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.

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Special Fried Rice

I don’t know whether it is the fact that we are now in September that has made me crave carbs like the culinary equivalent of a duvet, or its just been a particularly bad day, but it is what it is and starchy comfort  food is what I want. I am going to make a conscious effort to cut down on the carbs a little bit before my trousers get any tighter, but not today…

So. Rice and stuff. There are versions of this from all over the place. Wherever there is rice, there is a version where someone has put the rice in a pan with something tasty and some butter or oil and cooked it off. Whether its risotto, paella, nasi goreng, pilaf or jambalaya, whatever it is, clever eaters know their rice tastes better with stuff. So this is my midweek version. Its probably closest to special fried rice you see in Chinese restaurants but it is intended as a main, rather than a side, and unlike the rationale used by many (one wonders if by ‘special’, takeaways mean ‘specially designed to make the most of the scraps and offcuts’) , I have shopped for this specifically, rather than using leftovers. If you’re looking for more than a nod to authenticity, you won’t find it in this particular recipe, however, the chorizo does add a specifically non asian flavour. You could replace it for chinese smoked sausage if you wanted, or leave it out all together. It is quick, easy and tasty  though, and as I curl up with a glass of wine, my plate and a book tonight, that is really all I will care about. Serves 3-4.

  • large mug of long grain rice
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, thoroughly beaten
  • 1 large *free range* chicken breast
  • chorizo sausage, half of one of the hoops you can get or a couple of the uncooked ones
  • small packet of cooked prawns
  • bunch of spring onions, whites only, chopped into inch pieces
  • handful frozen peas
  • red chilli, chopped

In advance, cook the rice as per the packet instructions, rinse, drain and leave to cool. If your rice is still hot when you go to make this, it will stick. I don’t know why.Given the quantities of food given here, I prefer to cook this in stages.  If it had less in, or smaller quantities I would be fairly certain of just bunging it all in and scrambling the egg over a high heat. Where chicken is involved though, I prefer to be extra sure. So, I would heat your wok until smoking slightly and add a teaspoon or so of oil. Tip your beaten egg into the wok and swirl the egg gently around until you have like a very flat omelette and slide it out onto a plate. Roll your ‘omelette’ up like a swiss roll (if you can imagine that) and slice finely. Leave to one side.

Now, put the wok back on over a high heat and add another splash of oil. Add the chicken and stir round, until white all over and depending on how big you have cubed your chicken, cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add your chorizo, stir briefly, add your chilli, spring onions, peas and  prawns. Stirfry for another couple of minutes, add your egg and then add the rice. Keep the heat as high as possible and turn the rice into the chicken, chorizo and prawn as thoroughly as possible. Keep stirring and turning for another 2 minutes or until the rice and everything else is piping hot.

Roast Belly Pork with Easy Spice Rub – Farmer’s Market Wednesday

smoked paprikaIt was pretty hard to feel inspired at the market this morning, simply because it was just pouring down with rain again. So, even though I have a couple of pork meals prepared for this week, I didn’t hang about looking to see what looked great today, or seek inspiration in  the abundance of fresh ingredients.  I just ran over to the first stall that I knew sold good meat and I just bought the first cut my eyes rested upon. Happily, I have the rest of the ingredients in my cupboard, but there isn’t anything that can’t be found in a quick trip to Sainsburys.

I suppose if I were to define this dish as anything I would say, chinesey. However, given the smoked paprika, I can’t say its a particularly authentic recipe. Never mind, it’s really delicious anyway. The thing with belly pork, is that you need to flavour it, probably, and you need to be patient and cook it slowly. This means not falling asleep in front of the telly with your child if you want dinner on the table at a sensible time, unlike me. Slow roasting will bring out the best in this cheap cut of meat – cook it too fast and the fat won’t melt into the flesh sufficiently and you’ll have a tough, very fatty piece of meat. I always buy far more of this cut than I need, as I love it cold too. This recipe is adapted from a recipe book called The Best, to accompany the BBC series of the same name. Serves umm.. 3?

