Culinary Madness…

I’m too busy for a proper post, but I thought I’d update on last time with more pictures of all the nice stuff we’ve been cooking up here in Saigon. The nice thing about having a fair amount of time, and about food being relatively inexpensive, is that you can experiment with cooking. Mrs. Jiwaku’s been mostly baking, while I’ve mostly been making new foods… well, new to me, I mean. The range is pretty wide. Here’s a look at (almost) everything we’ve done so far:

It’s not a complete log — I’ve made a lot of pasta, especially with Arabiatta and Aglio Olio sauces, that I haven’t bothered to snap, and we also made a Thai dinner a while back that we didn’t photograph. But these were the big deal cooking events. I expect the set will be expanding slowly, as I continue to experiment.

Overall, I’m pretty happy. Southeast Asian, Southern US, Italian, Indian… there’s a nice range, and in my opinion I haven’t made a disappointing meal in months now, which is a nice thing to be able to say! (It does raise the bar on ordering out, though: we’ve been disappointed with a most of the takeout and restaurant food we’ve had since I started cooking more seriously.) As I commented earlier, having free time really helps.

If you click on “Show Info” in the slideshow above, you can see my commentary on each image. Or you can see that over at Flickr, where I’ve hosted the pics. Anyone who wants a recipe for anything, just comment below, and I’ll set you up. I don’t really follow recipes too closely, but I can give you a rough guide to what I did to get my results.

Can You Make Risotto with a Southeast-Asian-Twang?

Apparently yes.

I was dealing with some stuff so I wasn’t so into it, but other people who tried it liked it… I suppose that’s encouraging, this being my first risotto. (It was a bit too salty, though.)

I basically followed Felicity Cloake’s advice, though:

  • I had to use arborio rice–the other stuff wasn’t available.
  • I forgot to get white cooking wine, so I just used red, which gave the risotto a pinkish color (deepened by the red bell pepper I threw in later).
  • I ended up using a mix of cheddar and pecorino cheeses, again beause that’s what we had on hand… though I really like pecorino so that was fine with me.
  • I threw in some garlic and lemongrass in the first stage, along with the onions, though that didn’t really come through.
  • The soup stock was homemade, with lime leves and galangal included in the mix, though those didn’t really shine through much either–I think the galangal would need to go in later in the process, perhaps with the rice, and that the lime leaves would need to be used in more abundance in the stock for the flavor to come through.
  • At the end, just before adding the cheese, I added diced red bell pepper, and after getting the cheese in and whippin g it up to the right consistency, I flavored the risotto with fresh basil, coriander–which did have enough punch to get through the cheese and butter.

The result?

Coriander and Basil Risotto

The saltiness was a disappointment for me… in part because it resulted from a stupid mistake–while making the soup, I realized I had failed to reserve any stock for the risotto, and had to add (salted) soup stock to (salted) risotto-on-the-cook. Of course, all things are relative: it was too salty for me, but I suppose everyone else was fine.

Anyway. That’s that. Next week, Aglio Olio pasta, using a method I came up with the other day. It was pretty badass… Mrs. Jiwaku said it was the best she’d ever had, and that’s saying something as she’s crazy about Aglio Olio.