Mushroom+Bacon Risotto

Melt butter in a pan, and add chopped bacon. When the bacon is browned; add risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli), and fry until just starting to brown.

Deglaze the pan with a couple of glugs of vermouth; then add finely diced onion and saute until translucent.

If there is still fond on the pan (uh.. brown bits), use some chicken stock to deglaze further. Then, add enough chicken stock to just cover the rice.

When the stock has evaporated off; cover the rice with stock again.

This time, when the stock evaporates, add sliced mushrooms; and again, cover the rice with stock.

When the stock evaporates this time; the risotto is probably ready. Sample a grain of rice, and if it tastes about right; stir in grated parmesan cheese and serve. Otherwise, continue adding and cooking off more stock until it’s finished.

Tomato-less Lasagna

Lasagna is cooking as I type this; so I must hurry! Pictures might follow, depending on just how starving I am when it is finished.

The lasagna is tomato-less for good reason – Cyrus has an irrational dislike of tomatoes. I think I’ve teased him about this before…

The ingredients are: 4 chicken thighs, chopped finely and cooked through; a bag of baby spinach; a generous handful of mushrooms, sliced; one red onion, diced finely; about two good handfuls of grated cheese; 2-eggs of pasta, rolled into a sheet (or equivalent); salt, pepper, nutmeg, butter, flour, and milk (for bechamel sauce)

The way I approached this, was to deal with the chicken, mushrooms, onions and cheese first; then make and roll out the pasta; then the bechamel and finally the assembly of the lasagna before baking.

For pasta: Place about three handfuls of flour into a bowl. Make a well in the flour. Crack the eggs into the well. Mix the eggs into the flour, and when all of the flour has been absorbed; add more flour and continue to work the dough. Roll the dough through a pasta machine until about the second to last setting.

For bechamel: I’m.. uh.. not so good with bechamel. Put a bit of a sprinking of flour, and a couple tablespoons of butter into a saucepan; and cook until the butter starts to brown. Add about a cup of milk, little by little. Continue to cook until the sauce thickens a bit (it will continue to thicken as it cools).

For assembly: Coat a lasagna dish with a thin layer of bechamel, then a layer of pasta, then more bechamel. This provides a handy solid layer for retrieving pasta later. Next, add half the chicken, half the mushrooms and half the onions into an even layer; then a layer of spinach; then a layer of cheese. The next layer, is pasta again; which is covered in more bechamel. The next layers are the same as before: chicken, onions and mushrooms; then spinach; then cheese. The top layer comes next: one last layer of pasta, bechamel sauce, and the last of the cheese.

The lasagna is then baked for about 25 minutes in a 200C oven.

Beef Stir-Fry

– Marinate thinly sliced beef in a mixture of about 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, a teaspoon of crushed garlic; a generous pinch of salt, and pepper for as long as you can bear.

– Slice up 3 spring onions quite small

– Chop the chunky stems off a bunch of pak choy; and cut the bigger leaves in half.

– (Here’s where most of the waiting for as long as you can bear takes place…)

– Heat up a wok with a bit of oil; then add the beef (leaving as much of the marinade behind as possible. The idea here is to brown the meat, not stew it.)

– When the beef has mostly browned; add the spring onions.

– Once the spring onions have wilted; toss in a package of noodles. I used hokkien this time; other times, I use singapore noodles.

– Once the noodles have had a minute or so to cook; add the pak choy, and the remaining marinade; and keep eveything moving until the pak choy has wilted, but is still a little crispy.

– Bowl. Eat.

Asparagus Risotto

This is just a fairly standard sort of risotto. I trimmed the asparagus tips off for garnishing, and chopped the stems thinly. I finely chopped the zest of a lemon, and set aside the lemon juice for deglazing. As an underlying flavour base, I used 4-5 shallots diced finely.

I blanched the asparagus stems in water, and once they were finished; cooled the water down with a block of frozen chicken stock from the freezer.

In the main pan, I heated some garlic infused olive oil; and added the lemon zest. Once that was fragrant, I added the shallots. When the shallots softened, I added four small handfulls of risotto rice to the pan; which I gently fried until it started to get a little colour. At this stage, I deglazed the pan with the lemon juice. Once the lemon juice evaporated, I started to incorporate the chicken stock. When the risotto was about half complete; I added the asparagus stems to the pan, and moved the asparagus tips into the stock to warm through.

Once the risotto finished; I put it into a couple of bowls, and topped it with freshly grated parmesan and the asparagus tips.

Next time around, I’m going to pass on blanching the asparagus – the idea behind that was to get some asparagus flavour into the chicken stock. It didn’t make that much difference flavourwise, and it was a bit brutal texture-wise.

Beetroot and Lamb

This is a spontanious sort of a recipe – I kinda made it up as I went along. I started out looking for something involving lamb; and came across several recipes which also included beetroot. This made me think that lamb and beetroot was going to be a fairly safe sort of combination.

