with extra virgin oil olive. “I feel that is best used in dressings and in case you need to drizzle olive oil on top of a dish.”
Try out his recipe Risotto alla Marinara and watch what he has to say on the making of a risotto.
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Risotto alla Marinara
(Italian Rice with Seafood)
2 white onions, chopped
2 litres Brodo di Pesce (fish broth or stock)
250g mussels, steamed open, debearded and shells removed
500g mixed fresh seafood, including shrimps, scallops, calamari, salmon and white fish
1/4 cup olive oil
500g De Cecco Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp saffron
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
A dash of dry sherry
1/2 cup chopped spring onion for garnish
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a heavy braising pan, add half a spoon of butter and chopped white onions and sauté until translucent. Add the rice and sauté, stirring continuously, for about a minute. Add the white wine and stir until it evaporates. Season with salt and pepper.
Lower the heat and begin ladling the fish stock over the rice. Add saffron soaked in water. Cook the rice and add some more ladles of fish stock only when the previous one has been absorbed. Repeat till rice is almost cooked.
When the rice is almost cooked, add the seafood. Be careful not to add the seafood too early as the heat of the rice will cook it in just a few moments. Prawns and scallops need only to turn opaque to be cooked and the mussels, oysters and fish only need warming.
Finish by adjusting the salt and pepper and add a knob of butter, Parmesan cheese and sherry. Garnish with spring onion and serve immediately.
Sticky Date Pudding with Red Wine Poached Strawberries
For this recipe you need to first prepare fudge sauce, then the date pudding and poach strawberries.
Dissolve the sugar in the water in a pan. Wash the sides down of the pan so there are no visible sugar crystals, place the pan on medium heat until the mixture begins to boil. At this stage add the glucose and wash down any visible sugar on the sides of the pan. Increase the heat. Once the sugar has reached a dark caramel shade, gently stir in half the cream and butter. Leave to cool off the heat for 20 minutes and add the rest of the cream. Pass through a fine sieve, chill and store.
Line a tin with greased aluminium foil to prevent the pudding from seeping out while it’s cooking. Pour half the sauce into the lined and greased cake tin and keep the other half for later.
Sticky Date Pudding
300g pitted dates, chopped
2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
600ml boiling water
120g unsalted butter
200g brown sugar
1 vanilla bean (inside scraped out)
460g plain flour
3 tsps baking powder
300g chocolate buttons (use good quality dark chocolate)
Mix the dates and bicarb soda together. Pour boiling water over the dates and let sit for 10 minutes to soften the dates. Combine sugar, butter and vanilla bean and whisk until creamy. Add in the eggs, then the date mixture. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and then fold through into the date mixture. Add the chocolate buttons at the end. Pour into a cake tin over the top of the fudge sauce, which creates the beautiful sticky texture. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for half an hour then turn down the heat to 160 degrees Celsius and cook for an hour. Test with a skewer. Let it cool for an hour on the bench before turning out. Poach the strawberries while the pudding is cooking.
Red Wine Poached Strawberries
2 cups sugar
4 cups red wine
4 sticks of cinnamon
4 punnets of strawberries
Take the stems off the strawberries. Caramelize the sugar by putting it into a saucepan and add enough water to cover the sugar to stop it burning. Cook on medium heat—it should take about 5 minutes to caramelize. Turn the heat off and add the red wine and cinnamon sticks and stir—be careful as it can spit. Turn the heat back on and cook for 10 minutes. Pour over strawberries and let them infuse for about half an hour.
Heat a slice of the pudding in the microwave for about a minute with the sauce and serve with double cream and red wine strawberries.