MasterChef winners Karena and Kasey Bird write a fortnightly food column in Living.

Kasey and Karena: Grain of life (+recipes)

Rice is so versatile in both savoury and sweet dishes.
Pea and chorizo risotto. Photo / Michael Craig
Pea and chorizo risotto. Photo / Michael Craig

Tonight is the first episode of our new television show, Karena and Kasey's Kitchen Diplomacy. We travelled around the world, learning as much as we could about the food and culture in each country. It was an incredible experience we are excited to share with everyone.

In so many countries, rice is an important staple of people's diets. It is a simple ingredient but relied on by millions. This week we thought we would share some of our favourite ways to enjoy this versatile grain. Making risotto is not something we grew up doing but we order it all the time when we dine out. We now find ourselves making risotto very often at home, the trick is to make sure it isn't too stiff and has a beautiful lava-like flow when you spoon it on to your serving dish.

Rice pudding on the other hand, is something we have eaten since we were children. Below is one our favourite rice pudding recipes, passed down from our nana.

Chorizo and pea risotto

Serves 4

2 cups arborio rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 chorizo sausages, chopped
1 cup peas
6 cups chicken stock, hot
½ cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil

Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat and fry chorizo for 3 mins until the oils start to come out of the sausage.

Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside to drain on a paper towel.
Reduce heat and pan fry onion, for 2 minutes.

Add rice and fry slowly, for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add stock, one cup at a time, stirring after every addition until the water is completely absorbed before adding another cup. Continue adding stock and stirring until rice is tender (approximately 25-30 minutes).

Stir in sausage and peas with the last cup of stock.

To serve, stir in parmesan to taste.

Vanilla rice pudding

Rice pudding. Photo / Michael Craig
Rice pudding. Photo / Michael Craig

40g butter
100g short- or medium-grain rice, washed
75g caster sugar
1 litre milk
150ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways, seeds removed
Plenty of freshly grated nutmeg
850g tin black doris plums, stones removed

Preheat the oven to 140C. Melt the butter in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.

Continue stirring until the rice swells and becomes sticky with sugar. Pour in the milk and keep stirring until there are no lumps. Add the cream and vanilla pod and seeds, and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Give the mixture a final stir and grate at least a third of a nutmeg over the surface.
Transfer to an ovenproof dish and bake for 1-1½ hours.

Cover with tinfoil if the surface begins to brown.

Once a thin, shiny layer has formed on the top and the pudding is still slightly wobbly in the middle, it is ready. Remove from the oven and leave to rest.

Top with the black doris plums to serve.

- Spy.co.nz

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