Friday, October 19, 2018


All right, you’ve probably had your fill of Irish recipes and apple recipes lately, so I thought I’d try something different. Here’s one that’s neither Irish nor American: it’s (drumroll please) Australian!

My husband was doing research in Australia in 2005, and I told him that if I couldn’t come along, I’d never allow him to mention the place in my presence again. He gave in. I spent two weeks in Australia, ranging from Sydney to Mount Gambier (on the south coast) and back again. Not in populated areas, although Sydney was delightful, but in open country, where there was about one car per hour on the highways, which boasted signs for koala crossings. I could go on, but there isn’t room. But it was well worth the trip! (And yes, I do have relatives there, if a fourth cousin counts.)

The entrance to the vintage amusement
park on the other side of the harbor
The Troy family plot in the Waverly Cemetery--
my father's grandmother was a Troy

Fruit bats hanging in the trees in Sydney
(they're big!)

We ate in ordinary places, not high-end restaurants. We were invited to dinner at the home of more than one of my husband’s colleagues. I don’t actually remember what we ate, except for the ice cream in one small town, where I sampled several flavors, including bunya nut (no, I have no idea what it is).

Anyway, I bought a cookbook: The Food of Australia: Contemporary Recipes from Australia’s Leading Chefs. Lots of varied and interesting recipes, with pretty pictures. Of course, many of the ingredients aren’t available in the U.S., like yabbies (which seem to be something like shrimp) or tamarillo (known in some places as a tree tomato) or Illawarra plums (a berry that grows on a type of pine tree).  But in many cases it’s easy to find an appropriate substitute.

One recipe that appealed to me is Spinach and Mushroom Risotto. All of the ingredients are available except for the specific varieties of mushrooms, and these days there’s usually a good variety available in local markets. And, despite the title risotto, this is not one of those rice dishes where you have to stand over it and stir for half an hour.

Spinach and Mushroom Risotto
(from The Food of Australia, adapted for local ingredients)


4 thin slices of pancetta or prosciutto
7 Tblsp olive oil
2 large onions, diced into half-inch pieces
5 cloves garlic
2 cups Arborio rice (this is the best choice for any risotto)
4 pounds brown mushrooms
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
chopped fresh basil (to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz. fresh spinach, blanched (do not overcook!)

Mushroom stock: you can make it yourself, or try to find a prepared version (which is what I did).

4 Tblsp olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 pounds sliced mushrooms, washed, drained and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock


To prepare the mushroom stock, heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the onions, garlic and thyme until the onions are transparent. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute until they begin to release their juice.

Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock (discard the vegetables).

Of just buy a box of the stuff at your supermarket.

For the risotto:

Note: I made a half-recipe, which still seemed like a lot of risotto! I’m not sure I own a pan large enough to make a full recipe.)

Optional garnish: Lay the pancetta or prosciutto slices on a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes, to make them crisp. Crumble them into fair-size pieces, since this is a garnish only. But they do add a splash of color and a bit of crunch.

Heat the olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until transparent, then add the rice and toss to coat the grains with olive oil.

Add the brown mushrooms (whole or chopped into large pieces, depending on their size) and mushroom stock and stir gently. (Note: mushrooms vary widely in flavor. Brown mushrooms have become widespread in stores, but I can’t swear that they taste like the Australian variety. But whatever you do, don’t use the bland white ones, which have next to no flavor.)

Cover the pan with waxed paper and simmer over medium-low heat until the rice has absorbed all the liquid and is cooked through (taste a few grains—they should be chewy but not crunchy). Look, no endless stirring! (Yet another note: when you mix all these together, there seems to be very little liquid to cook the rice. Don’t worry, the mushrooms will release some liquid, and it all works out in the end.) It took my mixture about 25 minutes until the rice was soft.

Add the Parmesan cheese, basil, salt and pepper (taste!). Finally, fold in the spinach.

Garnish with the pancetta/prosciutto and an exotic mushroom (if you have any).

Coming next week! By the end of this week it should be up on most sites for pre-order in both print and e-book formats.

And there's jacket copy!

Winter still has a firm stranglehold on the small town of Granford, and newly married orchard owner Meg Chapin is restless to begin her spring pruning and planting, while Seth busies himself with a new project of his own. But their relative peace is shattered when a gunshot breaks the winter silence and they discover the body of a dead woman on their land. What’s just as troubling is that the state police have hushed up the murder and are warning Meg not to investigate.

Never one to sit by idly with a killer on the loose, Meg starts digging for clues and probing for answers as discreetly as she can. When the victim turns out to have been an undercover reporter doing a story on the blossoming trade in illegal drugs in the area, Meg’s stunned to learn that this very modern crime has come to sleepy Granford. Deciding that this particular seed of evil hits too close to home, especially for a murder that occurred literally in her own backyard, Meg is determined to nip it in the bud before the town she knows and loves turns rotten . . .


  1. So excited about the new book!

  2. If you are "Sheila Connolly", why is the web site listed as ""?

    This recipe looks terrific! Risotto without the angst! Brava.

  3. I smiled to see a risotto by way of Australia. In truth, I have never tried to make risotto precisely because of the endless stirring I have heard about. That is a nifty trick with the wax paper.