Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Study in Pink

Advance warning: This is the most literary-related risotto recipe ever. It's also amazing and you should make it. Just don't blame me if you just can't handle the awesome that is PINK RISOTTO with roasted beetroot and butternut squash. Yes, I said pink risotto. Keep reading.

Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 bunch raw beetroot 
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 large onions (or 1 onion and 1 leek, if you fancy)
- large handful French beans - approx 150g
- 300g/12oz arborio risotto rice
- 2 glasses white wine
- 1500ml vegetable stock
- 10-12 sage leaves
- 10 sprigs thyme
- 125g block soft goats' cheese
- salt and pepper

1. Start by peeling the squash and beetroot. Chop the squash into small-ish chunks and the beetroot into slices, then peel and finely chop three of the garlic cloves. Put into an oven dish and toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and five of the thyme sprigs (the only way I've ever been able to do fresh thyme is to pick the leaves off a few at a time, which is very annoying, but always worth it.). Also, be aware that after peeling and chopping the beetroot you WILL feel like Lady Macbeth:

'Out damned spot! Out, I say! ... What! Will these hands ne'er be clean?'
2. Stick into a preheated oven at 180°C for 45-60 minutes, taking out every 15 minutes to stir. And while those are roasting, you can start your basic risotto - olive oil in a large pan, melt some butter, chop onions and the remaining garlic and add, and then cook for approx 5 minutes until soft and starting to colour slightly. Add the French beans (topped, tailed and halved) and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Add the risotto rice and stir to coat, then tip in the wine and let it bubble and reduce down for a few minutes. Begin adding the stock, about a ladle-full at a time, and stir LOTS. The stock-adding process should be finished at about the same time the roasting vegetables are.

4. When the stock is all added and the vegetables are done, add them to the pan. Stir in, then season, chop the sage and the rest of the thyme and add that too. Then add the whole block of goats' cheese. Yes, all of it. Trust me. While you're doing this the hob should be on a low heat, and you should still be stirring lots. Your risotto will then make the transition...

...and become pretty in pink.

5. When all the cheese is mixed in and there are no white streaks, serve to your impressed and astonished housemates. Also, the more you stir it the pinker it will get. Garnish with a couple more sprigs of thyme for prettiness, and enjoy. It's particularly good served with garlic bread.

Yes of course we have a sunflower in a Champagne bottle - doesn't every student house?
 Ps. Zosia would like me to add that she is alive and will post again soon, but that life is very crazy and at the moment she doesn't have time to cook and only has time to eat my food. She didn't say that last bit, but it's totally true. I should start charging.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


And then we moved into our new house. IT'S SO EXCITING. And so beautiful. We have a lounge with two sofas which leads onto the dining room...

 We have a kitchen with a gas hob...

  We have a CONSERVATORY and a GARDEN:

And cooking and living in it is so, so fun.

Recipes to follow soon once we're all properly unpacked/caught up on sleep/finished running around doing the university magazine. Trust me, they're going to be amazing.

Monday, 10 September 2012

I always wanted to be Snow White

I thought she was awesome. She was the only Disney princess who looked anything like me - ie. had shorter, dark hair. I had the dress and hairband and everything. The particular bit I'm thinking of though is this:

 Watching it back now, no wonder she has lips red as the rose with that amount of make up on, and my pie totally looks better and also much more hygienic. Guess what this post is really going to be about:

There's something of a growing tradition that for Fraser's birthday I make him 'birthday pie', and so this is this year's attempt. Last year's didn't go so well (completely not my fault) so there was a fair amount of pressure, but I totally pulled it off. Also it's an apple pie, by the way. I probably should have said that sooner. Because even though Snow White made a Gooseberry Pie, "it's apple pies that make the men-folks' mouths water" as her evil stepmother so wisely said. Promise mine isn't poisoned though.

For the pastry (a sweet shortcrust - recipe from 'The Great British Book of Baking' by Linda Collister): 
- 225g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 60g caster sugar
- 125g unsalted butter, diced and chilled
- approx 3tbsp of very cold water.

Yes, you could buy pastry, but I love making it and I think it's awesomer if it's your own. Also I make it by hand rather than in a food processor. Definitely not because I still want to be Snow White or because I can't afford a food processor.

1. First of all, I'd suggest putting a small cup of cold water in the freezer while you do other things to make it uber-cold. Then sift the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl. Add the butter and, using the tips of your fingers, rub it into the flour mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs. 
2. Using a palette knife (or a butter one which is all I have), stir in enough cold water to bind it all together and make a soft but NOT sticky dough. You can add more flour if necessary, but it's better to just be careful with the water.
3. Being careful to work it as little as possible, wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes while you make the filling. This does stuff to the gluten that I don't fully understand but I do know that I've forgotten to do it before and it was bad. So chill your pastry.

For the filling:
- approx 1kg Bramley apples (4 big 'uns)
- 4 tbsp caster sugar
- zest of half a lemon
- squeeze of lemon juice
- 1-2tsp ground cinnamon
- 25g melted butter
- 1-2tbsp water

1. Peel, core and chop the apples and place them in a big bowl of water to which you have added a massive squirt of lemon juice. This will stop them going brown but won't make them taste solely of lemon. This may have been my mistake the first time around.
2. When all the apple is done and you're ready to move on, drain the water (probs easiest to just tip the apples into a sieve and then transfer back) and then add the sugar, zest, cinnamon and butter and stir gently to coat.
3. Get your pastry out the fridge and cut off a third, then roll that out into a circle slightly larger than your pie dish (mine was 22cm in diameter and 3cm deep. IF you don't have a pie dish then you can use the lid of a casserole dish. Or just buy one. They're cheap and exciting.). This will be the base. Then sort of wrap the pastry lightly around the rolling pin, and let it unfurl over the dish. Press all around the bottom and sides to make sure there's no air trapped - you can use your fingers or a spare bit of pastry. Don't trim the edges.
4. Spoon the filling onto the base, and then add the water. Roll out the rest of the pastry into a circle large enough to cover the top, then brush the rim of the base with water and place on the top using the rolling pin method. Gently press together the pastry of the base and the top to seal it, then take a sharp knife and trim the excess pastry. You can use this to make decorations, which stick on with a bit of water.
5. Assuming you don't have any woodland creatures/birds handy to do the job for you, use a fork or your fingers to scallop the rim. Make sure you've cut a couple of slits to act as air holes so your pie doesn't explode, and then brush with a beaten egg.

6. Bake for approximately 35 minutes at 180°C, then when the pastry is all golden and lovely take it out the oven and sprinkle with a bit of caster sugar. Serve with cream, ice cream, creme fraiche, custard... whatever takes your fancy.

I am the new Snow White. No, the animals didn't help me make my pie, but I could totally see them from every single window of the house. And also Fraser whisked me off to Paris a couple of days after I made my pie, which is almost exactly the same as being awoken from your apple-induced-coma and riding off into the sunset.
It's like my very own Disney film.