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I am really enjoying our meat-free month and not really finding it a challenge so far – it’s really great to be trying out a lot of recipes that I would usually not cook because we seem to default to others. The only downside was this evening realising that we couldn’t eat fish and chips at the pub – I was pretty gutted.
Monday 16th January
Dev-Mex Pumpkin Soup from the Riverford Cookbook. Pumpkin and tomato soup with a hint of chilli, topped with crumbled tortilla chips, avocado chunks tossed in lime juice, grated Jarlesburg, and coriander.
Utterly, utterly amazing. It’s always those dishes that you want to like, but don’t think you really will, maybe because it contains an ingredient you don’t think you like, and WHAM - so delicious! If there’s one recipe so far I would recommend you make, it would be this one.
Tuesday 17th January
Mushrooms, creme fraiche and pasta. This is Hugh’s mushroom risioniotto…at least I think that’s what it’s called. He does make up some odd names. It’s basically tiny pasta that looks like rice, I love it, it’s very comforting and moreish – probably because you can eat big mouthfuls of it along with some rich sauce. The mushrooms were simply fried in butter until they start to go golden, then some wine and creme fraiche stirred through to make a sauce. I miss calculated the amount of mushrooms and did half the recipe…turns out it was only for 2 people so I definitely won’t mess this up next time, as it did need more mushrooms.
Wednesday 18th January
Roasted tomato and mozzarella risotto. Another from Hugh’s trust Everyday Veg book, and one that we had been cooking regularly before we even considered doing a meat-free month. Yes, perhaps eating tomatoes in January isn’t the most seasonal choice, but my body was craving it and they were bought from Unicorn Grocery in Manchester so not as bad a supermarket tomatoes.
Hugh’s recipe uses a roasted tomato sauce that he also provides a separate recipe for – I just sliced a whole load of plum tomatoes in half and roasted them in the oven with olive oil, sliced garlic and herbs until they were soft and gooey. I think pop the whole lot through my mouli, a carboot bargain that I couldn’t now live without. If the Dev-Mex Pumpkin Soup was my top recommended recipe, the mouli would be my top recommended piece of kitchen kit.
So following on from yesterday’s post about my much shortened trip to London, I went to the National Trust Fine Farm Produce Awards on Thursday evening. The awards are given to National Trust farms, orchards or gardens who produce products of the very highest standards – environmental, welfare, and taste.
There were incredible displays of the winning produce and products – cider and apple juice from Barrington Court Estate, golden beetroot from Wimpole Walled Garden, late season honey from Lyveden New Bield, golden hot chilli sauce from Gringley Gringo…
We sipped delicious drinks all of which were made from the awards winning products – Apple Bellini’s, incredible apple cocktails some with mint some with cinnamon, cider, ale and beer. The Apple Bellini (exquisite fresh apple juice with champagne) is one for my wedding drinks list next year I think!
We ate delicious canapes til we could eat no longer – tiny beef pies, mini hamburgers, spoonfuls of golden beetroot and garlic risotto, bite-sized tarts with blue cheese and chutney, rice pudding with honey, and miniature scones with cream and rhubarb jam.
The producers were recognised with a short film and speech from the National Trust and judges, and this year’s Overall Winner – rhubarb jam from Brockhampton Estate – was awarded their prize.
I watched Richard McGeown (the Executive Head Chef from Couch’s in Polperro, Cornwall) give a demonstration on how to cook the perfect steak. He had been giving cooking demonstrations throughout the evening, and as I watched I snacked on my first ever piece of hogget lamb.
Tips I picked up on how to cook the perfect steak?
- Make sure the pan is really hot (if you have asbestos fingers like Richard test it with your fingers…!!).
- Only add a tiny drop of oil to the pan before adding your steak.
- Season with salt but not black pepper at this point – it will burn and taste bitter.
- Cook for about 15-20 seconds on each side to seal.
- Season with black pepper then finish off in a hot oven (220°C) for about 6 1/2 minutes if you like it rare, 7 minutes for medium rare.
The evening was finished off with more networking and nibbling on delicious canapes, before heading off with a goodie bag…
…included was a bag of flour from Clyston Mill, a small bottle of the incredibly fiery Gringley Gringo gold hot chilli sauce, some of the new National Trust ‘Lancashire lemon curd’ biscuits, apple chutney from the Killerton Estate, and a treasured jar of the award winning rhubarb jam.
Friday morning breakfast: a soft chewy slice of Kaiserbrot from Barbakan, spread with goat’s butter and Brockhampton Estate rhubarb jam. Yum.
This week I am taking a few days off from work and have left Mr Rigg and our menagerie of animals behind in Cheshire. I am visiting my family in the Cotswolds and trying not to get too hot in this almost unbearable humidity.
My mom’s garden is full of bee’s swarming over her lavender hedges, whilst everything else is looking a little thirsty. We’ve done a bit of shopping, sat for a while to chat and drink coffee and strawberry lemonade (delicious) in Made By Bob, took Alfie the family deerhound for a walk in search of a little owl that is nesting in an old tree (sadly we didn’t see it), and ate a scrummy courgette risotto.
