Recipe 56: Restrained risotto

February 26, 2011 at 11:17 am | Posted in savoury | 2 Comments

I love Italian food… I adore pasta, risotto and (obviously) tiramisu. But while these dishes are full  full of lovely flavours and vegetables, the cream/cheese content can reach  rather disturbing levels for everyday eating. So I decided to develop a risotto that was full of flavour but didn’t require a ton of parmesan/mascarpone or other such addition at the end – which has become my restrained risotto: more of a template than a recipe – but I thought I would share it anyway. The idea is that you use robust flavoursome ingredients that mean that the absence of parmesan at the end doesn’t feel like you are missing out… and my favourite combination is leek, pea and pancetta (although feel free to substitute – often leftover chicken from Sunday lunch is used, or I’ve done a red version with red onion, peppers and sausage). I find it makes a perfect mid-week supper with friends – so recently I’ve cooked it for Sarah, and Audrey & Martin. It has the added advantage of being pretty quick to make (and yes I am one of those people who finds stirring risotto relaxing – it was one of the motives for seeking out a flat with a kitchen-diner so that I could chat to my dinner guests while stirring making the risotto experience more sociable).

Making it: If using pancetta (coming in handy ready to go packs from most supermarkets) first saute that in the pan – you don’t need to add oil as the pancetta has plenty! This then lubricates the pan to saute off the leeks (which I reckon take at least 5 minutes to soften on a lowish heat – don’t get the pan too hot or they will burn – and that taste less good). Once that is all soft, turn the heat up to medium, add the risotto rice and stir to get it coated in the oil, then add a glass of white wine/vermouth for some flavour, and stir the process of idle stirring. Once the liquid is absorbed, add another cupful and keep adding cupfuls of stock until the rice has cooked (20- 25 minutes – and for 2 people eating around 125g of rice – I reckon on about 1 litre of stock – which is usually made with vegetable bouillon powder). When it is  cooked, add the peas then some herbs (fresh sage is the best with pancetta and leeks), seasoning and a little drizzle of olive oil and then take it off the heat and put a lid (or plate) on the pan for 2 minutes to let the flavours mingle before dishing out

Eating it: I love this – so I am not an unbiased reviewer – but others seem to enjoy it too (or at least it generally gets eaten up!)

Next time: in the summer it would be fun to add asparagus…


Recipe 55: Marbled vanilla and chocolate chip cake

February 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Posted in baking | Leave a comment
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In a game of culinary word association the name Mary Berry should lead to “traybake”. Mary Berry is the queen of traditional cake baking (and I totally loved her wisdom in the Great British Bake-Off) and on Tuesday morning I got a call asking if I could host our Bible Study group that evening, (and as I was off work) it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a traybake. Jenni bought be a Mary Berry book for my birthday –  a great source of something classic, yet interesting. The marble cake caught my eye: somehow I think marble cake is slightly magic, 2 different mixtures in one cake,  and this one was covered in two different chocolates!

Making it: a simple all in one sponge mixture that only took a couple of minutes to make in the Kenwood. The magic comes when you splodge half of the mixture into the tin leaving gaps.  Then the other half of the mixture is then made all chocolatey by adding  cocoa powder and chocolate chips. To make it into a marble cake, the chocolate mixture was dolloped into the gaps, and a bit of spatula action smushed it all around to create the marble effect – I didn’t do too much mixing to avoid the two different batters becoming one. It was then put in the oven for 40 minutes. Once it was cool I melted white and dark chocolate and splodged/drizzled it over the top – Jackson Pollack style.

Eating it: YUMMY. Everyone had seconds, and received a couple of text messages reaffirming their appreciation after they had gone home! It was a simple, yet satisfying cake – a proper cake for enjoying when you don’t need to show off but just want to be hospitable.

Next time: maybe if I am feeling more coordinated, I would put the melted chocolate into a simple piping bag so that it is more neatly drizzled (but really not at all necessary)


February 9, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Posted in musings | 2 Comments

Sorry!  The aim to write once a week didn’t quite happen in January. Sadly that resolution went the way of so many other new years resolutions. But while I was defeated in January, its time to dust myself off, and try again… so hopefully I will get myself back into the swing of regular postings!

I need to make  a confession… I think I might have taken it all a little to far after Christmas

My desire to have a kitchen like Nigella’s has possibly gone too far…

I’ve not taken down the fairy lights around the dining area window in my kitchen…

The only defence that I can make is that the fairy lights work really well around the window – I don’t have any blinds/curtains in my kitchen as I haven’t found anything i like. And the additional lighting gives a softer feel to the room: great for dinner with some candles, or to cheer me up when I am eating alone!

What do you think? Have I gone too far into the world of twinkle-y kitsch? Have my cute jelly mould lights, and new cutlery clock warped my style sense? Have I lost any remaining claim to be in any way a responsible member of society? Or should i just relax and enjoy their sparkly goodness?

In other interiors news…. I have been greatly amused by the reviews of Heston Blumenthal’s new restaurant in London – as the light fittings are modelled on jelly moulds! Admittedly slightly larger and made from glass – but glad to see that I was ahead of that trend.

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