My 5-hour drive from Mannum to The Grampians consisted of a survey of one variety of rain or another. The primary road (A8) is pastoral, but over all an entirely miss able experience…until suddenly the horizon rises up steeply in the Grampian Ranges.
In stark contract to the outback I have been through so far (tropical wetlands and central desert) the Grampians is a cool climate granite based forest, not a large or perhaps well know as The Rockies, but certainly similar in flavor. Basically sharp jutting peaks and outcrops surrounded by dense ferny woodlands teaming with wilderness.
Being not made of sugar (but so sweet you would be hard pressed to know it) I took every opportunity to walk on my way over the western range, until I finally settled into Halls Gap in the evening. The Halls Gap YHA is a special place all its own. An “Eco” minded hostel that is very clean and comfortable, and has an herb garden to boot.
Given the location, the many hikes earlier in the day, and the chilly rain, I settled into the Hostel kitchen to make one of my all-time favorite dishes, Risi e Bisi, a wonderful Italian minestra of risotto and peas. If you are inclined to hostel it (backpacker for you Aussies) this is a great simple dish.
200 gm Arborio Rice
600-700ml Broth (can be from bullion, usually chicken)
2 TBL Olive Oil
Half Small Onion Minced
2 Clove Garlic Minced
200 gm Fresh or Frozen Peas
75 gm Parmesan
Salt & Pepper to taste.
1. Bring the broth to simmer in a stock pot.
2. In a deep sauté pan bring he oil to heat and add the onion
3. Add in the onion and cook to translucent then add in the garlic.
4. After the garlic becomes translucent add in the dry rice, and cook just a minute, stirring frequently.
5. If you like you can deglace with a splash of white wine, but it is not necessary.
6. Begin stirring in the hot stock, adding just enough to cover the rice.
7. AT THIS POINT YOU MUST STIR THE RIOTTO FREQUENTLY. The risotto gets its creamy texture because as you stir you are “rinsing” the starch from the outside of the rice and that is adding gloss and thickening the soup.
8. Add the stock step by step until the rice is just a little dry to bite (about 15 min) then stir in the peas.
9. The peas should cook in just a few minutes, and the risotto should still have quite a lot of broth in it.
10. When the risotto is al dente (an Dante) kill the heat and keep stirring. Remember this is minestra (a thick soup or stew) so it should be brothy.
11. Stir in the Parmesan until it dissolves. At this point the soup should be thick but soupy (Some people also like to stir in fresh herbs, and/or butter at this point).
12. Serve, eat and enjoy.