Tonight we are planning a summer vegetable pasta dish, using vegetables from my mom’s allotment – the last of the broad beans, French beans and an assortment of courgettes. All mixed together with a health glug of good olive oil and lots of garlic.
We also rescued a rather forlorn butterfly from the village church, who was covered in cobwebs. We freed him from the dust and webs and set him on a bunch of purple wisteria flowers – he happily tucked into the nectar and I took a few snaps.
Will be back towards the end of the week no doubt with a full round up of making clotted cream ice cream, homemade scones, strawberry jam and other bits and pieces! But for now, I’m enjoying not being tied to the laptop.
Making a ‘risotto’ with pearl barley is perhaps one of my favourite dishes. It’s lovely in every season and has a more interesting texture than risotto. Don’t get me wrong, I still adore risotto (Milanese or saffron risotto is my favourite) but a barley risotto is a more rustic version.
You make a barley risotto in the same way you would a normal risotto – softening some onions and maybe some garlic, stirring in the barley and adding stock. But this is where it differs: using risotto rice you would add a ladleful of hot stock at a time, stirring all the while, but with barley you can just bung in all the stock at once and leave it to simmer away.
So this is what I did. At this point, all you have is a pan of plain barley, softened onions and lots of stock. It depends on what vegetables you are adding to the dish as to when you add them.
For this one with its lettuce, pea tendrils, spring onions and peas, they are all quite delicate vegetables that don’t need a lot of cooking. So I added most of them in towards the end – the spring onions a little before the other veg so that they soften and lose some of their pungency – soft and sweet is what I want from spring onions in a dish like this.
Once all the stock has been absorbed by the barley – try it, it should still have a chewy bite to it – it’s ready to be eaten. I topped it with some chunks of ripe brie just for a bit of luxury. The heat of the risotto should start to melt the cheese and it begins to ooze and slide over the peas and between the barley grains.
This is ‘my recipe’ for it, sorry that there aren’t measurements or amounts. I use the same amount of pearl barley for two as I would for risotto – we use 3 oz per person. So for a meal for two, using 6 oz of pearl barley, I would cover it in about 500ml of hot vegetable stock – if you find it’s all been absorbed and the barley needs a bit more cooking, simply add a little more hot water until it’s done.
The other night Mr Rigg made us a delicious dinner of asparagus, mint and lemon risotto. He found this great sounding recipe of Jamie Oliver’s, and although we did deviate from the recipe Jamie is always full of inspiration.
What did we do differently?
- Well, we cooked our asparagus in the oven like we did here.
- We cooked the risotto the way we normally do risotto, rather than learning a slightly different way.
- We added lemon zest as we were adding stock.
- We stirred the sliced cooked asparagus and sliced mint into the risotto at the end.
- And only added a spritz of lemon juice at the end to taste.
However, without Jamie’s recipe as a starting point I’d have never thought to combine asparagus, mint and lemon together in a risotto. And you should – it’s divine!
Following on from my last post, I have decided to dedicate this post to pumkins and squashes. I have a strange love affair with pumpkins and squashes – I am drawn to them with their beautiful curves and gorgeous colours, but I almost prefer them as a work of art, rather than food to be eaten.
Part of the problem is that I don’t really know how to cook them in a way that I enjoy, and my partner N particularly dislikes their flavour, which means that I am even more unlikely to cook them. I am seduced by them at the grocers, and then they end up as ornaments in our kitchen. I was really quite upset when I hacked apart my pale slate blue “Blue Squash” and transformed it into a risotto. I really enjoyed it but N ate it grudgingly, slightly happier with crispy pancetta disguising the flavour. I think I truly preferred it as a ornament, an object of beauty to admire in my kitchen.
A few model shots of the squash that was (how I miss it!) and below is my squash risotto recipe – in my bid to make a squash risotto I liked (I am generally put off by the recipes that have large chunks of squash in them) I blended up my squash before adding it to the rice. It made the most fantastic, golden orange risotto.
Heat your oven to around 200°C. Cut up the sqaush into chunks, put into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the squash is soft. Remove and cool.
In a large saucepan or deep frying pan heat the knob of butter and a drop of olive oil. While the oil is heating, finely chop your onion. When the butter starts to gently bubble, add the onion and a generous grinding of black pepper, and cook until soft.
Make sure your stock is warm. Add the glug of white wine and a ladleful of stock – it should boil furiously for a couple of minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Now pour in the rice and stir continuously for a couple more minutes.
You want to make sure it’s a gentle heat and then simply start adding in a ladleful of stock at a time, stirring the risotto until the liquid is absorbed, then adding another ladleful and so on until all the stock in used up. This usually takes around 20 minutes. If the heat is too high the liquid disappears too quickly and you’ll find you have to use more stock.
Meanwhile, peel any skin from the roasted squash and blend to a puree. When the risotto is nearly done, add the puree and stir well – it goes quite sticky. If you want to fry off some pancetta until crispy, now is the time to do so, you could also drop in a couple of sage leaves as well.
Stir in a dollop of creme fraiche and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil – and crispy pancetta and sage if you wish.
*Note: This froze well and was quickly reheated in a pan.*