For all her brilliant food styling and too-easy recipes, there's a big part of me that can't stand Donna Hay. There, I said it. It's not her personally; but the ridiculous and blatant commercialisation of all things "Donna" is cringe-inducing.
Beneath the facade, I'm starting to see some serious flaws to Donna's picture-perfect lifestyle-empire. First there's the magazine. It's very, very pretty, but packed with advertising and an unnecessary quantity of food porn. Then there's the books. Equally as pretty as the magazines and with some lovely simple recipes and seriously clever domestic catering ideas, but also a shameless promotion of her many (over-priced) kitchen products. And of course, the new TV show, "Fast, Fresh, Simple". Which is generally true to it's name, with plenty of nods to busy home cooks by providing family-friendly recipes, utilising simple and cheap pantry fare, and lots of shortcuts to make the whole experience a lot quicker and painless.
This is all fantastic and something I'm a huge advocate for. But, there is also some pretty terrible self-promotion by Donna, including numerous camera shots of her beautiful multi million dollar Sydney apartment, complete with harbour views. This is palatable; but then she suddenly breezes in, looking out the window, then, flicking her long glossy hair, she smugly looks back into the camera, says - "doesn't this AH-MAAAYZING view just MAKE you WANT to cook ALL DAY?" - before pulling out a Donna Hay pan, Donna Hay mixing spoon, Donna Hay chopping board, Donna Hay shower curtain, Donna Hay dildo, Donna Hay cat scratching post, Donna Hay ... well okay. You take my point.
I think I could almost overlook all of these things, except the sticking point for me is that you have to BUY everything Donna offers. In Donna-land, nothing is for free: the show is even on pay-TV. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but for someone with so much damn cash you'd think that at least she could throw the recipes from her show on the website every once in a while. A-la "The Cook and the Chef". Maggie and Simon's somewhat experimental but very honet and heart-felt recipes are still up on the good old ABC site for all to see and use. Free. And Maggie has a little empire of her own up in the Barossa, but she never pushed her products or rubbed our noses in the fact that she lives in the lap of luxury while the rest of us mere mortals toil away in cramped, inadequate kitchens with non stainless steel appliances and mismatched crockery from the '80's.
Now, honesty time. I'm airing my frustrations because, upon watching Donna's latest show (yes, I'm still a begrudging fan), she made what looked to be a a pretty easy and clever oven baked pumpkin risotto. But I didn't write down all the ingredients or the method, assuming I could visit her website and refresh my memory. No dice, it turns out that ALL the recipes featuring on her show are just a demonstration of the recipes that are in the latest mag.
Well, this time I'm taking a stand. Donna, given the opportunity, I would happily acknowledge your good work by referencing it in my blog post, but unfortunately I'll have to resort to posting up my own dodgy, sub-standard work instead. Who likes a good pumpkin and sage risotto? One that's baked in the oven and doesn't require standing and stirring for half an hour? See below for this week's FREE recipe from, that's right, yours truly.
Pumpkin and Sage "no stir" Risotto:
One butternut pumpkin, skin removed and chopped into big cubes
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
8 cloves finely sliced garlic
1 diced onion
pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine (leave this out if you don't have any)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
handful of fresh sage leaves
50 grams salted butter
splash of olive oil
Grab a big casserole dish with a heavy lid (I got mine at Harris Scarf for about $40 bucks), and throw in the pumpkin, rice, stock, garlic, onion, pepper and wine. Shake it around a bit to combine, then put the lid on and place in a pre-heated 200 degree oven for 40 minutes.
Take it out and take off the lid. Add the parmesan and give it a gentle stir so the creamy starch comes out of the rice, it's also ok if some of the pumpkin breaks up as it adds to the lovely colour of the dish. It will look a little watery at this point but trust me, it shouldn't need any more cooking. Put the lid back on and set aside, then put a frypan on medium heat on the stove top. Add butter, olive oil and sage leaves, and fry the leaves, shaking the pan while the leaves cook. Do this for about 5 minutes or until they start to curl slightly (or just as the butter starts to brown). Pour the butter/oil and sage over the risotto.
Serve with a little extra parmesan.