Things are a little busy these days.

They’re busy with sticky little hands who have four new favourite items in the house: the television remotes, my computer, the toilet and the toilet brush. None of which I’m keen on them cavorting with.

They’re busy with a garden to tend to, plants to try and encourage (grow cavolo nero, grow!), a compost system to try and prevent the possums from rioting amongst and a new kitchen to plan (I think we’ve finally cracked a layout that’s going to work).

They’re busy with beaches to wander on and new coffee spots to source.

 

And they’re busy because this week, Cut the Carbs comes out in the flesh.

It was such a joy to flick open the Good Food section of the Sydney Morning Herald and find the book featured.

It made that coffee out at Fika in Manly all the sweeter.  I only wish that the week prior I could have been in London to see the six recipes which were featured in The Times Weekend section. I would have pulled up a perch at Elliot’s or Foxcroft and Ginger and carefully re read every word.

I’m off to the ABC to do a big day of radio interviews and there are some other exciting things in the pipeline.

Which means at the end of the day what I really need is something I can quickly throw together and then chuck in the oven with the lid on to blip away while I bath Will and get him off to bed (quick aside- coming behind treating the keyboard on my laptop the way Animal does a set of drums, hurling the television remote across the room in frustration because he can’t get the couch to turn on when he points it at it, gumming the toilet brush and dropping all manner of things into the toilet, his new favourite thing is to do laps of the bath. Slipping, sliding, manic crawling lengths, with touch and tumble turns at each end. At some point it’s surely going to end in tears. It just hasn’t yet).

And once he’s finally asleep, then I get to pull it out of the oven, give it a quick stir, add some garnish and pour a large glass of wine.

As I said. It’s a little busy right now.

Baked Chicken and Basil Quinoa Risotto

This is a risotto in the loose sense of the word, in the same way that a pearl barley risotto, or a spelt risotto is a risotto (purists be darned). Except of course, quinoa isn’t even a grain, it’s a seed. Yet you’ll find does plump up and absorb the flavours of stock in a similar fashion. You could lovingly stir this on a stove top in the traditional method if you fancy something to do with your right hand for 20 minutes while you nurse a glass of wine with your left. Or you could just put a lid on and clamp it in the oven to cook in an absorption method. This leans on the mild aniseed flavours of both fennel and basil for interest and incorporates a little diced pear for sweetness (one complaint about quinoa from some quarters is that it can have a slightly bitter taint). The pear will soften down into stock  and the chicken thighs you’ve added in will cook through along with the quinoa (though feel free to omit them if you fancy a Meatless Monday option).  All it needs is a little bit of basil and parmesan oil (or shop bought pesto if you’re in a pinch) dabbed over the top and some rocket for bite. Granted, if you were feeling like an earnest bowl of quinoa wasn’t complete without some kale for company, some shredded and warmed through at the end is a fine accompaniment and will also help the meal stretch further.

Serves 4

Equipment

1 x oven safe casserole dish/dutch oven with a lid

Shopping/foraging

3 cups/ 750 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 fennel, diced
1 pear, peeled and finely diced
1 garlic clove
4 chicken thighs, cut into pieces the size of a wine cork
1 cup of quinoa (I’ve used black, but you could use white, or a mix of colours)

To serve
Lemon zest
Large handful of rocket
5 tbsp of pesto
or  basil parmesan oil, made by pureeing 2 handfuls of basil leaves, 3 tbsp of olive oil and 40 grams of parmesan in a small blender

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

2) Bring your stock to a simmer (or cheat a little and boil the kettle and combine it with some bouillon cubes).

3) Rinse your quinoa well.

4) In the bottom of a heavy bottom, oven safe casserole dish add the olive oil and sautee the diced fennel for 5 minutes until it starts to soften. Then add the garlic and pear and sautee for another 2 minutes.

5) Add the diced chicken thighs to the pan and sautee for 1 minute.

6)  Add the rinsed quinoa to the pan.

P11405777) Pour over the hot stock and stir. It will look very soupy.  Clamp on the lid and transfer to the oven.

8) Allow to bake for 30 minutes. Take out and stir. If there is still more stock to be absorbed into the quinoa either replace the lid and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, or finish it on the stove top, stirring to help the stock absorb.

9) The finished risotto should drop off a spoon and the quinoa should have a little bite, but be pliant.  Top with the basil oil or splodges of pesto, lemon zest for brightness and a good handful of rocket.