Risotto Bianco with Rocket & Parma Ham

Risotto Bianco with Rocket and Parma Ham

2 tblspn olive oil

2 tblspn butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

5 sticks of celery, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

250ml dry white wine

350g arborio rice

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (homemade)

Salt

2 handfuls grated Parmesan

50g butter

Pepper

To serve:

Parma ham

Rocket

  • In a large pan, heat the oil and butter over a medium heat until melted.  Add the onion, celery and garlic and stir to coat.  Reduce heat a little and cook gently for 15 – 20 mins until vegetables are soft and translucent but not caramelised.
  • Meanwhile, heat the stock in another pot until simmering.  Reduce heat to keep stock hot but not simmering.
  • Increase the heat to medium high and add the rice.  Stir to coat with oil and combine with the veg and cook for a minute.  Add the wine and let it bubbly up, stirring occasionally.
  • Now for the relaxing part…  Reduce the heat to medium and add a ladle of stock to the rice and stir with a wooden spoon firmly, massaging the rice until all of the liquid is absorbed.  You want the rice and liquid to just simmer at a gentle blib not vigorously.  Keep adding the stock and letting it absorb until the rice is almost soft and the last ladle has been absorbed.  Taste for seasoning at this point, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Don’t be too liberal with the salt as the Parmesan and Parma ham will also add salt.
  • Remove the pot from the heat.  Stir in the remaining butter then cover and let sit for a couple of minutes.
  • Stir well again then serve topped with parma ham and rocket.

Cumin Roasted Carrots

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Got these beautiful carrots from our local Food Assembly a few weeks ago.  They were so very pretty, I wanted to show them off.  So I sent photos of them to everyone (receiving a variety of responses in return) and then planned dinner around them: cumin roasted carrots with grilled lamb leg steaks, hummus, tzatziki, salad and pita chips.

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Cumin Roasted Carrots

Allow 2 medium carrots per person (they reduce considerably in size as they cook)

¼ tspn cumin seeds per portion

½ tspn olive oil per portion

Pinch of salt and pepper

  • Heat the oven to 190oC
  • Peel the carrots, half length ways then width ways to make batons. Toss with the oil, cumin and seasoning and place on a baking tray (Don’t crowd).
  • Roast for 30 – 40 mins, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelised.

Cornbread and Beans…

We ate a lot of cornbread this summer and not all of it good.  Often I found it too cakey and extremely sweet . When it was good, however, it was fantastic.  Stand out cornbread experiences included my friend, Nanette’s kitchen, the dining hall of the Folk School and an excellent brunch in Marché Artisan Foods, Nashville.

Since returning I’ve made this version by Anna Jones several times.  It’s a coriander and chilli spiked version made with cornmeal and fresh corn.  Not very traditional, perhaps, but a cracker of a recipe.

PS If you don’t know Anna Jones, I highly recommend her cookbooks.  All dishes are vegetarian and I’m yet to find one that underwhelms me.

Red Currant and Almond Muffins

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I forgot we had red currant bushes. In years past, what little crop was produced was eaten by the birds.  Not sure what happened this year but we have more red currants than we can handle!  Red currants have topped salads and cereals and they’ve been made into jelly and cordial.  The best way to eat them is by the handful straight from the bush but these muffins are a close second for me.

Red Currant and Almond Muffins

150g plain flour
100g ground almonds
3 tspn baking powder
Pinch salt
50g caster sugar
1 egg
225ml milk (plus extra if required)
60g butter melted
1 cup red currants
1 tblspn almond extract

  • Preheat oven to 190oC and butter a muffin tin.
  • Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl then stir in the red currants until evenly distributed.
  • Briefly whisk together the wet ingredients and add to the bowl. Use a large metal spoon to fold ingredients together. Do this briskly and do not over mix. Add a little extra milk if required.
  • Spoon batter into tins (approx ⅔ full). Bake for 25 mins until risen and golden on top.

Fig and Walnut Bread

Sundays are for long walks with Marco and baking bread.  This morning there’s a distinct autumnal chill in the air.  It’s not quite hat weather but it’s not far off.  We’re heading to our favourite woods to chase pheasants (Marco) and pick mushrooms (me) and when we return, I’ll make my current favourite bread: Spelt, Fig and Walnut.

I’ve taken to kneading my bread by hand again.  For a while there, I was using a mixer to do all the work and a fine job it did of it too.  Missed the therapy of working the dough myself, though.  It feels oddly right now that those 15 minutes have returned to my Sunday routine.

Fig and Walnut Bread (Got the idea for this bread from the back of the Doves’ spelt flour package.  I’m not so keen on bread make entirely with spelt though.  This ratio was more to my liking.)

