Winter mornings, with their icy stillness seem almost impenetrable, save for time and hunger. It’s when my comforters do the most toiling; I stow away below their airy mass far from the chills the goose bumps and the unavoidable thing called work. Time freezes too but it’s an immediate thaw and return to real time and real hunger as soon as I force my way out of bed, which, is to say, embarrassingly, I have been sleeping in a tad too much.
Another tendency I’ve been coming to terms with is how often I’m skipping breakfasts; late mornings always slip into lunch with such ease, unlike hunger. Cold and hunger – they all conspire to drag me down with their customary bulk of reality, the kind I like to ignore when I am cold. This is when I long for breakfast in bed, but alas, that’s impossible when I’m the only one around on most days. The closest thing to breakfast in bed is breakfast pre-made by my warmer, more alert self on a miraculously temperate afternoon when the sun is out and there’s only a little bit of frost to deter chopping and stirring, and risotto, is all about tempering and stirring. It’s patience in comfort, rice form for bare bellies, but only after the patience of forty perpetual winters for one spring, like wishing for December crocuses or January buttercups, it’s a languishing kind of cooking, or so it seems under the duress of old man winter.
So, here, as you can see is a curiously uncommon use for risotto – a sweet coconut concoction with a persimmon syrup dripping with hints of spices and saccharine charm of candied chestnuts, a decadent morning meal for those who can only dream of the tropics. It’s creamy, but vegan with the bright orange toppings hinting of summer-like fruits, fit for the coldest, toughest wintry mornings. I’m also throwing in candied chestnuts, because you know, it’s time to make all things merry.
Note: you need to candy chestnut in advance (2 days) for best flavor, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
2 c coarsely chopped chestnut
1 c sugar
1 c unsweetened coconut milk
1 vanilla bean pod
2 sticks of cinnamon
+ There are a lot of ways to get chestnut from their shell and I suggest trying to do so before attempting this recipe. If you’re not familiar or comfortable with it, they come pre-shelled, which is perfect for this recipe. Otherwise, steamed or boiled chestnuts work perfectly fine here.
+ Remove vanilla bean seeds and add it to the milk, sugar, chestnuts, and cinnamon in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and keep heated for at least 10 minutes. Store in the fridge overnight and repeat simmering for the next two days.
+ If not using for this recipe: to serve as candy, dry them out in a 250 oven for about 1 hour.
Note: The following was inspired by Denis Cotter’s Coconut Risotto, which I have edited a bit for my own use.
Spiced Persimmon Syrup
5 TB water
5 TB sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
used vanilla bean pod from the chestnut
5 star anise
1 ts ginger, grated
4 small, ripe fuyu persimmon (2 hachiyas can be used, but they must be absolutely ripe, and very mushy)
+ Bring to a simmer everything but the persimmon, and set aside.
+ After you finish making the risotto, strain the syrup and puree with the persimmon in a food processor until liquefied. Add extra water if needed to make it syrupy.
Vegan Coconut Risotto
5 c unsweetened coconut milk
1 can of sweet coconut milk
2 TB sugar
1 vanilla bean pod
2 TB coconut oil
7 oz short grain rice
1/4 c sweet wine (riesling, muscat, or a white sweet dessert type)
Zest from 1 orange
+ Bring coconut milks & vanilla to a simmer.
+ In a wide, shallow pan, heat up the coconut oil on medium heat and stir in the rice, continuing to stir for 5 minutes.
+ Then, add the wine and allow the rice to absorb the wine.
+ Next, slowly ladle in about a half cup of warm milk at a time, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
+ This should take about 20 minutes, maybe longer if you cook risotto on lower heat. Just keep adding more coconut milk to your warming pan.
+ Once the rice is al dente, finish the persimmon syrup and cut up some additional slices to serve on top of the risotto along with candied chestnut.
+ To reheat, microwave or on the stove top, add a tablespoon or two of milk.
As an aside – all of my photos are going to look quite noisy for the next… I don’t know, six months? Maybe I should fix my tripod.