The route that brought Stefano de Pieri to the kitchen was unusual, even by the outré standards of hospitality lore. Born in Treviso, near Venice, he moved to Australia in 1974, studied politics at Melbourne University and worked as a speechwriter, ministerial private secretary and advisor before settling in Mildura, where his restaurant at the Grand Hotel, Stefano's, found a loyal following. "This is a rice soup, rather than a risotto - it doesn't need to be stirred," he says. "Simply add good stock to the chosen base and then add your rice. A rice soup should be silky, healing and totally satisfying, like some of the Vietnamese or other Asian soups we have become accustomed to. I have cooked classic Italian dishes like this because it is the only thing I know and they've always been there. Of course, many people have a go at reinventing the classics, but I don't feel the necessity."
- 1 kg chicken bones
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 Desiree potato, very thinly sliced
- 150 gm medium-grain rice, such as carnaroli, rinsed
- 300 gm asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1cm pieces
- 1To make brown chicken stock, preheat oven to 240C and roast bones in a roasting pan, turning occasionally, until browned (40-50 minutes). Transfer to a large saucepan, deglaze roasting pan with water, scraping all the residue from base, then add to saucepan with bones and just cover bones with water. Bring to a rapid simmer, ladling off scum as it surfaces, then simmer gently over medium-low heat, topping up water as necessary to keep bones just covered, until stock is well flavoured (2-2½ hours). Strain and keep hot.
- 2Heat butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and potato and sauté until soft (7-10 minutes). Add 2 litres hot stock (remaining will keep refrigerated for 3 days, or 3 months frozen) and bring to the boil. Add rice, reduce heat to low and simmer until rice is tender (10-14 minutes). Add asparagus and simmer until just tender and still bright green (1½-2½ minutes), season to taste and serve topped with parmesan.
Drink Suggestion: Fragrant, dry, textural Soave, from the vineyards near Verona. Drink suggestion by Max Allen