Archive for September, 2012

Wet, windy Wednesday’s tropical storm (apparently the tail end of Hurricane Nadine) was the herald that Summer was over. Cloudless, cerulean blue skies turning to ghostly grey and the drop in temperature were the clues to make everyone assume that Autumn was on its way.

Patio furniture and BBQ sets have been hidden away until next year.

Our food naturally changes with the seasons. When I think of Autumn, I don’t just think of the obvious gourd. Not that there is anything wrong with a bright orange pumpkin or a seasonal butternut squash used in soups or roasted with maple syrup but characteristically they tend to be associated with Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving.

To me Autumn is more than just this; it is about a return to the food of the forest. Vivid greens having transformed themselves into the colour of the earth. Foraging for the last remaining edible scraps that will eventually be wiped out by the onslaught of cold and rain.

Mushrooms are the ultimate autumnal feast. I know we can get several varieties of white mushroom throughout the year thanks to supermarkets capitalising on our greed, but these tend to be bland and tasteless with a very short storage life.

Truffles, Cepes, Morels, Chanterelles, Portobello

Wild mushrooms are packed full of flavour but are found scant in the wild. Therefore, drying these is the perfect way of extending their shelf life.

My neighbours recently (or maybe not that recently, I can’t remember) gave me a packet of dried porcini mushrooms that they had brought back from Rome for me. So what best to cook with these than Mushroom Risotto!

Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients:

  • Dried mushrooms
  • Button/chestnut mushrooms
  • Risotto Rice
  • Chicken stock
  • Onions/shallots
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • dry white wine
  • parmesan
  • salt & pepper
  • parsley

1st: Prepare a litre of stock and keep it warm on the hob. Use any stock you wish – I prefer chicken and not vegetable stock and generally use either a cube or those new stock pots. Both need to be mixed with hot water. I most certainly don’t make my own stock as have neither the incling nor the need to have to make everything from scratch!

2nd: Place the dried Porcini mushrooms into a bowl and cover with hot water from a recently boiled kettle to reconstitute. Leave for 10mins.

3rd: In a saucepan add some butter and olive oil. Once foamy, add a finely chopped medium onion or if you prefer to use shallots do so (shallots are more authentic in a risotto than onions). Sautée until the onions are soft and translucent.

4th: Add the risotto rice to the saucepan and slick with the oniony, buttery mixture. Keep stirring the mixture so that it won’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Once you hear the rice begin to fry in the pan, pour in a glass of dry white wine. Mix into the rice mixture and let the alcohol boil off.

5th: Chop the fresh mushrooms and add to the mixture.

6th: Now you can start adding ladelfuls of warm stock to the rice. As one ladelful of stock is absorbed add the next. Don’t let the rice become waterlogged as what you want is the rice to slowly cook whilst at the same time releasing its sweet, creamy starch. This stage will take approx 15mins unitl all the stock is absorbed but do not let this faze you; remain calm and relaxed.

I tend to find the repetitive stirring very reassuring and almost lulling.

7th: Drain the porcini mushrooms and add to the risotto. Take off the heat and mix in some more butter and parmesan cheese. Check for seasoning. Clamp on a lid and let it sit for at least 2mins before serving. Serve with a ribbon of olive oil and chopped parsely to add another level of taste as well as colour.

If you want to be extravagant but not show-offy, replace the olive oil at the end for truffle oil! A tiny bottle costs around £10 but a little goes a very long way.

NB The risotto should be one homogenous mixture.  The liquid should not be oozing away from the rice.  Neither should the risotto be so dry that a spoonful remains stoic in the centre of your plate!

Buon Appetito!

Dinner Date

Posted: September 13, 2012 in Dinner
Tags: , , , ,

Last night, I was torn with what to cook for dinner.

After a summer of BBQ’s and eating out, my cupboards were lousier than Mother Hubbard’s! Therefore a stressful supermarket session was necessary to replenish depleted stocks.

Lacking food-shop-practice and forgetting where things were and having to return to the car to get my shopping bags, I spent 45 mins of disorganised foraging and flitting between food aisles! But all was not in vain, as I eventually walked out with a number of items that could be combined to create a variety of meals.

A boot full of shopping and sat in the driver’s seat, I was still unsure what to cook for dinner.

Salmon fillet, sirloin steak, fresh veg, smoked bacon, pasta, rice….

Two immediate ideas came to mind: 1) Bacon wrapped salmon fillet & veg; 2) Asian beef stir fry. But how to choose? How does one really choose between fish and beef? So to help me decide I called upon my friends; I sought help by posting the question on both Facebook and Twitter.

By the time I had driven home and unpacked the shopping, I had several posts on both networking sites with individuals expressing their preference:

Others were just as juxtaposed as I was and made comments like:

Unfortunately for tummy, head won 3:6!

Bacon-wrapped salmon fillet

So bacon-wrapped salmon fillet and veg it was to be.  Easy to prepare and cook.  

1st: Wrap bacon around a salmon fillet.

2nd: Place onto a baking sheet and bake until the bacon is crisp.

There is no danger of over cooking the salmon as the bacon protects it and keeps it moist.  The only difficult thing is having the self restraint to photograph the food before eating the entire plate!!  I clearly didn’t show that restraint!

But as this was quite quick to put together, I went ahead and marinaded the beef for today’s dinner!

So here is my suggestion: those of you who are up for it, seeing as you all helped me with my menu choice – we arrange to cook the same meal on a specific night next sometime and share the results.  Just give everyone enough time to get the food in and we can have our own dinner date.

Who’s in?