parmesan

Onion and rosemary risotto with Marsala

rosemaryrisotto3

I don’t make risotto – all that standing and stirring is too boring and laborious for me. I get impatient and try to add the stock too quickly…my arm hurts. Luckily though my husband Ben is a risotto king. It has become his special dish which he makes for me with love and care when I ask him very nicely and give him plenty of notice (having first checked the weather forecast as standing stirring over a hot stove in the heat is not fun).

This very simple sounding risotto from Lindsey Bareham has become my new favourite – knocking beetroot risotto off the top spot. Prior to that it hand been a James Martin smoked haddock and black pudding one.

The combination of onion and rosemary with the sweet Marsala produces the most heavenly rich flavour. You won’t believe me until you’ve tried it.

Marsala is widely available in supermarkets, look for it in the ‘fortified wine’ section. It also makes a nice aperitif, served cold with ice.

Stirringrisotto

The master teaching the son.

Lindsey Bareham’s onion and rosemary risotto with Marsala

  • 2 ½ medium sized onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 75g of butter
  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 1 small glass of Marsala (or Madeira works well too)
  • Approximately 1 litre of hot chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is always best but a good ready made stock will still be nice)
  • 50g of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper

Fry the ½ of the onion in hot vegetable oil until crisp and drain on some kitchen roll. These are for the crispy onion garnish which is essential.

Melt 50g of butter in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and stir in the rest of the onions seasoned with ½ teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes until limp.

Stir the rosemary into the onions. Add the rice and cook with the onion for a couple of minutes until the rice is semi-translucent.

Then add the Marsala and let it bubble away into the rice stirring all the time as it does.

Now for the laborious bit.

Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and not adding the next ladleful until the rice has absorbed almost all the liquid. You may need to turn the heat down a bit so that you have a nice gentle simmer. The whole process will take around 30 minutes in total. At the end the risotto will have a creamy like consistency and the rice should be soft with a slight bite in the middle. If when you have used up all the stock the rice is still not cooked keep adding a little more hot water until it is done.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the remaining butter and cheese and season to taste with salt, pepper and a little sugar. Cover the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with the garnish of crispy fried onions and extra Parmesan if you like.

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Wild garlic pesto

pesto 1

Wild garlic is in season right now and I’m like a woman possessed scouring verges and wooded areas for this completely free food. I’ve even trained my children to be on the lookout. It’s not hard to identify as the garlicky smell is unmistakable (but do check because it does look similar to Lilly of the Valley – which is poisonous). Not a great photo but this is what it looks like.

wildgarlicgrowing

My son Edgar likes to eat it raw in huge handfuls as soon as he’s picked it. I’m sure this is fine for his health  (wild garlic is said to have antibacterial, antibiotic and antiseptic properties) but it doesn’t do much for his breath.

If you live in Nottingham there’s a healthy blanket of wild garlic at Clifton Wood, and on a recent trip to Scarborough I discovered a great bit patch among the walking paths in South Cliff Gardens.

This wild garlic pesto recipe (from a recipe for gluttony) is brilliant. It uses roasted hazelnuts which provide texture. I just added a little lemon juice to cut through the intense garlic flavour. Toss it with some pasta for a quick and easy dinner.

Wild garlic pesto

1/2 of this amount makes enough to generously cover 500g of dried pasta to feed a family of four

  • 100g of wild garlic leaves
  • 75g of hazelnuts (roasted in the oven at 160oC for about 10 minutes and then crushed with a pestle and mortar)
  • 50g of Parmesan cheese (plus more on top if you’re mixing the pesto with pasta)
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 150ml of good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Put all the ingredients above in a blender and whizz up. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if necessary.

To store, decant into a sterilised jar and drizzle a thin layer of olive oil evenly over the surface (this will help preserve the colour). Keep in the fridge until needed.

pesto 2

Tapenade

tapenade

I’m not sure how you make tapenade look appetising.

My husband is very good in the kitchen but a routine has developed whereby he will cook just once a week (usually on a Friday) and completely steal the show with something new, AND complicated, AND completely delicious. I meanwhile do the everyday scrap cooking that barely gets noticed.

