Thursday, August 26, 2010

Risotto cakes

I can quite happily make a meal out of finger-food. My greedy inner child delights at the prospect of many different tastes on revolving platters. More often than not, enthusiasm is tempered by the reality of being a vegetarian in a canape function: one, maybe two, choices to pounce on as the omnivores are closing in! Imagine being further restricted in your choices by a food allergy or intolerance (eg gluten). I did, and what follows is a tasty gluten free snack, easily adaptable to different tastes.

Pumpkin, cheese and caramelised onion risotto cakes

Makes 12 large or 24 mini risotto cakes

120g arborio rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
180g butternut pumpkin, peeled and grated
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup pizza blend cheese, grated (i.e. a combination of cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup light thickened cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (sometimes I add 1 teaspoon of chopped sage too/instead)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Caramelised onion topping
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, halved and sliced
pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon seeded mustard (optional)
1 sprig fresh thyme

Heat oil and butter in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add onions and pinch of salt and saute until onions are translucent but not browned (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low, add thyme sprigs and allow onions to gently cook for 15-20 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until very soft. Add vinegar and mustard and stir to deglaze the pan. Switch off the heat and set onions aside.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease one muffin tray (makes 12 larger cakes) or 2 mini muffin trays (makes 24 canapes) with butter.

Cook rice in boiling, salted water for 10 minutes. Drain well.

Saute diced onion for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add pumpkin and garlic, sauteing for 5 minutes more or until pumpkin is cooked and reduced. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

In a bowl (or in the cooled saucepan) combine pumpkin mixture with cheese, egg, cream and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill each cup of muffin tray of choice to brim with the risotto mixture, packing gently to close any gaps. Make a shallow indentation in the middle of each cup (about 1 cm deep - maybe less for the mini muffins). Using a teaspoon, place mounds of caramelised onion topping on and above the dents.

Bake risotto cakes for approximately 30 minutes (using standard muffin tray) or 20 minutes (using mini muffin tray), or until firm to touch and golden around edges. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before gently removing from tray (a gentle twist should do it) and devouring (or placing on a cooling rack to cool completely for storage).

Note. For a spinach, cheese and roast capsicum variation, substitute pumpkin with 150g frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and excess moisture squeezed out. Add 4 tablespoon of fresh, chopped dill (mint also works well) to the risotto mixture. Top with little piles of roasted, red capsicum (see below) instead of the caramelised onion.

Roasted red capsicum topping
2 red capsicum, cored, membrane removed, cut into 4 or 5 flat pieces for grilling

Heat grill on highest setting. Lay pieces of capsicum skin-side up over foil-covered grill tray and grill until blackened. Transfer hot pieces to a plastic bag, seal and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Slip skins off capsicum pieces and slice pieces into fine strips.

Time-saving tip: you can use ready-made onion marmalade or bottled roast capsicum for the toppings.