So I picked up some lamb and a bunch of baby beetroot from the supermarket (in addition to a pack of singapore noodles, and a box of catfood. Singapore noodles? you might ask – I’d thought that perhaps stirfry noodles with beetroot and lamb might be a worthwhile endeavour… But not tonight.). In any case, on with the recipe!

At this point, I still hadn’t really decided on what I was going to do; but I figured that roasting the beetroot was going to be a good start. I trimmed most of the leaves off the beetroot, and placed them on a wire rack in a ~160C oven (Our oven seems to be about 20C off. Very annoying. Though there are certainly things which are more annoying). After about 45 minutes, not a lot of progress had been made; so I turned the oven up to ~190C. Fifteen minutes later, I decided to get on with the rest of what I was making for dinner (The beetroot took another fifteen minutes or so to get to a nice tender stage; but that’s not until after the next paragraph).

Here’s where dinner started to take shape: I took about half of the lamb I bought (about 150g), and cut it into thin slices, and placed it in a bowl. Next, marinade ingredients. I decided that since beetroot seems to appear in middle-eastern style food, that I’d make a bastardised middle-eastern marinade. To the lamb, I added a teaspoon or so of pomegranate molasses, about a tablespoon of lemon infused olive oil, and about a tablespoon of minced garlic (I’m a bit of a garlic fiend). I mixed the lamb around until it was all coated; and stashed it at the top of my pantry so that my feline friends couldn’t get their little furry paws on it.

While the rest of the preparations took place, the beetroot finished up cooking. The beetroot is done when there’s only very slight resistance when poked with a skewer. Take the beetroot out of the oven, and let it cool off for about ten minutes or so. Once it’s cooled off; peel about 4 of the beetroots – if your experience is anything like mine, the outer layer of skin dried out quite a bit; and became very loose, allowing easy removal. Chop the beetroot into quarters.

Heat up a frypan over medium high heat, and add the lamb and marinade to the pan. Toss the meat about gently until just brown. Add the quartered beetroots, and lower the temperature. Quite a bit of the beetroot juice will leach out of the beetroot; but that’s okay! at the end of this exercise it’ll turn a bit syrupy. Now is also a good time to warm up some pita bread to go with the lamb and beetroot (and especially good for mopping up the syrupy juice that gets left behind.)

That’s about it, really! It’s a shame that I don’t have my digital camera at the moment, because it really was a very pretty dish. The beetroot, for all their juice loss stayed very dark and very tender; and the lamb picked up a marvellous pink colour. It was definately delicious, and something I’ll have to try again when I do have my digital camera back.

Not For Cyrus

For dinner this evening, I made something that Cyrus wouldn’t eat! The thing about Cyrus, is when he was very young, he was playing with a tomato when it burst. I’m told that this is why he won’t eat vegetables. Except he does now. At least, some vegetables. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a fan of tomatoes, however. Introductions aside, on with dinner!

I panfried a chicken breast until cooked through, then added finely diced onions, tomato and garlic until they turned saucey. Next, I deglazed with vodka; and once that cooked off, added some coarsely chopped mushrooms to the mix.

It was okay; but probably not something I’d make again in his absence.

When the cat’s away, the mice do play?

My lovely and charming partner Cyrus is a notoriously fussy eater.

My lovely and charming partner Cyrus is also in Los Angeles at the moment.

In theory, that means I can make whatever I want for myself, without having to accomodate him. However, so far; he’d eat all of the things I’ve made.

(Unfortunately, since he is in Los Angeles, my camera is with him; and as such there aren’t going to be any food pictures to accompany the “recipes” for a while.)

Last night, was on the whole, pretty simple. I had boiled jersey bennes (organic, no less. They were on sale the last time we ran out of potatoes, so ended up costing the same as the non-organic potatoes); with panfried cervena and mushrooms.

Tonight, I had chicken stuffed with parma ham and camembert; with a sprinkling of sea salt and kelp pepper.

Kelp pepper, you might ask?

It seems to be dried kelp, which has been ground up into a coarse pepper-like form. It’s a little bit salty, and a little bit sea-weedy. I gather it’s also full of iodine and other minerals.

Fish, Potato and Asparagus

Fish, Potatoes and Asparagus

The fish, is based loosely on a Donna Hay recipe (it’s in her book Flavours). In this variation, cut the skin off 3 lemons; then sliced into 5mm thick slices. The lemon sliced then get fried in a mixture of olive oil and butter. In recipe land, where everything goes to plan, the lemon slices brown. In my kitchen, the lemons turn to mush and let go of their juices. The lemon slices then get removed from the pan.
Next, the fish goes into the pan, where it takes a couple of minutes on each side to cook.
The fish, when completed in this manor ends up with a very lemony flavour.

The potatoes were just diced up, and coated in a little bit of olive oil before being roasted in a fairly hot oven for about 1/2 an hour (being tossed about every ten minutes or so to make sure they don’t stick to the pan.)

The asparagus was tossed in a little bit of chilli oil; then grilled until cooked. It takes about 5 minutes for the first side and about 3 minutes for the second side in my grill.

And that was that!