Just a little bit annoying.

Last Friday he went all out making two types of fish cake as a starter (show-off), followed by Tom Kerridge’s ‘Tomato and olive tart with Cornish gurnard’ for the main course. The tart was really good but it was the tapenade spread over the base that completely blew me away.

I can’t believe that I’ve only just discovered tapenade. I’ve seen it many times on programmes like Masterchef and dismissed it as too ‘cheffy’, but it’s surprisingly easy to make and very versatile. I was a bit scared of the anchovies but you can’t really taste them. And just look at all the things you can do with it:

Ways to use tapenade (not exhaustive)

  • Spread over a puff pastry base as part of a tart (as in the aforementioned recipe ‘Tomato and olive tart with Cornish gurnard’)
  • Mix with any sort of pasta
  • Serve as an accompaniment to a nice piece of grilled chicken or fish
  • As a dip for raw vegetables or tortilla chips
  • As a bruschetta topping

So make loads and then keep it in the fridge in a very clean jam jar covered with a layer of olive oil. I’m not sure how long it lasts but I reckon two or three weeks would be fine because it uses ingredients that have already been preserved in some way.

In my usual ‘make do’ style it was me that used up the remaining tapenade in Monday night’s dinner – mixed up with orzo, leftover cooked sausage, a bit of mozzarella, a few black olives and some dog-eared basil leaves (AKA ‘chuck everything in the fridge in with some pasta’).

Tapenade (From Tom Kerridge’s ‘Proper Pub Food’)

Makes a jam jar’s worth

  • 115g stoned black olives
  • 25g of salted anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons of capers, drained
  • 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 130ml of extra virgin olive oil

Put all the ingredients, except the oil, into a food processor and blitz until finely chopped.

Add the olive oil and blitz again until you have a thick puree.

Store in a clean jam jar in the fridge until ready to use.

Pea and garlic soup

pea and garlic soup

I may be glowing with the success of my garlic crop but I don’t talk about my peas (which never even germinated). Luckily this recipe (based on a Nigella  one) uses frozen peas rather than fresh.

Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic – once roasted the flavour is mellow and sweet and not at all over powering. I’m not a fan of super creamy soups so I have reduced the amount of butter and cheese by half, and I don’t bother with double cream which I think dulls the flavour.

Pea and garlic soup

Serves 4

  • 2 large heads of garlic
  • 4 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 400g of frozen peas
  • 400ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 25g of butter (Nigella uses double this amount)
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan (Nigella uses double this amount)
  • 300ml of double cream (optional)

Cut the very top off the head of garlic so that you can just see the tops of the cloves. Cut out a square of tin foil, sit the garlic in the middle, drizzle over 2 teaspoons of olive oil and then make a loose parcel with the tin foil around the garlic, sealing at the top. Repeat with the other head.

Bake in an oven preheated to 180oC for an hour until soft.

Squeeze the soft cloves of garlic out of their skins into a food processor.

Heat the chicken stock in a pan, add the frozen peas and cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until the peas are thawed and warmed through. Add the peas and stock to the food processor.

Add the butter and Parmesan then process until creamy.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste and a little cream if you think it necessary – I don’t.

NOTE: This is great served with homemade baguettes (find the recipe here)

 

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic 2

It’s half term and we’ve been in Scarborough eating lots of gluttonous seaside food. Amazing fish & chips at the Magpie Cafe and giant ice cream sundaes at the Harbour Bar, but also things I’m a bit ashamed of, like ready-made pizzas from Sainsburys Local and my first McDonald’s hamburger in about five years (which, after a fair amount of rose wine, I declared was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten!!!).

So for most of the week I’ve entered the kitchen only to turn on the oven and remove packaging. And on our return yesterday I was still in holiday  ‘I can’t be bothered to cook’ mode but we had to have something for dinner so I made this super quick pasta dish.

I tried the recipe for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to become a staple in our house. It’s easy to make but a bit different to your usual pasta and sauce.

