What to cook with all that stockpiled risoni

Rice-shaped risoni pasta is equally good in a dish with mussels and peas, or replacing macaroni in a cheese dish.
Rice-shaped risoni pasta is equally good in a dish with mussels and peas, or replacing macaroni in a cheese dish. Photo: William Meppem

Is it OK to use risoni for macaroni cheese? P. Niewig

Yep. Use any pasta. Cheese and pasta dishes were around before the Italian renaissance, when fresh pasta was cooked with soft cheese. Pasta cooked with a bechamel sauce enriched with cheese, however, was first recorded as a recipe in England in the late 1700s. According to Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, macaroni and cheese should be served with the cheese course. It was first served in the US in the White House by President Jefferson, who brought the recipe back from a trip to France. When Kraft introduced macaroni cheese in a box to Americans during the Depression, it became a hit as it could feed a family of four for less than 20 cents. So, macaroni cheese, as we know it, is not a traditional Italian dish. Therefore, feel free to use penne, farfalle or even risoni: the rice-shaped pasta also known as orzo. If you bought too much risoni in a bout of anxiety-fuelled shopping, consider using it to make a risotto-style wet dish or a pasta bake, adding it to a soup or making a pasta salad with cooked risoni.

Letters

Our virtual mail sack is ripping at the seams. One email came from a famous retired chef who wishes to remain anonymous. He wrote about the white protein that oozes from some fish as it cooks. "One way to reduce the white ooze is to cure the fish for a couple of hours by sprinkling with salt, possibly sugar, and optional aromatics." Rinse the fish, and pat dry before cooking. The salt and sugar draw the moisture from the fish, stopping it from being excreted during cooking. Another email concerned cooking chickpeas. S. Harrison wrote: "I often cook Ord River chickpeas that I buy from a local Middle Eastern shop which has a very large turnover of stock. I find these chickpeas, although dried, are very fresh and after soaking overnight can take as little as 30 minutes to cook. They have to be watched carefully and tested so they don't turn into mush." N. Siebold adds, "I agree that only four hours soaking chickpeas are sufficient, followed by simmering for an hour. I only use Australian chickpeas. In a pressure cooker, 20 minutes will do it on high pressure. Perhaps some imported ones take longer." Meanwhile, a reader who wants to be known only as A Chook Woman says she has been a baker for more than 50 years. Over that period she has perfected baking loaves in her slow cooker. "You need to scale your basic bread recipe to the size of your pot. Of course, it takes longer than in an oven and looks better if browned under a hot grill when baked." Her cooking times range from an hour and a quarter for a larger loaf made with 500g flour to an hour, 20 minutes for a loaf made with 250g of flour. She suggests placing the dough into the slow cooker, then switching on high to cook.

Correction

Last month we published a green tomato relish recipe that omitted 1kg sugar. It should have been added with the vinegar. The error was made by the author, Richard Cornish, who is in the sin bin for a week.

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