  • 1.5 kilo piece of belly pork, skin scored  by your butcher
  • 3 tsps salt
  • 1.5 tsps smoked paprika
  • 3 tsps chinese 5 spice powder

chinese barbecue ork pre oven

Boil a kettle full of water, and on a rack over a roasting tin, pour it over your pork, concentrating on the skin. Leave to drain off the water for a few minutes while you mix together the rest of the ingredients. If the pork still feels wet when you’ve done this, dry it off with a bit of kitchen towel. Then, rub the spice mix into the pork evenly all over, not forgetting the sides of the joint. Put in the oven at gas 8 and cook for 20 minutes, turn down to gas 2-3 and cook for another 3 hours. If the crackling is not all you hoped for at the end of the cooking time, cover the joint with foil and whack the oven up to gas 7 for 15 minutes and that should help. Remove from the roasting tin, and put the pork somewhere warm to rest . Skim the excess fat from the pan and then add:

  • 20ml soy sauce
  • 15ml rice or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp oriental chilli oil
  • coooked chinese barbecue pork

Swish them together along with the juices and put the pork back into the pan with the soy, vinegar and chilli oil and cover. When pork has rested for at least 10 minutes in total, carve into thin slices and serve over rice, pouring the juices over.

Honey Roasted Indian Lamb with Coconut Rice

If you cook, then I’m sure you’ve used food to communicate. Maybe if you don’t cook really, I bet you have. I bet you’ve bought someone a box of chocolates, well meaningly bought a packet of sweets to reward a child’s good behavior. Maybe you’ve cooked a dinner to make up to your better half over a row or when you’re trying to tell someone you’re serious about them. Even if it is a M&S ready meal. This is normal and perfectly lovely. Maybe if its the ONLY way you communicate with your loved ones then its not very healthy, but every now and then, a few hours in the kitchen to demonstrate your love to the people you love, is nice.

finished dinner.

So this is the sort of thing I might cook when I have that sort of need. Its not difficult by any means, but it does require a few processes, and ideally, you need to start preparing 24 hours in advance. Loosely following recipes here by Anjum Anand.

Serves um.. 4-6. I recommend a vegetable side to go with this, try sweetcorn & red pepper curry.

Lamb:

  • 1 leg of lamb, 2.2 -2.5k                  100g blanched almonds
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil                       100ml thick greek style yogurt
  • 2 tbsp water                                1 & 1/2 tbsp Honey
  • 5 tbsp lemon juice
  • 15g fresh ginger, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder

24 hours ahead, put everything in the first column except the lamb in a blender. Whizz until smooth. Get a small, sharp knife and make deep, regular cuts in the lamb. Take the spice mix out of the blender and rub it into the lamb, ensuring the marinade gets into the cuts. At this point, I wrapped the coated lamb in a (clean!) carrier bag, put it on a big plate and put it in the fridge. Forget for 22 hours.

The next day, whizz up the almonds, yogurt and honey.[important] Do not allow your other half to mistake this for a smoothie. Rub this mixture into the lamb , you mnigtht well smear this into the marinade – if you do, don’t worry, won’t have that big a bearing on the final dish, and put back in the fridge for at least 30 mins – and up to two hours.  Bring it back up to room temperature before cooking. Preheat the oven to Gas 7, cook the lamb for 15 mins and then reduce the heat to gas 4 . You need to cook your lamb for 20-25 mins per 500g and then up to an additional 15 minutes, depending on how pink you like your meat. Remember to baste the lamb fairly regularly with any juices that might have dripped off it in the oven. Its a bit more cooked than I would usually like, preferring pinker meat, but a mixture of attending to guests and not really looking about the clocks made for medium cooked lamb. No worse for that, as it turned out. Meanwhile…

Coconut Rice:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 small red chilli
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp finely chopped or grated ginger
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 15 curry leaves
  • 500g cooked basmati rice (as per packet instruction to make up to that amount when cooked)
  • 8 tbsp dessicated coconut, cover in water to soak before cooking.

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When the lamb is cooked, turn the heat off and open the oven door to give it a chance to rest.  Heat the oil for the rice in a large non stick frying pan and when its hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds & chilli. When the onion seeds start to pop, put in the onion and ginger and cook over a medium heat until the onion is soft, roughly 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and fry over a medium heat until the rice is hot through and everything is combined. Serve with the carved lamb. Scoff. And soak up the reflected lurve.