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A Cheating Way of Cooking Risotto

A Cheating Way of Cooking Risotto

    I love eating rice and would cook and eat rice nearly everyday. Risotto is a classic Italian cuisine, well accepted by people with different cultural backgrounds around the world. Not to mention, I love its rich and creamy texture going extremely well with a variety of vegetables or meats. The traditional way of cooking risotto is to add stock into the grains gradually and stir constantly. Generally speaking, the whole process of cooking the grains from raw to being cooked with constant stirring requires me standing near the stove at least 25 to 30 minutes or so. I happily invest all the efforts and time in cooking this fantastic cuisine as “labour of love” for my family and the end results prove the labour is well worth.

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    But there are often times, when I am tired, or have some urgent or important things interrupted or for any other reasons, yet I still want a bowl of creamy risotto, I might go for a short cut in cooking. I found a cheating way to cook risotto with similar outcome that I want. The trick is simple, just use a steamer or a wok to replace the constant stirring near the hot stove and skip the hardest part of making this dish. But I have to insert a disclaimer here. The cheating way of my approach and cooking time taken in the following recipe is to produce the well cooked rice in order to suit our Asian rice-eating buds. As for those people who love a bit chewy inside, you have to adjust the cooking time and quantity of stock. Do one or two experiments yourself to find the optimal way to suit your taste if you want to cheat in cooking risotto. Follow my first cooking hack, A Quick Way to Make Crème Brulee Without an Oven, this is my second one posted on this website. Hope you all like it and enjoy.

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    Serves 3 to 4 (Adapted from Australian Good Food, May 2010 edition)

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    Ingredients:

    • 600g (21oz) butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and diced
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 tsp thyme leaves
    • 150g (5oz) Arborio rice, about 3/4cup
    • 70ml dry white wine
    • 550ml salt-reduced vegetable stock
    • 35g (1.5oz) parmesan cheese, grated
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
      Cooking Pumpkin Risotto in a cheating way

      Method:

      1. Preheat oven to 200C (390F). Add 1 tablespoon of oil to two thirds of the diced pumpkin and toss to coat. Transfer them onto a baking pan, lined with baking paper. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tender and golden.
      2. Bring water to boil in a steamer or wok. Prepare a large deep dish and its size fits in the wok. Use a saucepan, heat stock and bring it to boil.
      3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook onion and celery until aromatic for 3 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Cook for 1 minute. Add rice and stir to coat. Pour wine into the mixture, stir for 1 to 2 minutes until evaporated. Add stock with the rest of the diced pumpkin and bring to boil. Carefully transfer the mixture to the large deep dish in the wok. Steam over high heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste a few grains by yourself until the texture is cooked to your preference.
      4. Remove dish from steamer. Stir in parmesan, season with salt if necessary, and let it stand for 3 minutes. Divide into separate serving bowls, then top with baked pumpkin and extra grated parmesan. Serve hot.

      I have passions of cooking all kinds of good foods and different cuisines for my family. Check out my food blog, Christine’s Recipes for all the dishes I have cooked, with full recipes and step-by-step instructions and photos.

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      Last Updated on July 17, 2019

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

      What happens in our heads when we set goals?

      Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

      Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

      According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

      Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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      Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

      Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

      The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

      Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

      So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

      Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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      One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

      Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

      Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

      The Neurology of Ownership

      Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

      In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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      But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

      This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

      Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

      The Upshot for Goal-Setters

      So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

      On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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      It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

      On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

      But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

      More About Goals Setting

      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

      Reference

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