We got through the weaning stage with typical optimism of ‘everyone complains about their kids not eating veg, but look at mine – she eats anything! Broccoli! Carrots! Cauliflower! Psssch, what were they doing wrong?!’ Then you hit the brick wall that is toddler and you realise you were a fool. We’ve now passed the sausage and yogurt stage and have moved onto the carbs-only stage, which is making it much easier to sneak the odd piece of corn or pea in. This one is a Venetian specialty, which just means rice & peas, and is super simple. It is served slightly wetter than a normal risotto, but do whatever the hell you want with it; it’s all personal taste. The only watch out is it sticking to the bottom. Just whatever you do – do not scrape the bottom, scoop from the top and no one will be any wiser (apart from your partner tasked with cleaning the pan later). This will probably take a couple times before you perfect timings and water amounts, but it will be worth it!
Risotto that Weasel liked – served 2 plus a toddler
About a cup of peas (I just use frozen so they’re always to hand)
Some kind of ham in cubes (pancetta is the norm, but I used leftover baked ham from the night before and you could also use lunch meat as long as it actually has flavour and is chunky), about the same volume as peas
2 chicken stock cubes
Parmesan – or just use Grano Padano, adds the same flavour at half the cost- grated and about half a cup, more if you’re a greedy cheese monster like me.
Risotto rice (Arborio) -use whatever 3 portions would be on the pack, I always get my rice portions wrong! And to be honest, you can get away with most rice here, just avoid long-grain or whole grain.
One small white onion
Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper, parsley optional
1) Fry the diced onion, ham and peas in olive oil. Add rice quickly to fry a little, adding stock quickly to stop sticking.
2) Boil, adding more water when needed, until the rice is al dente. You don’t want it to go all squidgy but kids do seem to like their rice & pasta a little more on the done side I’ve noticed than would be the norm in Italy. Maybe I’ll blame to mush Weasel probably gets at nursery.
3) When rice is perfect and water is boiled down, stir in cheese, s&p (remember how salty your ham is you’re using before you go nuts with it though) and parsley if you want. I reserve the parsley for having people round or grocery store day since it’s something I never have in the house and kill within days every time I’ve planted it in the garden.