I work with a gentleman who has a booming great laugh. When he is in a meeting room you can hear him across the office and through the walls. His laughter drowns out phone conversations. But I love it because it sounds like true mirth to me.
Did you know that as we grow up our laughter rates fall from about 400 times a day as a toddler to an average for adults of only 15 times per day? Not a very funny statistic at all in my opinion. The sound of a laugh is the precious, and I think in this often too serious world that we need to bring back some of the laughter.
Do you remember being younger and laughing more? I can think back to high school and walking home in the afternoons with my sister and friends and just laughing into the clear blue sky until I thought my cheeks would fall off. Who doesn’t want to feel that happiness again?
And laughter has so many beneficial health effects too. According to WebMD, research has shown that laughter helps with: increased blood flow, better immune response, decreased blood sugar levels, and better relaxation and sleep. The Mayo Clinic takes it further revealing long term benefits of laughter such as pain relief and increased personal satisfaction. So, to live a thoroughly nourished life, we need to increase the amount of laughter we get in every day.
I am not an adult who is naturally buoyant, so I am lucky to have Chris in my life. He can see the fun and laughter in nearly any situation, and has a wide ranging appetite for comedic relief. We watch stand-up comics on television, satirical political shows, and send each other funny cartoons throughout the day. My Mum, Dad, and sister all take part in group emails where we share funny emails with each other too. I guess I might be over the average for adults then!
This mushroom risotto was made on a wintery Tuesday night. A night where we had both stumbled home through the darkness (our porch light is defective) and wanted something that could be cradled in our hands while watching British comedy panel shows. By the end of the night tummies were filled and cheeks were hurting.
I’ve written of my love of risotto before, and this one is even easier to make on a weeknight after work because most of the work is done by the oven. While I love standing at the stove and stirring away my stress, sometimes I want to come home, roast some vegetables and put rice and liquid in the oven too. Thirty minutes later (or one glass of wine later) you combine the two and presto! Dinner is served. I have used Swiss brown mushrooms here as they have an earthier, more wintery taste to them. I also added a small splash of cognac, feel free to leave it out, but which adds a subtle background taste. If you cannot find shallots (look carefully in the onion section of the grocery store) then feel free to use two small purple onions.
Tell me dear reader, what makes you laugh?
Roasted Shallot and Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from this recipe at Taste | Serves 4 | Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Make it vegan: leave out feta cheese at the end
- 200 grams shallots (also called French shallots)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 400 grams Swiss brown mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 250 grams Arborio rice
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons cognac
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- Small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
- Peel brown skin from shallots, slice in half lengthways, and place on baking tray. Put tray into preheated oven and roast for 30 minutes.
- While the shallots are roasting. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Saute garlic, mushrooms and dried rosemary and thyme until mushrooms are soft.
- Add rice and cook until the grains are shiny and coated with the oil. About 1 minute.
- Add cognac and cook until the liquid is absorbed.
- Add stock and bring to the boil.
- Carefully spoon the rice mixture into a large ovenproof casserole dish and cover tightly with lid or aluminium foil.
- Bake for 10 minutes covered, then remove lid and cook for a further 10 minutes or until rice is softened but still firm to the bite and liquid has been absorbed.
- Remove from oven and stand aside for 5 minutes.
- Remove shallots from oven and remove any burnt pieces.
- Stir shallots, parsley and feta into risotto.
Serve with a side of laughter.