Almost risotto

I like risotto and rice dishes made with arborio rice, but really, who has time to stand there stirring for 45 minutes? Especially with two or three kids snapping at the heels, whinging about how hungry they are. So I love cooking oven-baked risotto-style meals, which are much easier to put together. These recipes follow the initial steps of risotto-making, but instead of stirring the stock in, one ladleful at a time, it’s added all at once and put into the oven to absorb.

The resulting rice is not quite as creamy as properly made risotto, but stirring in some parmesan and even butter at the end can bring it close.

I’ve found that the trick with these recipes is to make sure the stock is brought to a simmer just before it’s added to the dish. I’ve tried a few variations of these recipes and this seems to be the critical step for making sure the rice cooks properly.

This particular recipe is not a cheesy risotto, however. Instead it has a Spanish influence, with chorizo sausage and smoky paprika. It comes from an Australian Women’s Weekly special issue I picked up last year.

Oven-baked Chicken and Chorizo Risotto

Adapted from Winter Favourites Special 2011, published by The Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 4-6

4 c (1L) chicken stock
1 Tbs olive oil
2 chorizo sausages, sliced thinly
500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-3 cm chunks
3 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large red capsicum, sliced thinly
2 c arborio rice
2 tsp smoked paprika
3/4 c dry white wine
1/2 c coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 180C.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan (keep covered so it doesn’t evaporate too much).

Heat 1/2 Tbs olive oil over high heat in a large dutch oven or flameproof casserole dish with a lid. Fry the chorizo until it is browned all over. Remove from dish. If necessary, pour out excess oil so that about 1 Tbs remains.

Add the chicken and cook until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from pan.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, and saute the onions and garlic until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the red capsicum and saute for another minute. Then add the rice and paprika and stir for a minute or so, until the rice is coated in the onion mixture and the grains are starting to go opaque.

Pour in the wine and simmer until it has evaporated. Then add back the chicken and pour over the hot stock, and bring back to a simmer. Cover with the lid and transfer to the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, stirring about halfway through. Add the chorizo back to the pan, and stir for a minute or so until chorizo heats back up.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.


1. I used a sweet smoked paprika, but a hot smoked paprika would be nice too.


Pearl Brocade necklace

Sometimes (OK, quite often) I buy special beads and just keep them for a while, waiting for the inspiration to strike. And when it does I put the beads together in a little container so that I can find them when I have time to actually make something. I’ve got a few of those little projects waiting for me …

Here’s a necklace I finished last week for my Mother-in-law. It was supposed to be a birthday/Mother’s Day gift, but life kept getting in the way of beading.

It features a gorgeous ceramic pendant with a black and white brocade design from Peruzi. Natalie makes some lovely pendants (and cabochons too), as well as great beads. I found some freshwater pearls in the same shade of pearly white and paired them up with black Czech crystals.

I’m so glad you like it Sue! (and Mum, there’s something in the works for you coming too!)


The whole enchilada

I’ve never made much Mexican food, even though I love it. When I lived in California, there wasn’t much point—I could get superb Mexican food from all sorts of places, ranging from the gigantic burritos available around Berkeley, to the formica-tabled taquerias in San Francisco’s Mission District, and even high end Mexican cuisine. There wasn’t much need to cook it at home, although I would often make fajitas and I learned to make a decent guacamole.

But back here in Australia, until recently, Mexican food was a joke, greasy cliched menus and buckets of acidic margaritas. Even the ingredients were hard to get, unless you wanted Old El Paso taco kits. That’s changed with the arrival of a number of very popular Mexican restaurants and a slowly widening availability of ingredients like chipotle chilies in adobo sauce.

I recently aquired a bag of dried pinto beans, and cooked them up. But what to do with them? I decided to make some chicken and bean enchiladas. The challenge? They had to be kid friendly, as my kids haven’t yet acquired a taste for spicy food. I looked through my recipe books and finally found a recipe that I could adapt fairly easily in Rick Bayless’s book Mexico One Plate at a Time. In the interest of time, I decided to use a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket, rather than cook my own chicken.

And the result? The flavours were there, although more heat would have been nice! I was a bit disappointed at how quickly the tortillas dissolved into the dish, but maybe that’s the difference between Australian store-bought tortillas and homemade ones. Still, at least one kid liked them and I will definitely make them again!