The original recipe (by Olia Hercules for the Guardian) is made with spaetzle (tiny egg dumplings that you make by pushing batter through a colander) but these are a faff to make and I’m not a huge fan of the texture so I make it with linguine instead.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

For two

  • 200-300g of linguine (depending on appetite)
  • 70g of hazelnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a little sea salt
  • 50g of parmesan cheese, grated
  • Two good handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling
  • Some sea salt

First toast the hazelnuts in an oven heated to 180oC for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Roughly crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar or chop finely with a knife. I buy my hazelnuts unblanched from Lidl (where they’re cheapest) and find that once roasted the skins come off really easily.

Put the nuts, garlic, parsley, oil and parmesan in a large bowl and mix.

Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, then drain and toss into the bowl with the other ingredients and stir until well coated. Serve immediately with a little extra olive oil drizzled over the top and a good sprinkling of  sea salt (although these are optional and can be left out if you’re watching your fat/salt content).

Serve with a green salad on the side if you’re worried about the absence of greens, and a large glass of crisp, white wine if you like.

Things in jars – pickling and pesto

It’s that season down at the allotment when all the hard work pays off and everything seems to be ready to eat all at once. It’s both a joy and a bit of a stress. Because I just hate waste I fret about trying to use up everything but sometimes there just don’t seem to be enough meal times in the day and I’m already bombarding my friends and relatives with hand-outs. This is where pickling and preserving comes in.

Pickled Beetroot and Eggs

Beetroot pickled eggs

Beetroot pickled eggs

My friend ‘Little Ben’ first introduced me to pickled eggs at the end of a drunken night out in Nottingham and I have to admit I was not a fan. These pickled beetroot eggs however are truly delicious. The beetroot makes them lovely and sweet and the pinky colour of the eggs is just wonderful. I like to eat them on their own, sliced in half with a blob of mayonnaise and salt and pepper. They are also really good cut up in a Russian style salad with their pickled beetroot neighbours.

  • Cooked beetroot skinned and chopped into chunks (I cut medium sized beetroot into quarters). To cook I scrub the beetroot gently and roast them in their skins in a foil envelope  for an hour at 160oC fan.
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • About 250ml of red wine vinegar (it’s difficult to be exact here as you will need enough to cover the contents of the jar and this will depend on how tightly packed in things are
  • A teaspoon of sugar
  • A couple of bay leaves
  • About 6 peppercorns mixed white and black

Sterilise a big jar (750ml mayonnaise ones are good) then cram in the cooked beetroot and the eggs layering the two throughout the jar.

I put the vinegar, sugar, bay leaves and peppercorns into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. When the mixture is piping hot and the sugar has dissolved I tip the vinegar into the jars until the eggs and beetroot are completely immersed. I then pop on the lids of the jars and leave to cool. Leave the jars for at least a couple of weeks in the fridge before using.

Basil Pesto

Brilliant basil...

Brilliant basil.

  • Fresh basil leaves (stems removed)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • A little lemon juice
  • Salt

Pesto is so easy to make but it’s difficult to give exact quantities for this recipe as it will depend on how much basil you have available at the time and it’s quality. Once you’ve whizzed up the basil leaves in a food processor with a good glug of olive oil to help things along (I have one of those mini choppers like this one http://www.cuisinart.co.uk/mini-processor.html which works well) you just need to add the other ingredients a little at a time until you have the right balance. If you’re basil leaves are a bit long in the tooth then you will need to use quite a lot of olive oil. You will also need a lot more basil than you may think. One shop bought basil plant will only make the tiniest jar of pesto so it really is best to grow your own. I drive my family mad by growing plants on every window sill in the house as well as in huge tubs in the allotment greenhouse.

Keep your pesto in a sterilised jar in the fridge with a fine layer of olive oil on the top to stop it from turning brown. I’ve never actually managed to keep any long enough for it to go off in the fridge but it should keep for at least a month or two.

I always add parmesan cheese to the pesto before tossing with pasta but I find that if you jar it with the parmesan added then it impairs the flavour.

