Posts Tagged ‘Parmesan’

Mediterranean vegetable lasagne with ricotta and parmesan

February 2, 2011

Lasagne is one of those fabulous dishes that I don’t think you really need a recipe for or an ingredients list for that matter. You can put almost anything in it. All you need is a tomato based sauce, a cheese based sauce some fresh or dried lasagne and game on! So basically I feel as if there is no need to write this recipe at all. Although I tend to forget that some people actually have never made lasagne or don’t really “wing it” with recipes like I do. So for all you people out there that need a recipe here goes.

Ingredients (serves 8 hungry people)

Tomato sauce

4 tins of peeled tomatoes
6-8 cloves of garlic
1 large red onion
Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Sugar

Mediterranean Vegetables

1 large aubergine (eggplant)
4 red peppers/capsicum (you could use yellow or orange or a mixture – not green)
3 medium sized courgettes/zucchini
1 butternut squash peeled and diced 1 cm (approx 600 grams prepared weight)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Cheese Sauce

2 tbsp plain flour
50 grams butter
1 ltr whole milk
Dijon mustard
100 grams parmesan finely grated
500 grams ricotta

2 packets of plain lasagne sheets (or equivalent of fresh)

Method

Start off by making your tomato sauce. The rule of thumb is the longer you cook the tomato sauce the taster it will be so I recommend at least an hour.

Peel and finely chop garlic, peel and finely dice red onion. Add to a large heavy based non reactive pan. Add a pinch of salt and a generous glug of olive oil (about 3 tbsp).

Heat on a low-medium heat until soft and sweet. This will take 10-15 mins. Do not brown. If it does start to brown remove from the heat and add a little more oil, this will cool everything down and stop the “burning”.

Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to the boil.

Once boiling reduce to a simmer and simmer for 40 mins – 1hr. Add water if it gets too thick and make sure you stir it regularly.

By this time the tomatoes should have broken down, if not help them along by breaking them up with a wooden spoon and cook for a further 10 – 15 mins. Make sure you taste the sauce at this stage and if it is a little bitter at a teaspoon of sugar.

Season with salt and pepper and leave to the side.

While this is all happening you can get on with preparing the veg. Place a char-grill pan on the stove and heat until blistering hot.

Slice the aubergine and courgettes length wise and drizzle with olive oil.

Char-grill until cooked through (a minute or 2 on each side) remove and place on kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.

Char-grill the peppers until blackened all over and soft, place in a large bowl and cover to steam then cool so that you can peel them.

Once the peppers are cool enough to handle peel the blackened skin off and remove the seeds, you can keep the “juice” and add it to the sauce if you wish (it has a lovely smokey sweet flavour).

Pumpkin ready for roasting

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Pop the butternut squash into a baking dish – ideally a large one so that there is only one layer. Toss in a little oil and season. Bake in oven until tender and a little golden (about 35 – 35 mins)

Cut the courgettes, aubergine and peppers into bite size pieces (about 1cm strips) and add to the tomato sauce along with the roasted butternut squash. Taste for seasoning and add a little extra virgin olive oil for flavour.

Time now to make the ricotta cheese sauce.

Put the butter into a pan and melt over a low-medium heat, once melted add the flour and stir to make a paste. Cook for a minute or two. Slowly add in the milk, little at a time constantly stirring. Once all the milk is added keep stirring and cook until thickened (coat the back of a spoon).

Remove from the heat and add the grated Parmesan, a large teaspoon of Dijon mustard and season.

Once the sauce has cooled a little fold through the ricotta cheese.

You are now ready to layer up the lasagne.

Add a ladle of the tomato and veg sauce to the dish, spread evenly. Layer the lasagne sheets over this. Top with the cheese sauce (about a ladle) and repeat the process until you have used up the sauces and lasagne sheets or until your lasagne dish is full.

Your last layer should be cheese sauce and a slightly thicker layer. Then sprinkle with parmesan.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 min – 1 hour or until cooked through and golden brown.

This can be par cooked sliced and frozen. Serve with a big salad.

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Homemade Roast Butternut pumpkin and ricotta ravioli with parmesan cream sauce…..dribble

September 4, 2010

Rolling pasta

I am hoping that the pasta maker will not turn out like the bread maker – 1 month of fun then several years of being tucked away in the back of the cupboard. One week in and I feel like that won’t be happening. Back in Sunny Sydney I made my first homemade pasta with my friend Kate who had been to an Italian cooking course, she arrived at my house Tipo ’00 and pasta maker in hand. We made cracking spinach and ricotta cannelloni. It was sensational and relatively easy. Since then I have had a few pasta making flutters including gnocchi – which, may I add, is VERY easy to make and you do not need any special equipment. (see my recipe for Gnocchi with Gorgonzola and walnuts). Other than that the trusty De Cecco Linguine has been my pasta of choice. Until now! My lovely sister decided to by herself (or should I say me) a pasta maker. After a few minor hiccups we managed to produce a rather wonderful roast butternut pumpkin ravioli with a burnt butter and sage sauce. As this was my first venture back into pasta land I didn’t take any photos (doh!!) So decided to do a re run for “the blog” this week. I didn’t have any sage so whipped up a creamy sauce instead which turned out to be rather delicious. By the way you can make pasta with a rolling pin and a bit of elbow grease – worth giving it a bash if you are not sure whether to invest in a pasta maker. However they are not very expensive you can get one for about £20.

Ingredients

Pasta

500 grams plain flour (ideally Tipo 00)
6 medium sized eggs or 5 large eggs

Filling

200 grams ricotta
50 grams finely grated Parmesan
Approx 800 grams Butternut Pumpkin (squash) whole weight before peeling and de-seeding
Whole nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

Sauce

1 clove garlic
1 large knob of butter
Salt and pepper
Splash of dry white wine
100 mls double cream
50 grams finely grated Parmesan

Method

Flour

To make the pasta dough.

Put flour in a large mixing bowl. Crack eggs into a separate bowl or jug and lightly whisk to combine.

Whisked eggs

Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the egg mix.

Mix eggs in with a fork

Mix together with a fork until egg has been mixed in.

Bring dough together with hands

Bring together with your hands into a dough.

Remove from bowl and knead until smooth. The dough will feel relatively dry – don’t worry it will soften up a little.

Dough

Wrap in cling film and rest in fridge for min 30 mins.

Dough wrapped in cling film

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Pumpkin ready for roasting

Peel butternut pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut into 1cm cubes and add to a baking dish. Toss through a little olive oil until coated and pop into the oven.

Bake until soft and a little golden – make sure you check regularly and give the pumpkin a toss around.

Leave to cool.

Mashing pumpkin with fork

Mash with a fork until smooth (ish).

Mashed pumpkin

Add ricotta, grated Parmesan and some nutmeg (about 1/6), mix well to combine. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. If you want you can add more Parmesan.

Add ricotta Parmesan and nutmeg

Once the pasta has rested split the dough into 4 smaller balls. Keep one of the balls and re-wrap the rest and place back int he fridge.

Set the pasta maker to the widest setting.

Roll pasta

Flatten the dough into an oval shape, dust in flour to prevent it sticking and feed it through the pasta maker.

N.B. My first try came out with holes through it, this was because there were air bubbles trapped in the dough. I mashed the dough back into a ball and then rolled it out again with a rolling pin – this helped remove the bubbles and kick start the rolling process.

Turn the pasta maker down a notch and roll again, you may need to lightly dust the pasta again with some flour.

Keep doing this until the pasta is about 1mm thick.

Pasta strips with pumpkin mix

Lie the pasta onto a floured surface and cut into 4 cm strips.

Put a small amount (approx 2/3 teaspoon) at one end of the strip and lightly brush around it with water. Fold the other half of the strip over to create a parcel. Be careful not to trap air inside the ravioli as this will expand when cooked and may burst open.

Making ravioli

Keep doing this and lay them out onto a floured tray, do not pile them on top of each other as they may stick – from experience!!

Ravioli

Once you have used your first batch of rolled out pasta you can continue with the rest of the pasta until you have made as many as you wish. This amount of dough and filling should feel 8 people for main course or 14 starters.

You can freeze the pasta, pop them in the freezer on the tray. Once frozen you can bung them in a tub or a bag. You can cook them straight from frozen.

Ok to cook and serve.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add a teaspoon of salt.

Warm a non stick frying pan with the knob of butter and a splash of olive oil.

Butter and garlic

Add crushed garlic and saute for a couple of minutes until soft and sweet – no colour. Add glug of white wine (approx 3 table spoons). Simmer to reduce wine to almost totally evaporated. Add the cream. Simmer until thickened a little then remove from heat and add Parmesan. Stir through and season to taste (you probably won’t need salt).

Add wine

Reduce wine

Pop the pasta into the pot, I probably wouldn’t do not than 4 serves in the one pot.

Ravioli in boiling water

Cook for about 4 minutes then remove one and see if it is cooked. You may need to cook the ravioli for a little longer it really depends on how thick the pasta is – everyone’s pasta is slightly different. Once cooked drain in a colander and toss through sauce, serve immediately in warmed bowls.

Ravioli in cream parmesan sauce

Ravioli

The creamy sauce is great but so is the burnt butter and sage. This is made by taking about 75 grams of butter and heating it on the stove until it is bubbling (this is for 4 people). Do not heat at too high a temp as it may actually burn, you are looking for a nut brown colour. Add sage leaves (about 8 small to medium leaves per person or 4 large). The sage leaves should be crisp once cooked. Pour over the top of the ravioli when it is plated up and top with some finely grated Parmesan.

I am planning on trialing some other filling so will keep you posted!

Mushroom ricotta and herb filo pie

July 26, 2010

Mushroom and ricotta pie

When I made the Spanakopita the other day I thought why limit myself to spinach! The flakey pastry lends itself really well to mushrooms. I absolutely love mushrooms but don’t really eat them very often. When I do eat them I tend to cook them very simply and have them for breakfast on toast or roast large whole mushroom in the oven with a bit of butter and fresh thyme.

One thing that did concern me a little about using mushrooms is they tend to give out a lot of liquid which could be a bit of a disaster for filo. The ingredients must be relatively dry or you end up with a soggy pastry disaster. Nobody likes soggy pastry!

The key here is to slice the mushrooms and roast them in the oven until the liquid has evaporated. They will give out quite a lot of liquid and you will think that it will never evaporate but be patient it will.

Ingredients (8 portions)

1 packet of filo pastry
200 grams of unsalted butter
500 grams of closed cup mushrooms
250 grams of Portobello mushrooms (or large field mushrooms)
1 small bunch of fresh thyme
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 small bunch of chives
1 medium red onion
4 large cloves of garlic
250 grams of full fat ricotta
150 grams of Parmesan Reggiano
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Fresh nutmeg
Tablespoon of sesame seeds (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius

Mushrooms

Brush off any dirt from the mushrooms. Do not wash them as they will absorb lots of water. Finely slice the mushrooms and place in a large roasting tin or ceramic baking dish.

Sliced mushrooms with Thyme butter olive oil

Use about 50 grams of the butter and cut into small pieces, dot this over the mushrooms. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalks and sprinkle over the mushrooms too. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake in oven making sure you stir every ten minutes to ensure the mushrooms cook evenly. This will take about 35 – 40 minutes. Depending on how mush liquid comes out of the mushrooms – make sure you cook them until nearly all the mushroom juice has evaporated.

Saute onions and garlic

While this is happening finely dice the onion and garlic and saute in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt until soft and sweet. Leave to the side to cool.

Onions and garlic cooked and left to cool

Finely chop the parsley and chives and add to a large bowl. Finely grate the Parmesan and also add to the bowl along with the ricotta. Once the onion is cool also add to the bowl with about 1/3 of a nutmeg very finely grated.

Grated parmesan ricotta parsley and chives

Once the mushrooms are cooked remove from the oven and let cool slightly – I removed them from the ceramic dish and spread them out on a cold plate to speed this process along.

Cooked mushrooms

When the mushrooms have cooled down a bit stir them into the ricotta and herb mix (they can still be warm just not piping hot).

Add mushrooms to ricotta mix

Mix mushrooms with ricotta

Make sure you do not add any “mushroom juice” to your mix – try and keep it as dry as possible.

You are now ready to layer up your filo.

Filo, pie dish and melted butter

Take the rest of the butter and melt.

Chose a rectangular pie dish about the size of half a sheet of filo (no bigger). The dish can be ceramic, pyrex or metal.

With scissors cut the filo pastry in half.

***Tip: Cover your filo with a damp tea towel or kitchen paper when you are not using it as it dries out VERY quickly.

Brush the base of the pie dish with butter and lay a sheet of filo on top. Brush this sheet with butter and lay another sheet on top keep going until you have layered up half the sheets.

Add filling

Take the mushroom mix dollop onto your filo layers. Spread evenly and then start layering the rest of the filo sheets in the same way.

Brush top layer with butter and score through portions

Brush the top of the pie with butter and then take a sharp knife and cut the top layers of pastry into portions. I got 8 good-sized portions out of mine. (do not cut all the way down to the bottom layers).

If your filo pastry is a bit bigger than your dish tuck the overhanging edges down the sides of the pie dish.

I then sprinkled the top of the pie with sesame seeds – this is optional.

Bake in the oven at 220 degrees Celsius for 25 – 35 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

Serve hot, warm or cold with a cos lettuce salad and a squeeze of lemon.

Mushroom pie

– this is a fab dish and I am going to try to make this in individual triangles or “fingers” to see how it will work for a cocktail party as finger food. Will keep you posted!!

Aubergine Parmigiana – yum!

July 11, 2010

Aubergine parmigiana

I think the first time I ever tasted this dish was at the Ionian Plaza in Argostoli, Kefalonia. My sister and I spent a summer there “drawing” – or should I say tanning and having fun. We had absolutely no money so rarely ate out. Once in a blue moon we would splash out and grab a bite to eat in the square and out restaurant of choice was the rather “posh” Ionian Plaza.

The aubergine Parmigiano was so delicious – I still remember how wonderful it was. It was baked in individual portions in a terracotta dish in a wood fired oven. Silky aubergine, rich sweet tomato sauce, gooey stringy mozzarella and salty parmesan.

Dribble!

It is really a very simple dish to make and so tasty. I actually think that it is best to make the day before so that it has time for the flavours to meld.

Excellent for a dinner party as all you need to do is bung it in the oven and serve it with a leafy salad. Simple!!

All you need to do is sit back with a glass of vino and enjoy yourself.

Ingredients: (serves 6 greedy people or 8 sensible normal people)

5 medium aubergines
2 medium red onions
2 kg of ripe fresh tomatoes or 2 bottles of really good passata
6 cloves of garlic
1 small bunch of fresh sweet basil
5 balls of buffalo mozarella
150 grams of parmesan Reggiano
Salt and Pepper
Extra Virgin olive oil

Method

First things first you need to get the tomato sauce on.

Finely dice the red onion and crush the garlic add to a heavy based pan with a large glug of olive oil and a good pinch of sea salt.

onions and garlic

While the onions and garlic are gently cooking you can peel the tomatoes (if you decide to use fresh tomatoes that is).

Peeling tomatoes

Cut a cross in the bottom of the tomatoes, pop in a heat proof bowl and pour over boiling water.

The tomatoes only need to be in the water for about 30 seconds to a minute. Then remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool a little – until they are cool enough to touch. The skins should peel off easily. If not pop back in the boiling water for a little longer.

Remove the cores of the tomatoes, dice and add to the onions and garlic once they are cooked (translucent and sweet – no colour).

Tomatoes added to onions and garlic

Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce to simmer and cook for about 2 hours or until the tomatoes have completely disintegrated and the sauce is “saucy” and thick.

At this point add some finely sliced basil leaves and season with salt and pepper.

While the tomato sauce is cooking you can prepare the aubergine.

Wash and remove the top/stem.

Slice length ways into 3 – 4 mm slices.

Heat frying pan up with a some olive oil (approx 3 tablespoons).

Fry slices of aubergine until golden brown and cooked through. Then drain on kitchen paper to remove excess oil. You may need to keep adding more oil to the pan as you cook the slices – the aubergine tends to absorb quite a lot of oil however it will give back a lot of it to the pan when it is cooked.

Aubergine slices frying

Frying the aubergine slices will take quite a lot of time, ideally you would use more than one frying pan to speed things along. Also remember aubergine will go brown if you slice it and leave it for a while so do not pre-slice all the aubergine at once. Only slice one at a time.

Okay now you have your sauce ready, the aubergine slices are fried and you are ready to layer up.

Use a ceramic or pyrex baking dish “lasagna dish”. Layer up with tomato sauce, the aubergine slices then a sprinkling of finely grated parmesan and tear pieces of buffalo mozzarella and dot over. Then repeat again until your final layer is aubergine top with tomato sauce and then liberally sprinkle with parmesan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes to 1 hour. If it is browning too quickly you can cover with some tin foil and reduce the temp a little bit.

Remove from oven and rest for 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread and a leafy salad. Delish!!!!!

It is great for leftovers too.

By the way sorry about the terrible photo of the finished result – bad lighting (well that is my excuse) next time a make it I promise to take some better shots and upload them.

Quick and easy spinach, tomato and Parmesan omelette

May 27, 2010

Spinach tomato and Parmesan omelette

Omelette is one of those things that vegetarians get for dinner when people don’t know what to cook for a vegetarian. Flooded in cheese and resembling a big greasy rubbery frisbee – delicious (note heavy sarcasm).

It just doesn’t have to be that way.

A good omelette is fabulous. It’s quick and tasty.

I don’t make them very often and when I do it is usually for breakfast – it kind of feels like a bit of a cop-out to make it for dinner.

The success of a good omelette, I believe, lies in the pan. It has to be a good non stick frying pan or omelette pan.

Another essential is not to over cook the omelette. It will keep cooking when it is on the plate so make sure that you remove it from the heat before it is “ready”.

Anyway I cooked a cracking omelette the other day and thought I would share it with you, I had it for breakfast but I won’t judge you if you want to cook it for dinner – honestly.

Ingredients

3 free range eggs
Approx 100 grams of baby spinach
1/2 medium red onion
1 ripe tomato
Parmesan (Reggiano or Padano)
Olive oil and/or butter
Salt and pepper

Finely dice onion and saute in frying pan with a little olive oil, a little knob of butter and a pinch of salt.

Sauted onion

When cooked through and soft add tomato diced.

Add tomato

Crack eggs into a bowl and lightly whisk with a fork. Add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.

Add roughly chopped spinach

Roughly chop spinach and add to the frying pan with the onion and tomato, cook until wilted then remove from the pan.

Wipe out frying pan and add a little more butter and olive oil.

Pour eggs into pan and stir a little

Pour egg into pan and stir a little bit.

Sprinkle Parmesan on omelette

Sprinkle about a tablespoon of finely grated Parmesan onto the omelette and place the spinach down the middle and then fold over.

Add spinach

Pop onto a plate and eat immediately.

Risotto to make you happy

May 10, 2010

Mushroom and asparagus risotto

Many people are frightened of risotto and I was too until I made my first one with my friend Liz many many moons ago, I seem to remember that we used almost a whole bottle of wine in it. It was slightly stodgy (a bit winey) but in our opinion a raging success none the less.

Risotto is my favourite comfort food, it is super easy to make and with a large glass of vino and a couple of episodes of Sex and the City will turn any bad day into a great day – guaranteed!!

I think one of the scary things for people about risotto is the “constant stirring” element. To be perfectly honest – I love it, it is therapeutic almost meditative. AND….it is very important to note that if you don’t stir the risotto for a couple of minutes the world will not end.

Risotto is very versatile, I have chosen mushroom because I had quite a lot of mushies to use but there are many many many different kinds of risotto you can try. I usually use what ever I have in the fridge. A few good suggestions are:

– Spinach
– Herb and Lemon (parsley, basil, rocket are good)
– Roasted butternut pumpkin (with spinach if you like)
– Left over roasted chicken thrown in with some lemon or herbs
– Peas and a wee bit of fresh mint
– Mushroom, pea and asparagus
– Asparagus and mint
– Roasted cauliflower
– Char grilled courgettes, fresh corn and oven roasted cherry tomatoes

There really are so many different options!

Anyway I will get onto the recipe:

300 grams arborio rice
Vegetable or chicken stock (I usually used 1 1/2 stock cubes)
1 medium brown onions
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 glass of dry white wine (ideally one you would drink not “cooking” wine)
1 – 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan as finely grated as you can (Reggiano is best but Padano will be fine) please do not buy pre-grated, fake Parmesan (non-Italian) or dried Parmesan.

Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Fresh Thyme leaves are good)
Mushrooms approx 500 grams (swiss browns, chestnut, button, Portobello, field whatever you have or a mixture)

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Good unsalted butter (lightly salted will do but unsalted preferable)

****TIP: If I have some wine left over which I know won’t be drunk I pop it in a small freezer bag and put it in the freezer. This is perfect for risotto. If you don’t have wine a dry vermouth will work just as well.

Use a heavy based medium to large pot or heavy based large (deep) frying pan. Add a decent glug of olive oil to the pot (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons), finely dice the onion and garlic and add to the pot with a good pinch of salt. I usually add the onion, garlic and oil to a cold pan then warm up – tends to prevent it browning. Saute until soft and the sharp onion smell has gone and been replaced with a lovely sweet smell. This should take about 10 minutes. Make sure you do not brown the onions – so keep on a low heat.

Onion and garlic being sauteed

***TIP: If the onions/garlic do start to brown add a little bit more olive oil which will immediately drop the oil temp and stop the browning, take off the heat for a minute or two.

Add rice and stir until coated in oil and warmed through, rice should be hot. Add a glass of white wine, and stir until the wine has been absorbed fully by the rice.

Rice added to onion and garlic

Now add piping hot stock about 1 cup at a time. I cheat with this by boiling the kettle and adding in the stock cubes direct to the pot pouring boiling water from the kettle on top.

I actually find this works best as you know exactly how much flavour (stock) you have added and the amount of liquid is on an “as you need” basis. However if you have lovely home-made stock definitely use that!!

If you are using liquid stock heat it up and keep it hot and ladle the stock one ladle at a time.

Keep stirring the risotto adding about 1 cup or 1 ladle of stock/hot water at a time. Make sure the stock is almost fully absorbed before you add your next cup/ladle of stock/water.

While you are doing this saute the sliced mushrooms in a separate pan, ideally a large frying pan DO NOT ADD SALT this will draw out the moisture and make the mushrooms stew. If you do not have a large frying pan do them in 2 batches. Saute in some butter and a splash of olive oil. Once they are cooked add Salt and Pepper and some chopped herbs. Or you can bake sliced mushrooms in the oven with butter, olive oil until they are cooked through – approx 25 mins at 190 degrees celsius. Once they are cooked keep the mushrooms to the side.

Sliced portobello and chestnut mushrooms with butter, olive oil and fresh thyme

Keep doing this for about 20 mins, I usually start trying the rice to see if it is cooked about this time. Keep going with the stock until you are happy with the rice, it will need to be cooked until it has a little bit of a bite “al dente”.

The consistency should not be to stodgy, if it is, add a little bit more liquid.

Add mushrooms, a knob of butter, any chopped herbs and Parmesan. Stir vigorously shaking the pot at the same time. If it is getting too thick add a little bit of extra boiling water.

Taste and season if necessary.

This should serve 3 – 4 hungry people. Serve with a lovely fresh leafy salad.

I normally serve this is a low pasta type bowl with a drizzle of best quality peppery extra virgin olive oil on top.

Left overs:

If you have any leftovers, you can roll it into small golf ball sizes, use wet hands to prevent sticking. Roll in some flour, egg and then bread crumbs then deep fat fry until golden brown. You can also add a small piece of mozzarella into the center for a little bit of gooey fun. These can be served as an entrée with garlic aioli or with a tomato and basil sauce and a salad as a main course. YUMMY!

Mushroom risotto (and other suggestions)

April 30, 2010

Many people are frightened of risotto and I was too until I made my first one with my friend Liz many many moons ago, I seem to remember that we used almost a whole bottle of wine in it. It was slightly stodgy (a bit winey) but in our opinion a raging success none the less.

Risotto is my favourite comfort food, it is super easy to make and with a large glass of vino and a couple of episodes of Sex and the City will turn any bad day into a great day – guaranteed!!

I think one of the scary things for people about risotto is the “constant stirring” element. To be perfectly honest – I love it, it is therapeutic almost meditative. AND….it is very important to note that if you don’t stir the risotto for a couple of minutes the world will not end.

Risotto is very versatile, I have chosen mushroom because I had quite a lot of mushies to use but there are many many many different kinds of risotto you can try. I usually use what ever I have in the fridge. A few good suggestions are:

– Spinach
– Herb and Lemon (parsley, basil, rocket are good)
– Roasted butternut pumpkin (with spinach if you like)
– Left over roasted chicken thrown in with some lemon or herbs
– Peas and a wee bit of fresh mint
– Mushroom, pea and asparagus
– Asparagus and mint
– Roasted cauliflower
– Char grilled courgettes, fresh corn and oven roasted cherry tomatoes

There really are so many different options!

Anyway I will get onto the recipe:

300 grams arborio rice
Vegetable or chicken stock (I usually used 1 1/2 stock cubes)
1 medium brown onions
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 glass of dry white wine (ideally one you would drink not “cooking” wine)
1 – 1 1/2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan as finely grated as you can (Reggiano is best but Padano will be fine) please do not buy pre-grated, fake Parmesan (non-Italian) or dried Parmesan.

Herbs (Basil, Parsley, Fresh Thyme leaves are good)
Mushrooms approx 500 grams (swiss browns, chestnut, button, Portobello, field whatever you have or a mixture)

Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Good unsalted butter (lightly salted will do but unsalted preferable)

****TIP: If I have some wine left over which I know won’t be drunk I pop it in a small freezer bag and put it in the freezer. This is perfect for risotto. If you don’t have wine a dry vermouth will work just as well.

Use a heavy based medium to large pot or heavy based large (deep) frying pan. Add a decent glug of olive oil to the pot (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons), finely dice the onion and garlic and add to the pot with a good pinch of salt. I usually add the onion, garlic and oil to a cold pan then warm up – tends to prevent it browning. Saute until soft and the sharp onion smell has gone and been replaced with a lovely sweet smell. This should take about 10 minutes. Make sure you do not brown the onions – so keep on a low heat.

***TIP: If the onions/garlic do start to brown add a little bit more olive oil which will immediately drop the oil temp and stop the browning, take off the heat for a minute or two.

Add rice and stir until coated in oil and warmed through, rice should be hot. Add a glass of white wine, and stir until the wine has been absorbed fully by the rice.

Now add piping hot stock about 1 cup at a time. I cheat with this by boiling the kettle and adding in the stock cubes direct to the pot pouring boiling water from the kettle on top.

I actually find this works best as you know exactly how much flavour (stock) you have added and the amount of liquid is on an “as you need” basis. However if you have lovely home-made stock definitely use that!!

If you are using liquid stock heat it up and keep it hot and ladle the stock one ladle at a time.

Keep stirring the risotto adding about 1 cup or 1 ladle of stock/hot water at a time. Make sure the stock is almost fully absorbed before you add your next cup/ladle of stock/water.

While you are doing this saute the sliced mushrooms in a separate pan, ideally a large frying pan DO NOT ADD SALT this will draw out the moisture and make the mushrooms stew. If you do not have a large frying pan do them in 2 batches. Saute in some butter and a splash of olive oil. Once they are cooked add Salt and Pepper and some chopped herbs. Keep to the side.

Keep doing this for about 20 mins, I usually start trying the rice to see if it is cooked about this time. Keep going with the stock until you are happy with the rice, it will need to be cooked until it has a little bit of a bite “al dente”.

The consistency should not be to stodgy, if it is, add a little bit more liquid.

Add mushrooms, a knob of butter, any chopped herbs and Parmesan. Stir vigorously shaking the pot at the same time. If it is getting too thick add a little bit of extra boiling water.

Taste and season if necessary.

This should serve 3 – 4 hungry people. Serve with a lovely fresh leafy salad.

I normally serve this is a low pasta type bowl with a drizzle of best quality peppery extra virgin olive oil on top.

Left overs:

If you have any leftovers, you can roll it into small golf ball sizes, use wet hands to prevent sticking. Roll in some flour, egg and then bread crumbs then deep fat fry until golden brown. You can also add a small piece of mozzarella into the center for a little bit of gooey fun. These can be served as an entrée with garlic aioli or with a tomato and basil sauce and a salad as a main course. YUMMY!