Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Beetroot risotto

I'm intrigued to see how many people click on this post since I know beetroot is a bit of a love it or hate it ingredient. The one thing that the food journey I've been on over the last few years has taught me is to ignore all of those irrational food dislikes that I had as a kid; you know the ones that were based on look, texture or name. I used to hate seafood as a kid and for no reason other than the smell. If I'd carried that into adulthood I would have missed out on so many awesome dishes. 

This turns out to be a stunning looking meal, dressed with crumbled goats cheese, walnuts and rocket - it's a real mixture of vivid colour and texture. I know that all sounds a bit camp but I'm trying to tempt you into making this because, once you put it down in front of her, you'll be glad you did. 

How it's done

This one does require a bit of attention and you will need to be by the pan during the cooking process. Thankfully, though, it involves some red wine with plenty left over for you to drink whilst you're creating your masterpiece.

  • 450g cooked beetroot (the vacuum-packed stuff from the supermarket)
  • 600ml of vegetable stock
  • 50g butter
  • A red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 150ml red wine
  • Some roughly chopped walnuts
  • 125g soft goats' cheese
  • Some rocket leaves

Drain the juice from the packet(s) of beetroot into a measuring jug with the vegetable stock. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the finely chopped onion and garlic; cook these until they have softened. Throw in the rice and dried thyme and stir so that the butter coats all of the grains. 

Pour in the red wine and cook until the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, stirring often. Start adding in the stock and beetroot juice one ladle at a time, stirring continuously. Add another ladleful when the liquid from the previous one has been absorbed. Continue doing this for around twenty minutes or until the rice is al dente (i.e. so it is still a little firm).

At this point, chop the beetroot into a small dice and add to the rice along with handful of the chopped walnuts. Cook for a further few minutes, stirring to avoid sticking, before serving on a plate with the rest of the walnuts crumbled over the top along with the goats cheese and some strategically-placed rocket leaves. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

White chocolate and raspberry cookies

I've been getting these bad boys from Subway for years and then it twigged on Sunday - I'm an awesome cook, surely I can make them better than the ones I've been having. Turns out, I can. These are soft, crumbly and the perfect combination of white chocolate and raspberry. She'll be eating out of the palm of your hand if you break these out.

How it's done

This recipe actually turns out around 26 cookies so you'll be in the good books for ages until they run out. Don't say I never give you anything.

  • 250g unsalted butter (soft, at room temperature)
  • 130g light brown sugar
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Pinch of salt
  • Teaspoon of bi-carbonate of soda
  • 340g plain flour
  • 100g white chocolate chunks
  • Some fresh raspberries

First things first. Cube up the butter and stick in a bowl with the two sugars. Use a hand mixer, table top mixer or just your brute strength to combine until creamy. Add the egg and egg yolk (if you've never separated a yolk from the white, the easiest way I find is to break an egg gently into your hand over the sink and then just spread your fingers a little to let the white run through them). Beat this together before adding the flour, salt and bi-carb. At this point it will start to get tougher to mix which is what you want - the mixture is turning into a cookie dough. Slice some fresh raspberries in half (not too many otherwise the mixture will end up too wet), and add them with the chocolate chunks. Mix this together before covering and sticking in the fridge for 45 minutes to chill.

Get the oven on to 180C or 160C if it's a fancy fan one. Lay some baking powder out on some baking trays (if you have none like me, just use some butter to grease the trays first). Then just take a tablespoon of mixture and roll into a ball. Place onto the tray and just push it down a little to flatten it a bit. Make sure you leave enough room around each one as they expand during cooking - you may have to do a number of batches to get through the whole mixture. That's it, just get them into the oven for 12 minutes or until they start to brown around the edges. When you get them out of the oven, leave them to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Now surprise her with a cup of tea and one of these bad boys and just watch the reaction....

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Mexican banquet

Since the posts have been a little infrequent recently, I decided to go balls deep and do a mammouth one with three (yes three!) recipes. I've been wanting to try fish tacos for a while so I figured now was the perfect time. The other two are a pair of awesome accompaniments in the form of a super fresh pico de gallo and a chunky guacaomle. This may sound and look like a lot of effort but trust me, gringo, it really isn't. 

The fish tacos were complete guess work but came out far better than I had planned and, when teamed with the pico de gallo and guacamole, were the perfect mix of a bit of heat and freshness. The lucky recipient of this meal could barely contain her excitement throughout the whole thing so I knew it was a job well done. 

How it's done

The key thing about this banquet is how fresh everything looks and smells. It really is a feast for the eyes and nose, and then the mouth. I know you're probably looking at the photo and thinking, 'That's a shit load of washing up there, Chef!'. Well yes, it is but hopefully your guest will get stuck into it when she's finished devouring this feast. 

You can get the pico de gallo and guacamole out of the way and in the fridge early doors if the idea of making all three things at the same time stresses you out. Let's start with them...

Pico de gallo

  • 6 tomatoes
  • Half a red chilli
  • Half a red onion
  • Chopped coriander stems
  • White wine vinegar

This is really straight forward. Get your tomatoes and quarter them. We don't want all of the seeds and juice and shit so cut them out to leave just the flesh, which you then just dice up into small chunks. Throw them in a bowl with the deseeded and diced chilli and the diced red onion. Chuck in the chopped coriander stems (about a tablespoon's worth). Throw in a splash of white wine vinegar and mix. Done.

Chunky guacamole
  • 3 ripe avocados
  • A tomato
  • Half a red chilli
  • Half a red onion
  • A lime
  • Coriander
Also very easy. Grab the tomato and chop it in half. Next, lay it flat on the chopping board and squash it using the side of a large knife and your pure, masculine brute strength. Once it's squashed, roughly dice it up and throw it into a bowl (juice, seeds and all). Half and stone the avocados (keeping a stone back for later). Scoop the avocado flesh into the bowl with the tomato and then add the chilli, onion and some coriander stalks and leaves after you've finely diced them. Squeeze in the juice of the lime and season with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Grab a potato masher and go to town until it resembles the photo. If you're prepping this in advance, grab the avocado stone you've reserved and stick it in the middle of the guacamole before covering with clingfilm and keeping in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

Fish tacos
  • Skinned and boned white fish fillet (I used river cobbler as it's cheap and awesome)
  • 2 eggs
  • Plain flour
  • Cumin
  • Smoked paprika
  • Dried breadcrumbs
  • Sunflower oil
  • Mini tortillas
Time for the main event. Get three bowls set up in a line. In the first throw a cup of plain flour along with a teaspoon each of cumin and paprike and mix. In the next bowl, break and lightly beat the two eggs. In the final bowl tip out the breadcrumbs. Grab your fish and cut into strips. This is a very simple process; take a piece of fish and coat in the flour and spice mix before moving it into the egg bowl and then finally covering it in breadcrumbs. Do this for all of the fish and then stick into the fridge to chill for about 15 minutes.

While the fish is chilling, fill a small pan to the three quarter mark with the sunflower oil and get it onto the hob, and get the oven on to 150C. When the oil is hot, fry four pieces of fish for a 1 minute at a time. When the minute is up, use a slotted spoon to get the fish out of the oil and get it onto a baking tray in the oven to keep warm whilst you do the rest of the frying. At this point get the tortillas in the oven to warm. 

That's pretty much it, just set everything out on the table and let people dig in! My table has the pico de gallo, guacamole, fired fish, tortillas, a cajun sauce, some soured cream with a bit of paprika and grated cheese. There's also some corn that I've just charred in a griddle pan (no oil or butter, just stick in the pan on the heat and keep turning to get colour) Enjoy, dudes.