A Lovage version

A couple of years ago we bought a small lovage plant from our local garden centre in a 4 for 3 offer on herbs. We didn’t have a clue what it was at the time or how it could be used. Lovage is said to be similar to celery in flavour but personally I think the taste is unique and I absolutely love it. The plant has grown to over a metre high and takes centre stage in our herb bed. Because it is so plentiful in the early part of the year when the basil on the window sills and in the green house is only just germinating we thought we’d try a pesto made with lovage instead of basil with the same additional ingredients as above.  You will probably need a bit more olive oil than for a basil version and it’s a very strong flavour but used sparingly and mixed into pasta with plenty of parmesan it is delicious.

Lovely lovage

Lovely lovage

Courgettes, courgettes, courgettes

I so look forward to the very first courgettes of the season but then, after a month or so when they just keep coming and coming, I scrabble around desperate for new recipes to try. Here are two of my favourite recipes but please do contact me (details on the ‘about me’ page) if you have any other good ones (aside from the usual ratatouille and stuffed courgettes which get a bit tedious). As much as I absolutely hate waste it’s got to the point now where we can’t even give them away. We are currently decorating our garden with some of the larger ones and in past years they have ended up as door stops and baby playthings.

courgettes edited Eddie with courgette edited 2

Courgette and basil soup

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 8 medium courgettes roughly chopped into chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • A good handful of parmesan
  • A good handful of basil leaves (or you can use pesto if the basil has dried up)
  • 1 1/2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is best but packet is also fine)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the courgettes and garlic. Turn the heat down low. The key here is to sweat the courgettes down slowly (for at least 30 minutes) without browning. The smell at this point is just wonderful. Then pour in the stock and bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. I let the mixture cool now for a bit before whizzing up (because I’m prone to liquidiser accidents) but if you’re in a hurry, and you’re careful it’s not really necessary.

Pour the mixture into a liquidiser and add the basil. Whizz for about 30 seconds or until smooth. The original recipe recommended a coarse texture but I personally prefer a finer one.

I then pour the mixture back into the pan and season well with salt and a little pepper. I don’t add the parmesan until the soup is ready to serve and I stir this in at the end once it’s heated through. I always have it in my head that soup is a little boring (this probably comes from my Dad who has never classed soup as a proper meal) so I like to work the presentation. With this recipe I save a little parmesan to sprinkle over the top and then add a drizzle of good olive oil and a few torn up basil leaves.

Any leftover soup keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge as long as you don’t add the parmesan.

Courgette and hazelnut cake

This recipe was passed to me by a former colleague Glenis. It’s taken from her vast collection of recipes cut out of magazines, I have no idea how old it is or which magazine it came from. I promise that it is much nicer than it sounds. In the past, when I was working, I have taken it into the office and everyone has devoured it (as long as the secret ingredient isn’t disclosed until the end).

This is a large cake that should easily divide into 10-12 large pieces.

  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • 25ml walnut oil
  • 225g grated unpeeled courgettes, patted dry with kitchen towel
  • 275g self-raising flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180oC fan, and prepare a 23cm spring form tin by lightly oiling and lining with greaseproof paper.

Roast the hazelnuts for 5-10 minutes on a tray in the oven. Watch them carefully to make sure that they don’t burn, you want a golden colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray before chopping roughly.

Place the sugar, eggs and two oils in a large mixing bowl and whisk until thick (you can do this by hand but it’s really, really hard work so I always use an electric mix). Add the courgettes to the oily, sugary mixture and stir until combined. Combine the flour, salt and cinnamon in a bowl and then add to the courgette mixture, folding in very gently. Then fold in the roasted hazelnuts, again use a gentle action here so that you don’t overbeat the mixture.

Tip the mixture into the tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Leave the cake in the tin to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Then remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely before icing.

The original recipe decorates the cake with ripe peaches before serving but I prefer a more gluttonous, carrot cake style cream cheese topping which I make by mixing a small tub of full fat cream cheese (200g) with an equal amount of icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence.