The late, hugely influential Valli Little changed the Australian food landscape forever. Her work with delicious magazine will remain in the hearts of Aussie home-cooks always, as will her wonderful recipes that are equal parts elegance and simplicity. Valli had an English background but such was her contribution to food and cooking in Australia, she has been inducted into the hall of fame of Australian foodies for her sumptuous food styling and admirable sense of aesthetics.
Her recipe for Japanese risotto with tempura squid is from My Kind of Food Cookbook which features other exotic dishes and is full of treats for the modern cook. Fusion dishes like house smoked salmon with cucumber fettuccine and chilli butter, and pears poached in Hibiscus syrup bring unique ingredients to the average kitchen in an easy, approachable way.
Valli challenges cooks to experiment with style and food, and this recipe shows how a beautiful collaboration of cultures and a little daring, can produce a stunning result.
Japanese risotto with tempura squid
This East-meets-West recipe is packed with delicious umami flavours found in ingredients like parmesan, miso and soy. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making the tempura, simply serve the risotto with some extra fried shiitake mushrooms.
4 cups (1 litre) chicken stock
2 tbs olive oil
2 red (Asian) eschalots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
300g arborio rice
1/2 cup sake
1 tbs mirin
1 1/2 tbs white miso
8–10 baby squid, cleaned,
Plain flour, to coat
Sunflower oil, to deep-fry
1/2 cup (50g) parmesan, grated
1⁄3 cup (50g) pine nuts toasted
1 cup wild rocket
1/2 cup (65g) plain flour
5g baking powder
For the tempura batter, combine the flour, cornflour and baking powder in a bowl. Using two chopsticks, stir in enough iced water to make a batter the consistency of thickened cream (don’t overmix, a few lumps are fine). Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
In a saucepan, bring the stock to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer. Heat the olive oil in a deep frypan over medium–high heat. Add the eschalots, garlic and shiitake mushrooms and fry for 1–2 minutes until the mushrooms are tender. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes. Add the sake and mirin and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
Stirring constantly, add the simmering stock to the rice a ladleful at a time, only adding the next when the last one has been absorbed. After 20 minutes all the stock should be added and the rice al dente.
Meanwhile, combine the miso with a little cold water until you have a smooth paste. Stir into the risotto. Keep warm while you prepare the tempura.
Half-fill a deep-fryer or large saucepan with oil and heat to 180°C (a cube of bread will turn golden in 30 seconds). Toss the squid in a little flour, shaking off any excess. Dip into the tempura batter and fry for 1–2 minutes until golden. Drain on paper towel. Fold the parmesan, pine nuts and rocket through the risotto. Divide among serving bowls and top with the squid.