Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Relaxed Risotto

This is one of my favourite meals to make. It takes a bit of time so I love Sunday nights, which are all chilled and relaxed - the perfect Risotto cooking conditions. It's one of The Hubs top 3 dinners and I would get "the look" if I stopped making it. Don't be afraid of risotto, it's actually very easy to make - allow 25 minutes for your work of genius.

For two savages, I use

4-6oz arborio rice (Tesco own brand is perfect)
1 onion, finely diced
2 sticks of celery, ribbed & finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
Large glass of white wine
2 thinly sliced chicken breasts
A large handful of frozen Petit Pois
700ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
Parmesan cheese
Chopped flat parsley or chives (both, if you like them)
Olive oil & a bit of butter

Heat the oil & butter in a large heavy pot, then add the celery & onion. Fry gently until translucent, adding the garlic and seasoning towards the end (so the garlic doesn't burn).

Add the rice and fry for a minute or 2 until it sizzles, a bit like popcorn. You want it to soak up all the oil & butter coating the veg. Then throw in your wine. The liquid will start to go cloudy. THIS IS NORMAL as the rice starch is releasing into the wine. Give it a good stir.
When this has almost evaporated, add the first of the stock.. about 1/4 or 150ml if you're precise. Stir. When that's evaporated, add the next lot. Now you put your chicken into the pot... and stir. The chicken will poach in the hot rice & stock and be gorgeously tender

When you've added 3 lots of stock, test a grain of rice by biting it. It should be very slightly hard in the centre and if so, add the last of the stock. If it's soft, you're nearly there... add the peas & cook for 2-3 minutes.

When the rice is tender and the risotto looks thick and soupy - not watery or dry - turn off the heat, add your herbs and taste for seasoning. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and a very large glass of wine.

If you don't like chicken, use prawns but add them after the 3rd batch of stock so they don't get too tough. Finely sliced courgettes, leeks and mushrooms also work really well instead of peas (and bulk out the risotto to feed any unexpected guests!)

When I make it, I use Tesco Ingredients arborio or carnaroli rice, Maldon salt, mixed peppercorns, Tesco frozen petit pois, Knorr Touch of Taste liquid stock, Specially Selected Parmesan from Aldi and any freebie 1/4 bottle of wine kicking around if I don't want to open a big bottle (the freebies we get on the ferry to France are perfect for this!)

Here's the proof in the photos!
The onion & celery softening in my trusty Anolon pot
The tricks of the trade (L-R) Maldon salt, french mixed peppercorns, risotto rice & freebie wine

The risotto after the first addition of stock

The chicken and the second lot of stock

Now the third lot of stock and the petit pois
Now add the parmesan and it's ready to eat...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ooh, I Love A Bit of Cake

Tonight is ladies night in at the Hot Dog Lover's house and I'm having a sleepover! Being the nice polite guest that I am, there's a large box of wine chilling in my freezer and I made cake.

Not just any old cake, mini chocolate loaf cakes inspired by Leila Lindholm and The Good Food Mood blog. I wasn't in the humour to make loads of meringue topping, so swapped it out for a lemon cream cheese frosting instead.

Here's a pictorial record of my ever so slightly messy experience...

The cake mix all ready to be put into the loaf tins

The little tiny baby loaf tins, all greased & lined on a baking sheet waiting for the good stuff

Fresh out of the oven and cooling off

All iced and ready to be eaten...

Now, time to run... have just realised that I should have left the house half an hour ago... eek!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

When I Was Young...

Reading the lovely Lynnie's blog post about her 80's mix tape made me think about my very misspent youth in the hotspots of SoCoDu and Wicklow.

We started off at the tender age of 16 in a local (now defunt, thanks be to god) hotel nightclub called Cinderella Rockerfellas... it was a bleedin' tip, but in the late 80's, what other choice did you have apart from bottles of Stag and Ritz. Then it was but a hop, skip and jump down to an even worse dump called O'Sheas. This was a classy joint, where your feet were guaranteed to stick to the floor and there was always a scrap going on. Fake ID was the order of the day here - nobody of legal drinking age would want to be seen dead here!

