“Mummy, there is an octopus in my dinner!!”
This statement is not a lie and led to an interesting dinner time conversation followed by a meal of seafood trading around the dinner table … which in my books is allowed as long as you try a little of everything. It occurred to me as a mother I have assumptions on what my children will and won’t eat and I need to try more often testing and disproving these assumptions. A friendly chat with other mums recently confirmed that it wasn’t just me presuming and preselecting the tastes, textures and cuisines that I think (or hope!) my kids will eat. Continuing to offer the same flavours time and time again may lead long term to a limited palette and closed mind on food choices, but yes there is no argument that at least they will have something in their body before bedtime!
This Red Seafood Rice recipe was invented out of desperation with a lack of fresh food in the house and the desire for a bowl of comfort food. I recently returned from a few weeks at back home in Australia, and opened the cupboards and freezer to see what optimistic promises of a meal were enclosed. I felt like some comfort food* so created this one dish wonder that resembles a hybrid of a risotto, stew and a paella. With sleep deprivation my enemy after a 20+ journey with two kids, my mummy filter was down and I didn’t process the thought that the kids may not like octopus in their dinner!!
This dish is made from ingredients that I had on hand – in the pantry, freezer and a few leftover vegetables all of which are interchangeable for different flavours depending on the fridge contents. An easy home cooked meal to whip together when you haven’t made it to the shops!
Before I elaborate on the recipe, let me just throw this out there – “Cooking” is different to “making dinner”. I recently heard this on a podcast with Melissa Joulwan and wholeheartedly agreed with her statement and conversation that followed. Sometimes I can spend half a day cooking in the kitchen; creating and ‘playing’ with food and it feel productive and somewhat energising. Other days, there is the monotony of just getting something (hopefully nutritionally satisfying) on the table for dinner. This recipe is all thrown in one pot and resembles making dinner to me, but you can add creativity in the way of trying different vegetable and herb combinations or substituting rice for barley or legumes if you wish to experiment and create your own version!
So, start like a risotto with onions, garlic and I added the vegetables in at this point
Add a can of tomatoes – any sort really!
Once the rice is cooked, add the bag of frozen seafood…
Eeek, Amelia’s octopus look somewhat terrified, but at least there is a smile on her face while she’s eating it at the bottom of the drawing. Or is that me with a big belly?!?
Frugel and quick tips:
- Before the summer I had been buying a local farm box of fresh organic vegetables and the constant supply of herbs had overwhelmed our demands. So they had been washed, dried, chopped and frozen to keep us in supply over the summer. Supplies like this are great to have on hand to finish off a dish or add fresh flavor when supplies are low.
- Also have you ever frozen fresh spinach? A friend arrived one day with salad ingredients and decided that the baby spinach for the salad wasn’t up to scratch; so I froze it in small bags to use in smoothies, stews and soups like this recipe! It works surprisingly well and if you want smaller pieces, then when it’s frozen you can crunch it up with your hands to add to the recipe. No knife needed!
Seafood Rice Stew
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup white wine (optional)
- 1.5 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
- Handful of frozen (or fresh) parsley and dill
- 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes or chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup of frozen whole spinach leaves (or 2 cups of fresh baby spinach leaves)
- 1 cup of diced vegetables like capsicums, zucchini, asparagus, etc
- 1 cup of short grain rice like Arborio
- 1 bag (500g) of frozen mixed seafood – prawns, squid, baby octopus, clams, muscles etc
- Parmesan cheese to serve.
Start the cooking as you would a risotto: Add onions and olive oil to a large saucepan and sauté over medium high heat for a few minutes before adding the garlic and continuing to cook. Once translucent, add the diced vegetables and cook for a few minutes before adding the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the olive oil and onions.
Then add the wine and stir waiting for the alcohol to evaporate (skip the wine if you wish). Add the can of tomatoes and the chicken stock. Stir every few minutes until all absorbed and the rice is al dente (approx 20 mins). You may need to add more or less stock or water depending on how your rice is cooked and how wet you’d like it.
Just before the rice is totally cooked stir in the seafood mix and the fresh or frozen spinach. Cover with a lid for a few minutes until the seafood is ready. If you use fresh seafood, then you may wish to sauté it at the beginning and remove from the pan and set aside until this step where you would just reheat it in the rice. Adjust your seasoning remembering that your stock and seafood may be salty so you may not need to add extra salt.
Before serving add the fresh or frozen herbs and serve sprinkled with some Parmesan cheese.
Enjoy and see if you can open the dialogue to new, interesting and tasty foods in your house! Have you had any luck with quirky kids food that we can all learn from?
* I have been trying to follow a more hormone synchronised way of eating by Dr Alissa Vitti and had luckily stashed some mixed frozen seafood ready for week 4 which calls for adding nutrients back to your body and including iron and zinc remineralising foods. After eating his way for a few months, it’s incredible what It feels like to be in sync with my body and reduce food cravings!