300ml tepid water

1 tspn dried active yeast

1 tspn brown sugar

150g spelt flour

350g strong white flour

1 tspn salt

6 dried figs

1 teabag

75g walnuts

A little oil

  • Add the yeast and sugar to the water and set aside for 10 mins.
  • Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the water and use your hand to mix to a rough dough.
  • Turn out on to a clean surface and knead for 10 – 15 minutes until dough is silky and pliable. Place in a lightly oiled plastic bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for an hour or two until doubled in size.
  • While dough is rising, briefly toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan then chop roughly. Soak the figs in hot tea for 30 mins, blot dry then chop roughly.
  • When dough is risen, tip on to a lightly floured surface and knock the air out. Stretch dough out into a flat rectangle and sprinkly across the nuts and figs.  Roll dough up then knead again for a couple of minutes until filling is evenly distributed and dough is holding together again (it’ll be a little tricky at first but it will happen).
  • Shape into a ball and place on lightly floured baking sheet. Cover ( I put a big plastic bowl upside-down over the dough) and leave to rest in a warm place for another hour.
  • Meanwhile, heat the over to 190oC. Make sure there is a baking tray heating on the shelf below the one you’ll put the bread on.
  • When the dough is risen, sprinkle with a little white flour then slash diagonally three times. Place in the oven.  Pour a cup of water into the hot baking tray then shut the door quickly.  This will create lots of steam to give you a good crust.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Let cool completely before slicing.

Very good with some salty butter and/or sharp cheddar.

Perfect Shortbread (and a pretty sunset)


I didn’t used to be good at making shortbread.  Sure, I could whip up a decent base for Strawberry Shortcake or Millionaire’s Shortbread but I had never produced a biscuit that I thought was good enough to eat unembellished with a strong cup of tea.  This had to change once I had accepted the invitation to teach a Scottish cookery course in the USA, of course.  Scotland = shortbread,

So I tried out some recipes.  A LOT of recipes.  Recipes from books, from blogs, from friends and from family and, though some of the latter ones were hugely successful in those individuals’ hands, they just didn’t work for me.  And then I tried The Three Chimney’s recipe.

For those of you who don’t know, The Three Chimney’s is a restaurant on the west coast of Skye (pics of Skye here and here).  I’ve only eaten there once and, having gone for the 9 course tasting menu plus matching wine flight, it almost bankrupt us.  Totally worth it though!  The food was amazing, the restaurant is beautiful, the service friendly and helpful,  and after 5 hours of wining and dining, I left feeling like the large amount of money we had spent had been a bargain.

Now I don’t remember if I had the shortbread when I ate at the restaurant but my lovely Aunt Anne gifted me the cookbook last year and it was here I found the Three Chimney’s recipe.  And it was perfect.  Delicate, melting, buttery and not too sweet.

I can’t, in all good conscience, reproduce the recipe here as I didn’t alter a single thing.  You can find it here, however.

Try it; you won’t regret it.

Stovies

I am rather particular when it comes to stovies.  Sometimes when we’re out for a walk on a chilly day, we’ll stop in at a pub for some lunch.  If there are stovies on the menu (a hearty Scots dish of potatoes slowly cooked with dripping and onion), I’m always tempted to order them.  They are perfect cold weather fodder.  Problem is some folk have funny ideas about what makes stovies and, more often than not, I’m disappointed by what I’m served.

Now, these “folk” with their “funny ideas” do, admittedly, tend to simply be from areas of Scotland other than Aberdeen.  Usually, I’m all for regional variations, variety being the spice of life and whatnot.  But, really, who puts sausages in stovies??

Stovies should be moist but not runny.  The potatoes should be sliced thickly and disintegrating, not chunky or mashed.  And the meat, the meat should be shredded beef or lamb; it should not be chicken or corned beef or – splutter – sausages.  Finally, stovies should be served with oatcakes and beetroot.

Do stovies this way and you’re doing them right.  🙂

Stovies (to be made the day after a roast dinner)

(serves 4)

2 tblspn dripping or butter

3 onions, sliced thickly

800g floury potatoes, peeled and sliced 1cm thick

100-200g leftover meat, shredded (lamb or beef)

2 tblspn meat jelly

1/2 cup of lamb or beef stock 

Salt and pepper

  • In a heavy based pan, fry the onions in the fat until soft and just starting to turn golden.  Remove pan from heat and pour onion and fat into a bowl.
  • Build layers of potatoes, onion/fat and meat, adding a little sprinkle of salt and pepper each time.  Once all the potato etc has been layered add the stock and meat jelly and place back on the heat.
  • Heat until the liquid starts to boil then reduce heat to low, place lid on the pan and cook gently for an hour.  Check occasionally to make sure they haven’t dried out and add a splash more stock if they look like they might.
  • Serve with oatcakes and fresh or pickled beetroot.