Friday, October 16, 2009

The fruits of the sea

We live so close to the ocean, it seems a waste not to make the most of it! But in reality, I've not once swam in the ocean in the Northern Territory nor do I make regular visits to the beach.

You see, there a no waves here. And waves for me are a huge appeal. Neither is it safe to swim. When one thinks of the Northern Territory, crocodiles generally come to mind. Sure, they are out there but they are not the main reason swimming in the beautiful ocean is generally only for the fool-heartedly brave. It's the stinging jelly fish that get you. The stingers are present year round, but particularly bad from October to May (which is when everyone is desperate to swim as it is so hot). And these stingers are serious - particularly if you are a child, elderly or have anything serious wrong with your health.
So my recent attempts to get the most out of being surrounded by water have involved the following: sipping cocktails from my balcony overlooking the water, eating fish and chips from the wharf, and purchasing locally caught fish from a supplier just down the road. The supplier is called Mr Barra and he stocks a wide range of seafood. Barramundi is his particular specialty. And these barramundi are so delicious, stuffed with lemon and fresh herbs, wrapped in paper and roasted in the oven... He also has locally caught banana prawns, scampi, jew fish, snapper...

The recipe that follows is a taste of the Top End. Prawns, freshly peeled and gently cooked. Lime zest from a local tree for that bit of zing. Perhaps there are a few things about it that aren't right, but it seems to work. I'm sure many Italian mamas would be stamping their feet at the idea of prawns and cheese. But cheese makes a risotto so creamy. And personally I struggle to make risotto and not include peas (risotto is so Italian, Italy is so Venice, Venice is known for the fresh peas in local meals).

Adapted somewhat from Donna Hay Magazine May/June 2006.

Lime, Prawn & Pea Risotto
Serves 6

1.5 L stock (veggie, chicken or fish)
20 g butter
1 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 c. aborio rice
¾ c. frozen peas
12 raw prawns, peeled and de-veined
Zest of 2 limes (or lemons if you will, or oranges...)
½ c. finely grated pecorino cheese
1 c. finely grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Over medium heat, with lid on, bring stock to the boil. Remove lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer the stock very gently while you make the risotto.

In a solid, large saucepan melt the butter mixed with olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, cook while stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and celery, cook for a further few minutes until the celery is softened somewhat. Add the rice, stir to coat and cook for two minutes.

Add a ladle-full of hot stock, stir while the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add the stock one ladle at a time until the rice is soft but still has some shape and texture when tasting it. This will take up to twenty-five minutes, so get a glass of wine, put on the news or some enticing tunes and stir away. If you stop stirring, it is likely that your risotto will stick to the bottom of the pan. This won’t be good. Persistence in stirring will pay off.

Stir in the peas and prawns. Mix well. Stir in the zest. Mix a little more. After three minutes, stir in the cheeses and mix for two minutes more. By this time the prawns will be cooked and delicious. Taste and season accordingly.

Serve risotto in shallow bowls. A glass of wine is mandatory. A salad on the side is optional.

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