Wild mushroom, smoked garlic and butternut squash risotto

It would come as no surprise to people who have seen the rate at which I can shovel rice into my mouth, but I love it. In particular I love squidgy, carby risotto. Depending on the ingredients you use you can make it pretty healthy as well as being delicious (as long as you don’t add too much cheese). Personally, I found that once I’d got the hang of how to cook a basic  I could put any combination of ingredients into it as long as I understood that certain vegetables tend to go soft if cooked too long.
A few days ago my lovely friend Ms S and I had an impromptu after work meal together. A girl after my own heart, she enjoys eating yummy food and also massages my ego by telling me how much she likes what I (or we) have cooked. Somehow I managed to make double what I wanted and we got a decent helping for our tea (or dinner/supper whatever you want to call it) and another helping for lunch.

Here are the ingredients for this particular :

A knob of butter

2 shallots finely chopped

2 cloves of smoked garlic

At least 2 large handfuls of wild mushrooms of your choice

Chicken or vegetable stock (I prefer chicken but vegetable stock is pretty lovely too, and you will need to use this if you happen to be cooking for a hungry vegetarian)

1/3 of a butternut squash cut into small pieces

Henderson’s relish – it’s basically Worcester sauce for Yorkshire folk

White wine or balsamic vinegar

Mixed herbs and chives

Salt and pepper as required

100g of risotto rice per person (I ended up topping up mine with long grain rice as I ran out and it tasted ok, just personal preference really)

Melt your butter in a frying pan on a medium to high heat, add your crushed garlic and shallots and gently cook until soft.

Add your butternut squash and fry for a few minutes until it starts to soften.

Rinse your mushrooms. I got the tiny mushrooms you pull apart so I spent a happy few minutes pulling apart mushrooms and adding them to the mixture.  Fry the mushrooms for a couple of minutes until they change colour a tiny bit.

Add your rice and fry for a few seconds so that the rice absorbs the butter and vegetable water. Add your stock, wine or balsamic vinegar, herbs and Henderson’s relish.

The next part of risotto making requires patience. Switch the risotto onto a low heat and let the rice absorb the water while you occasionally stir. If the mixture dries out add boiling water and a bit of wine. Top tip – only add a little water at a time, you aren’t making soup!

Your kitchen should be filling with wonderful smells by this point. If you fancy it, have a glass of wine (or a cup of tea if you prefer). Once the rice is looks sticky and is free of starch grains taste the mixture and add more seasoning if you require.

It might not look extremely pretty but I can assure you, it tastes pretty great!

You can serve this with parmesan cheese if you like, but I didn’t as I was having a day of no dairy products. Please ignore my poor chipped bowls, I am extremely clumsy and have an unfortunate habit of breaking crockery.

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An apology

To my followers. I feel like such a fraud, 5 posts in and I’m jetting off on holiday. Due to work commitments I have been coming in late and generally rushing around like a mad lady.Also due to rushing back from work and collapsing in a heap I was eating omlette and soup a couple of nights and I really didn’t think anybody needed a lesson in omlette making (we all have our own way but still). However as a quick post I will let you know of my blogging plans over the next few weeks.

I have already cooked and taked photos of a vegetarian friendly wild mushroom, butternut squash and smoked garlic risotto.

Ditto but with a chicken and vegetable tray bake.

I also plan to cook:

A loaf cake of some sort

Blueberry crumble

Homemade houmous

Some sort of curry containing chicken and chick peas.

I hope you have a lovely week. To finish there are a few of my favourite online recipe:

Jamies piri piri chicken

Turkey burgers (J’s mum introduced me to these beauties)

Tomato spinach and marscapone gnocchi

Stuffed mushrooms

So! Bar & Eats

As a Yorkshire girl at heart and someone lucky enough to live in Harrogate I am literally spoiled for choice when it comes to eating delicious food. As a rule I am not averse to eating food from chain restaurants and actually love some of them (I have something of a Wagamama obsession) it’s always great when you find somewhere local that does delicious food at a reasonable price.