Chicken and bean enchiladas

Adapted from Mexico, One Plate at a Time, by Rick Bayless

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
3 400g cans tomatoes, can use whole, diced or crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp mexican spice blend or to taste
2 c chicken broth
1/2 c sour cream
2 c shredded cooked chicken
1 c cooked beans (pinto, black, kidney, borlotti, can be canned or cooked from dry)
2/3 c mild cheese (colby, tasty cheddar, monterey jack)
10-12 corn tortillas
coriander for garnish

Preheat oven to 180C.

Puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic and the spice blend and stir for 30 seconds or so. Poor in the tomatoes and turn heat up to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 15 minutes until tomatoes have thickened to the consistency of tomato paste and darkened slightly.

Add the broth and simmer partially covered for 15-20 minutes, until it has thickened to the consistency of a tomato sugo or passata. Adjust seasoning and stir in the sour cream.

Meanwhile, combine 2 cups of shredded chicken with 1 cup of drained beans. Mix in about 3/4 c of sauce.

Spray or brush the tortillas on both sides with oil and lay out on a baking tray. Heat for 3 minutes or so in the oven, until they are soft and pliable. Remove and wrap in a teatowel while assembling to keep them warm and soft.

Ladle about 1 cup of sauce into a rectangular baking dish. Working quickly, spoon some of the chicken and bean mix into each tortilla, roll up and put seam side down in the baking dish. Pour remaining sauce evenly over the tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden. Garnish with coriander and serve immediately.


1. For more heat, roast, de-skin and de-seed a couple of jalapeno chilis and add to the tomatoes before pureeing.


The simple truth

One of the things I love about making jewellery is the abundance of beautiful art beads created by hand by talented artisans in glass, ceramic clay, polymer clay and other materials. And one of my favourites is Erin Prais-Hintz, whose delightful Simple Truths line of pendants appeals to the writer within.

Erin’s pendants, which she sells through her Etsy site Tesori Trovati, combine quotations and phrases with sweet stamped images on hand painted polymer clay pendants.

To celebrate the year since Erin launched her Simple Truths Sampler Club, in which the lucky members receive a new limited edition pendant each month (I’m not one of them but I aspire to being part of the club some day), she is holding a blog hop to encourage her customers to create something with their Simple Truths. I imagine that many owners of these pendants are like me, hoarding them until the perfect beads come along, pulling them out to look at now and then and putting them back with a sigh.

Currently I have two of these pendants in my collection, a Woodsy Owl and a little bird with the phrase Mother knows best stamped on the back, but I only had time to make one piece, with the Owl. Inspired by several of the necklaces in Lorelei Eurto and Erin Siegal’s book Bohemian-Inspired Jewelry, I put together a necklace using a mixture of earthy glass beads, some antique copper chain and a mossy green-brown silk fairy ribbon. Other than having to restring it because I initially made it lop-sided, I’m quite pleased with how it turned out, and I’ve been wearing it all day.

For more creative uses of Erin’s Simple Truths, visit the blogs below!

Erin Prais-Hintz
Sharon Misuraco
Tanya Goodwin
Alice Peterson
Melissa Trudinger YOU ARE HERE!
Lori Bowring Michaud
Rebecca Anderson
Chris White
Cherrie Fick
Rosanne Garvison
Shelley Turner
Marlene Cupo
Mary Harding
Lola Surwillo
Michelle Burnett
Kirsi Luostarinen
Paige Maxim
Kristen Fagan
Cynthia Riggs

All the way to France

I thought I would show you the bead soup I sent my BSBP partner, Marina Dobrynina. She has received her package now, so I can show pictures of what I sent. Here’s her post on the soup. It’s the third time she has participated in the BSBP.

Just to remind you, Marina makes delicious felt beads, and is a seed beader. Oh, and she makes soap too. You can see what she sent me in my last post.

I thought I would send her some components that she might not be quite so familiar with. And I wanted to infuse a little Australian flavour into her bead soup too. I hunted around on Etsy and the web, and found exactly what I was looking for from an Australian Etsy seller—beads made from Australian timbers. They are a mix of jarrah, Australian sandalwood and pixie bush. Now, what to go with them. In my stash I had a sweet little pendant made of walnut wood. It’s supposed to be a celtic knot but I think it looks a bit like an owl.

Next I needed a clasp. In keeping with the developing theme, I added a brass clasp in the shape of a vine leaf. And to go with the brass clasp I added a blooming tulip bead cap (I think it’s from Trinity Brass, it’s in an antique gold/brass finish) and some little flower-stamped beads in a brassy golden colour.