Once we hit 18, a new spot opened up - The Alternative. This was legendary and indeed has it's own Facebook page where one can reminisce about the joys of Bock the DJ, the Michelin-starred curry suppers with guess the meat, and warm cans of Satzenbrau. I think I probably spent about the GDP of a small African country on booze and admission fees in this place. When we got bored/ran out of lads to snog, we hopped onto the 84 out to Greystones to Cabanas. Just as bad, and a right bastard to get home from if you didn't manage to snag a lift!

Time for a change of scene and now having friends with cars, we headed for Hollywood Nights/Fights/Shites where the door policy was strict and a membership card was sought after by all. It was actually a great place and there are fond memories of doing the Timewarp on the speakers with bottles of Corona in hand with DJ Wicked Willie playing Betty Boo. Eventually they closed it down, to reopen briefly as Deep - utter pants.

So we were off again. The Dart took us to Dalkey where we would get polluted in The Queens and then try to persuade a taxi driver to take 5 of us up to Jesters - 50/50 success rate on this. God this was a hovel. Always jammers, never enough seats/stools, mad queues for the bar and the cloakroom. But plenty of talent, which to be honest, was the only reason for trekking up there!

Finally, we reached the top. Club 92 (aka The Club of Love) or Knackerydoo as we lovingly called it. I can't repeat half of the stuff we got up to here or certain friends of mine will have me murdered. it Needless to say it was NEVER me who made us all wait while a hotdog with 2 kilos of coleslaw was eaten. This was the cause of killings as no taxi would take us home while the mystery scoffer was filling her face. By the time she finished, every bloody taxi in the county had gone and the walk down to the main road was not a pleasant experience. I was cute and managed to finagle a Gold Card from the Manager rather than payment for a job I did there. Best move ever - free in every night with this baby. There used to be killings amongst the girls to see who was coming in with me. The routine was simple. Chat up Liam & Sean at the door to see if he'd let any of the others in for free, head to the cloakroom & hide ticket in bra. Check out talent en-route to loo for lippy application. Walk around scoping talent/sussing out who we needed to avoid. Buy beer. Repeat until kicking out time.

Actually The Club of Love holds a very dear place in my heart, as it's where I met The Hubs. would like to point out that I was ossified that night and don't know what on earth attracted him to me! In fact, the next time I met him, I had to be reminded as I drew a complete blank on the name AND the face.... shameful. Luckily, he's not a man to be dissuaded easily and I was worth it!

So, my MixPod over there contains a selection of my favourite songs from that era... to bring back all sorts of memories

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Baba's Beef Casserole

As a little sideline/to keep me sane, I do a bit of mystery shopping. It certainly won't make me a fortune, but it's interesting and one of the jobs means that I get to go food shopping & keep the proceeds.

I did one on Monday & when I did the fresh meat section, decided to get some rib steak for a stew - it was cold and I had veggies to use up. So this is what I made...

Baba's Beef Casserole
1kg rib steak
3 leeks
3 sticks of celery
3-4 carrots
3 red onions
Thyme (fresh or dried - whatever you have)
2 small cartons crushed tomatoes
2 glasses red wine
salt & pepper

Peel & chop your veg so it's all roughly the same size. Stick it in a large bowl.
Put some olive oil & butter in a casserole dish (I am very lucky to have a cream Le Creuset one), let it melt & add the veggies. Stir for about 5-10 mins, then season, including the thyme. When slightly softened, tip back into the bowl.

Chop your rib steak into decent sized chunks & dust with flour. Add a tiny bit more oil to the pan and throw in the steak. Let it brown and then put into the veggie bowl.

Deglaze the casserole with one glass of red wine, scraping up all the stuck on bits. Put the meat & veg back in, add the rest of the wine (I use large glasses) and the tomatoes.

Bring the whole lot to the boil and then cover with foil, stick the lid on, and put it into the oven at Gas 5/180c for 2 and a half hours. This quantity completely fills my casserole dish, so there may be a tiny bit of spillage. Check the casserole every hour, giving it a good stir.
As there's not enough veg in it for me to feel virtuous, I then slice a small punnet of mushrooms, chop 2-3 courgettes & saute them in a bit of olive oil & garlic, seasoning with salt & pepper. Then I add 2 portions of the casserole to this & mix it all up. If it's too thick, add a bit of beef or vegetable stock.

This will feed 6 people easily and freezes like a dream. Serve with some nice mash - tonight's one is root veg.