I have always overlooked So! It’s on my way to work and I drive past it nearly every day. To set the scene, as I mentioned in a previous post, my brother was visiting. Unfortunately my key got stuck in the ancient lock in my door and we spent much of the visit trying to remove said key, searching for WD 40 and waiting for a locksmith. It got to quarter to 4 and we finally set out for food, starving after only having had breakfast and some tea and shortbread. We rushed over to Fodder (more on this cafe/shop later) but they had stopped serving food only a half hour before. In desperation and unable to park in the town centre we stumbled on this place. (Which is incidentally a chain of 2 gastropubs but very local). So! describes themselves as “an award winning, independently run bar & restaurant, offering a range of high quality freshly prepared food to meet every occasion, in a contemporary bar environment”.

The decoration inside this pub was lovely; contemporary bar style but with a quieter atmosphere. No blaring music but lively enough that you could have a conversation without feeling like everybody could hear you. The menu has a wide selection of food on offer, plus roast dinners on a Sunday lunchtime. I chose to have a Mediterranean burrito with cajun chicken with a side salad. My brother decided to have posh fish and chips but with a side salad instead of mushy peas (to which he has something of an aversion). My burrito was filled with falafel which I adore and really had Mediterranean flavour. The chicken was pleasantly spicy without the flavour overpowering the other ingredients. My brothers posh fish and chips was prawn, sea bass and sardines, served with the most decadent enormous chips.

Here is a picture of my meal. I couldn’t very well ask my brother for a picture of his when we were that hungry, could I?

After our lunch/tea we debated getting dessert before deciding to go for it and just skip eating later if we got too full. I ordered a brownie and hot chocolate while my brother opted for sweet chips and dips. We also had tea, tea is good for your soul I reckon. My brownie was delicious and chocolatey and my brother ate his with a big smile so I believe he enjoyed it.

A sweet treat to eat! Heh heh heh!

We were both impressed with the food here and I must say it vastly improved our afternoon together.

You can find information about the location, plus food and wine menus at So! in Harrogate and Knaresborough here.

3 – 2 – 1 Shortbread. A simple shortbread story.

As an aficionado of all sorts of baked goods it’s all to tempting to make (and eat) biscuits and cakes more often than I should. However, I usually reserve baking treats for times when I can share the delights (and the occasional disaster) with others. As my brother shares my passion for all things biscuity I decided to make some shortbread for when he visited for the day.

Now my Scottish grandmother told me that the basic flour/butter/sugar ratio goes a little something like this: 3 parts flour, 2 part butter to 1 part sugar. Now there are variations on this involving different amounts of plain flour, ground rice and cornflour. For my first attempt in about 15 years I decided to start off pure and simple with plain flour.

Also as a rule I am extremely strict about using butter as opposed to margarine in biscuits as I believe you can really taste the difference in quality between the two. This in my opinion is less apparent in cakes where I often use margarine as it is easier to work with (unless the recipe explicitely specifies otherwise or the cake is something like a victoria sandwich).

So to make a batch of shortbread that will not make an entirely ridiculous amount of shortbread that will take you weeks to eat you will need:

180g plain flour

120g butter + extra for greasing the baking trays

60g caster sugar

Switch the oven on to 180°C. Grease your baking trays or use silicone liners if you have them.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until pale and fluffy.

From this
To this

Sift in the flour and use a wooden spoon to stir in the flour. Use your (clean) hands to further work the ingredients together. If the mixture is very dry add a little more butter but be careful not to make a greasy ball of dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and put into the fridge for at least one hour. You might want to go diving in with your cutters, but trust me this makes all the difference and makes your dough way easier to work with.

Bye bye Mr Doughball, see you in an hour!

Roll out on a floured surface. Tip for those of you that don’t usually bake: a glass bottle such as a wine bottle works just as well if you don’t have a rolling pin.

Use biscuit cutters (or cookie cutters if you’re that way inclined) to cut out your biscuits. Ball together the dough and roll out and cut repeatedly until you have used up the dough.

Bake the biscuits in the oven for about 10 minutes (up to 15 minutes if they aren’t ready). Keep an eye on the shortbread to make sure it doesn’t overcook. my oven was slightly too hot and it did affect the flavour of a few biscuits.

Fresh from the oven!