Hmm. Still needed some coordinating beads. How about a string of Czech glass leaves in pretty shades of green and yellow with a splash of orange and blue, and some other Czech beads in a stripy blend of greens, browns, reds, blues and yellows? Done!

Inspired by the bead soup packages I have seen in past blog hops, I wrapped each set of beads in green tissue paper and put them into a kraft box, which I tied with a piece of green sari silk ribbon with a Vintaj brass filigree butterfly hanging from it. And I decorated the box with some cute woodland stickers.

And here is a picture of the full soup!

I can’t wait to see what Marina makes of it all. Come back on 25 August to see what I make with her bead soup, and what she makes with mine!


My bead soup has arrived!!!

It was such a surprise to find my bead soup in the mailbox today! I wasn’t expecting it for another few days at least! But apparently, the mail was pretty quick between France and Australia this week.

My BSBP partner, Marina Dobrynina, sent me a lovely selection. Just look at that beautiful set of felted beads. The larger ones (the biggest green one is about an inch long) have been daintily embroidered with little flowers, spirals and starbursts. They are just divine.

And the clasp is a gorgeous dragonfly toggle. Next to that you can see a couple of bell-shaped findings that I think are cord ends. I’m glad next week is the Craft and Quilt Fair here in Melbourne, I’ll be able to look for some interesting cord there.

The coordinating beads include a selection of pink, apricot, green and purple crystals in various shapes—drops, rondelles and rounds—and some little white seed beads.

And Marina even included a selection of brass findings.

I’ve got a few ideas whirling around in my head. As my reveal date is not until 25 August, I have a bit of time to think about it all before I start creating. And I can’t wait to see what Marina makes with what I sent her. I hope it gets to France soon!


Cheap chinese chicken

We all have our go-to meals, the ones we make often because they are quick, easy and everyone likes them.

One of our family favourites is this tasty chinese-style chicken cooked in the slow cooker. The recipe comes from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufman, and is apparently based on a recipe from a chicken package wrapper.

I’ve tinkered with it a bit, using chinese rice wine in place of sherry or apple juice, and adding some ginger. It results in a deliciously moist chicken, with plenty of sauce. And because it’s a whole chicken it’s easily enough meat for a family.

Serve it with rice and some steamed vegetables for an effortless meal.

Chinese Chicken with Sesame Seeds

Adapted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufman

Serves 4-6

1 free-range chicken, about 1.5-1.8kg
3-4 spring onions
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 c brown sugar
1/4 c water
1/4 c shao xing wine (chinese cooking wine)
1 Tbs tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cm piece of ginger, grated
2 Tbs cornflour
2 Tbs water
2 Tbs sesame seeds, toasted in dry skillet until golden

Rinse chicken and trim off any lumps of fat. Place breast up in a large oval slow cooker.

Trim two of the spring onions and halve lengthwise. Place on top of the chicken.

Combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, water, shao xing wine, tomato sauce, garlic and ginger and pour over the chicken. Set the slow cooker to high and cook for 3.5-4.5 hours until the chicken has cooked through. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should read 85C/180F and the juices should run clear.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and keep warm. Remove spring onions from sauce. Combine the water and the cornflour to make a slurry and stir into the sauce. Cook on high, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes until sauce thickens.

Spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with toasted sesame seeds and chopped spring onions.


1. For extra flavour, add 1/2 tsp dried chili flakes to the soy sauce mixture.

2. The skin won’t go crispy, it will stay soft, similar to a poached chicken.

3. The chicken can be cut up, chinese style, or the meat pulled off the bone and served on the rice.


We interrupt this broadcast to tell you about …

… a giveaway! No, not mine. Lori Anderson—she of the Bead Soup Blog Party—is having a massive giveaway on her Pretty Things blog and one of the requirements of entry is to spread the word by blogging about it. Consider it done Lori!

Oh, and what is she giving away, you ask? Well, there is not just one , but five different prizes up for grabs. A beautiful set of beads from the recent Bead and Button show in the US, a copy of her soon to be published book, a copy of her blogging inspiration e-book “Follow the path”, a Bead Soup tote bag and a mystery pack of beads and findings from Lori’s stash. Personally I’d be happy to win any of it, but the beads … sigh! Aren’t they beautiful?

I promise I’ll be back later this week with a new recipe, and on Friday/Saturday I plan to have something to show you as part of Erin Prais-Hintz’s Simple Truths Celebration Blog Hop.