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Saturday, 17 November 2012

Mushroom & Spinach Spelt Risotto

Spelt, or farro in Italian, is a cereal widely employed in Tuscan cooking. In the summer it is boiled until tender, then tossed together with ruby red tomatoes, fragrant basil leaves and savoury Parmesan cheese shavings to form beautiful, fresh salads; in the winter, it bulks up thick, warming borlotti bean soups (minestra di farro e fagioli), which are served drizzled with peppery extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of black pepper. For our evening meal a couple of days ago, I decided to employ spelt for another comforting seasonal dish, i.e. risotto. As its name reveals, this dish is of course always made with rice but spelt grains are somewhat similar to it and represent a tasty, even healthier, alternative. The cooking process I adopted for making the spelt version is also different from the one used for traditional risotto, but the end result is very close. Meaty oyster mushrooms and wilted spinach leaves, together with a dash of cream and some Parmesan, are the ingredients I chose to infuse my spelt risotto with flavour.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Romanesco Broccoli & Taleggio Frittata

An example of what can be rustled up for one's lunch in less than 20 minutes, after a quick rummage in the fridge! Romanesco broccoli is a creamy, delicate-tasting variety of this versatile vegetable that looks like a work of art, both due to its geometrical shape and striking bright green colour. Broken into florets, then boiled in simmering water, it can be added to warm winter salads; or lightly fried in a pan together with some pancetta cubes and olive oil, it can become a tasty pasta sauce like it is done in Italy. Another match made in heaven, in my opinion, is with cheese: from there to a fluffy, oozing frittata, it is only a small step.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Parsnip, Chorizo & Chestnut Soup

Another recipe from the book "Soups" by Tonia George. It is more of a meal in itself, as the parsnip and chestnut whizzed together make a dense base, and the chorizo chunks you fish out with your spoon at every mouthful give you something to chew on.  It can of course be a starter, but in that case serve it in small ramekins or glasses, under the guise of amuse-bouche. Otherwise, I recommend you present it as the main course, together with some crusty bread and perhaps a crispy, bitter salad to follow. The perfect winter warmer!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Chicken & Leek Pie

Few things are as quintessentially British as a meat pie. I made this for my English boyfriend, who said: "Wow! It tastes just like a Gingsters slice, but better". In other words, the ultimate compliment. I cannot take credit for this recipe though, as it is a creation from the amazing Nigel Slater (yes, him again!), who really understands what comfort food is all about. He uses chicken thighs as opposed to breast meat as they are moister and more flavoursome, and adds some Dijon mustard to cut through the richness of the creamy sauce.

Courgette & Taleggio Bread

This bread is actually more like a savoury cake, as there is no kneading involved. The courgette keeps it really moist and the taleggio (an amazing cheese from the North of Italy, which is perfect for melting) makes it rich and gooey. The idea for this recipe comes from a book I strongly recommend, called "Soups" by Tonia George. Her loaf was made with feta, which I substituted it with taleggio as I find it more delicate and interesting. I made this bread to accompany roasted butternut squash soup, but it's so tasty that you can also eat it on its own.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Spaghettini with Caramelised Fennel

The inspiration for this dish came to me after watching an episode of Nigel Slater's "Dish of the Day" TV series. I love the man! I find that him and I share the same approach to cooking, as in by not really following a recipe but letting the ideas come from the ingredients sitting in the fridge or in the cupboard, or from what looks good on the market stalls or supermarket shelves when we go shopping. That's how Nige and I roll :-) I watched him making fennel and feta linguine and a few days later made my own version for a Saturday lunch, since all I had left in the fridge at that point of the week was a fennel bulb. It was delicious: through the cooking process, the fennel loses his distinctive aniseed taste and all you are left with is a moreish sweetness.

Sweet Potato Soup

A "hug in a mug", to use the catchphrase of a popular soup brand's advert. However, this soup does not come from a sachet and it is made with the freshest ingredients. True, it takes a bit more effort than just boiling the kettle and whisking in the powdered soup with some hot water, but it is ten million times more tasty and healthy. What I usually do is make a large batch of soup whenever I have time (mid-week or at the week-end) and then freeze it in single or double portions. Therefore, whenever I need it my hug in a mug is only a microwave's ping away!