Smoked Hadddock, Leek and Pea Risotto

Aka: Cuddle in a bowl.

It feels like autumn here. Which is just fine, because who needs summer anyway? I might miss the cloudless skies, breakfast in the garden, sun on my face, ice creams on the way home from work and sleeping with my windows open, yes, I might miss that. But creamy, carby food in the heat is just not on, and for carb addicts like me, the crappy weather is a perfect excuse to crack open the arborio.

This risotto is even creamier than normal, due to the milk in the stock, which might sound a bit weird, but it’s not like rice pudding or anything like that; just more rounded and suits the smoky haddock and fresh-tasting peas. This risotto went down extremely well with my greedy guest and although there was a fair bit of standing around, stirring, it was really no trouble over a glass of wine with my guest in the kitchen with me. Cook the fish and the peas separately, as far ahead as you want (or at least in the preceding 24 hours). To serve 2 very generously.

  • 300g smoked haddock or smoked cod
  • 250g arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 large leek, trimmed, washed and then very finely chopped
  • enough milk to cover fish in small pan
  • 1 litre fish or vegetable stock
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 good sprig of thyme
  • 100g frozen peas
  • parmesan cheese, grated, to taste
  • butter
  • salt and pepper

In a small saucepan, put your smoked fish, garlic cloves (smashed with the back of a knife but not chopped), thyme and peppercorns and cover with milk. Over a low heat, bring the milk up to the boil and then immediately remove from the heat and take the fish out of the milk. Leave the other ingredients in the milk as it cools down, to allow the flavours to infuse. This will ensure that there will be a hint of thyme and garlic in the finished dish, without an overbearing flavour. Cook the peas in boiling water as per the packet instructions and drain. If doing these far in advance, then please cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge.

To make the risotto, put milk through a sieve or strainer to remove the aromatics and mix the milk with the stock in a saucepan. You may not need all the liquid, but this is about the right proportion. Heat the stock/milk gently but don’t boil. In another pan, slowly sweat off the leeks in some butter and when soft, add the risotto rice and stir for 2 or 3 minutes over a medium heat. Ladle by ladleful, add the milk/stock, stirring all the time, allowing the rice to absorb each ladle of stock before you add the next. It should take roughly 30-40 minutes to cook the rice. The risotto is cooked when all the rice has swollen and is al dente – al dente to soft, depending on your preference and has stopped absorbing stock. Add the peas, and the fish (flaking it with your fingers from the skin as you go) and give a quick, but gentle stir. Remove from the heat and add the parmesan cheese. Gentle stir again and then serve up, with more parmeasan on top if you like – as we surely do.


Lettuce, Pea & Mint Soup

After last night’s delicious, but rather rich dinner, all I knew tonight was that I wanted something light and summery and green. And easy. Never underestimate easy on a Friday night. Soup was the logical choice and this lovely pea soup, which you could just as easily serve cold, is summer in a bowl for me. I’m estimating this would serve about 6 as a light lunch with bread. If you’re thinking of freezing any, as I am, do so before you’ve put in the creme fraiche.

soup ingredients

  • 650g frozen peas
  • 25og iceburg lettuce, shredded
  • 6 spring onions, peeled and chopped, including the greener bits if they’re not tough
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint
  • 900ml hot vegetable stock
  • 20g butter
  • lots of salt & pepper
  • tub of creme fraiche

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the spring onions, stirring well. Cook over a medium heat for about 4 minutes until they’re softened, add salt and pepper, two thirds of the mint, three quarters of the peas and all of the lettuce. Cook for about a minute and then add the stock. Cover and bring to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes until the peas are tender. Leave to cool, add the remaining mint and then, using a hand blender is easiest, whizz until smooth.  Push the soup through a sieve and then pour back into the pan and bring slowly back to the boil. Add in the remaining peas and cook for another 5 or so minutes.

pea and lettuce soup

Check seasoning, stir a dollop of creme fraiche through the soup and serve.

‘Iffits’ Salmon & Pea Pasta

PeaandsalmonpastaThe first rule of Fightclub… No, no, sorry, wrong blog!

There’s only one rule for an ‘iffits’ dinner in my home  and that’s that you can only have it if its in the fridge, freezer or cupboards. There is no shopping for meals like this. Rather like Ready, Steady, Cook if you will but without the adhd presenter and the condescension of D-list telly ‘chefs’. Just you, your wits and your hopefully well stocked larder.Sometimes, if you’re lucky and you’ve been near the shops lately, you get a feast. Sometimes an ‘iffits’ dinner is like pasta, olive oil & garlic. But those are fine with me too.

By the way, just because you have it, doesn’t necessarily mean you should add it. I also had a slice of bacon, a red pepper, chillies, coriander and an aubergine. All of those would have made a lovely ‘iffits’ dinner  but in this dish they would have been fairly bad, I think. I would have been overjoyed  to see Courgettes, Capers, Dill or White Wine lurking in my fridge, but what I did have made a really good dinner, so feel free to shop for it. Served 2 hungry people.

I had:

  • 100g smoked salmon, shredded
  • 100g chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 100g petis pois
  • Small bunch of Spring Onions (On the turn), fairly chunky slices
  • 100g double cream
  • 300ml or so of chicken stock (made from powder)
  • Spaghetti
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Small block of Parmesan Cheese, grated.

So, I put the olive oil in a frying pan and softened the spring onions in it over a lowish heat. When they were cooked, I chucked in the mushrooms and sweated them down a bit and I think I added a little splash of the stock to help this along. When the mushrooms were cooked, I poured in the remainder of the stock and I turned up the heat. Its important to reduce the stock down by approximately half, so keep the heat up on a fast simmer and stir regularly. When it has reduced, put the spaghetti on according to the packet instructions  – mine took 10 minutes of boiling in a lot of salted water – and put the cream into the reduced chicken stock. As you should  be able to see, you’ll need to reduce this down too, so don’t reduce the heat. When it comes back up to the boil, put in the petits pois and lots and lots of black pepper. No salt, because the smoked salmon and chicken stock will be salty enough. Stir the sauce regularly whilst the pasta cooks and by the time it has, you should be left with roughly a third of the liquid you started with. If its too runny, and you don’t think it will stick to the pasta, keep reducing it. If its too thick, you can chuck in a couple of spoons of water from the pasta. Take the sauce off the heat completely. Drain the pasta and put it back into the saucepan. Put the smoked salmon into the sauce now (no earlier, you don’t want to cook the salmon, just warm it in the sauce) and give it a good stir.Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss, until mixed in thoroughly – I use a pair of tongs and a slotted spoon for that – and serve onto warmed plates. Sprinkle over parmesan. Scoff.