I think these go best with a plain old cup of tea, but they would also be delicious with vanilla ice cream and berries. Next time I bake these I’ll try a recipe with cornflour to compare.

Roast red pepper, butternut squash and sweet potato soup

I find making soup somewhat therapeutic. I enjoy the methodical preparation of the vegetables and the anticipation of a warm, comforting, wholesome meal. Its won’t give you a food baby for the next 5 hours and you can make it to be low calorie without compromising on the taste. Roasting the vegetables in this recipe really brings out the flavour; especially the sweetness in the red pepper and butternut squash.

Ingredients for 2 large portions of this soup:

A red pepper

Approx 1/3 of a butternut squash

A sweet potato

A shallot

Chilli flakes

Garlic and chilli salt

Chicken or vegetable stock depending on personal preference/your views on eating meat

Mixed herbs

Chives

Olive oil or fry light

Butter

Switch the oven on to around 200°C. Peel and chop the butternut squash and sweet potato and chop the red pepper into small 1cm pieces. Put the veggies on a roasting tray sprinkle with the chilli flakes and garlic and chilli salt. Drizzle with olive oil or spray with fry light and put this in the oven for approx 20 minutes.

I have a feeling this soup will be very orange

During this time finely chop the shallot and heat a knob of butter in a large pan at medium heat (for soup making the larger the pan the better in case you get carried away and make too much).

Thanks shallot

Remove veggies from the oven.

Add the contents of the roasting pan into the pan on the hob. Add the stock. Turn the temperature of the hob down to a lower heat. Cover the pan and leave to simmer for 40-50 minutes.

Steamy

Turn off the heat and do one of 4 things:

1. Put in a blender in batches

2. Use a food processor to liquidize

3. Use a hand blender on your soup

4. If you do not own any of the above (like myself until 3 weeks ago) use a potato masher to make the soup mushy. The texture is not quite as smooth or lovely as with the other 3 methods but it works.

Smooth with a capital SMOO

Serve with whatever you fancy – crusty bread, melba toast, crackers. Next time I think I’ll tone down the chilli as it was initially a little overpowering. Then again, they did fly out of the jar when I got carried away sprinkling.

Souper! (sorry I couldn’t resist)

Kebabs and other Friday night treats

In my humble opinion sometimes there’s nothing better than marinated chicken. Its simple to do and extremely tasty. Tonight I made up a kebab recipe from the contents of my cupboard and it turned out pretty well.

Ingredients for the marinade to make 4 kebabs:

2 chicken breasts

a splash of soy sauce

1 dessert spoon of chilli sauce

a generous splash of Henderson’s Relish (you can use any Worcestershire style sauce but I am in Yorkshire so I am using the local sauce)

Dijon mustard
Making the chicken marinade is pretty much easy enough for a monkey to attempt to do it (although their opposable thumbs might make it difficult to use a sharp knife). Chop the chicken into fairly regular size pieces of approx 1 inch square. Put into a secure Tupperware container, add the other ingredients and shake the container. Put the chicken into the fridge and leave for a couple of hours.
Switch on your grill before assembling your kebabs so that it is nice and hot by the time everything is ready to cook.

I added cherry tomatoes and pepper to my kebabs. I just chopped up a whole pepper and put the tomatoes onto the skewer whole. I threaded the chicken and the veggies onto the skewer in alternate order so that the chicken remained succulent under the grill.

Then I put it under the grill like so:

Cook under the grill for approximately 7 minutes and then turn the kebabs over to cook for another 7 minutes. The chicken should have gone golden brown. Use a knife to cut to see if the chicken is cooked if you’re unsure.

While my chicken kebabs were cooking I cracked open the goodies I got to graze on along with my kebabs.

Stuffed vine leaves (more delicious than they look, trust me)

Italian antipasti

Spicy chicken pastries

I couldn’t resist trying one of these while I was cooking!

Here are the finished kebabs.

I kept two of these bad boys back for tomorrow lunchtime

So all in all a tasty and easy Friday night dinner. Who said cooking had to be difficult?

Why yes I do like lettuce!

I finished off my meal with some sweet treats from Hotel Chocolat.

Don’t worry, I didn’t eat it all, there’s still loads left!