Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Seafood Risotto

In France, my mother and I took turns to cook. By "took turns", I mean I made one meal, and helped her prepare all the other meals. I would have cooked again, except we had eyes bigger than stomachs and what was meant to just be either lunch or dinner ended up doing two meals. I'm surprised we managed to get the fridge as empty as we did when we came back to London.

While Cordes is beautiful, it is inland which makes the cost of fish near prohibitively expensive. However, I was hell bent on making this for her as I'd made it a couple of nights earlier and had surprised myself by how nice it was. So, frozen fish it was. I'd obviously recommend using fresh fish if you make this yourself, but frozen will certainly do! If you do use frozen fish, thaw the salmon before cooking, but keep the remaining seafood frozen.

Ingredients (serves 4):
125g carnaroli risotto rice
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
75g broad beans
100g king prawns
250g salmon fillet
450ml chicken stock
125ml white wine
1 tbsp fresh tarragon
50g parmesan

Finely chop the onion and thinly slice the garlic. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent then add the garlic and rice and cook for a further minute. Add a third of the chicken stock and reduce over a low heat. Try to stir as little as possible, but whenever the rice is on the verge of sticking, add a little more stock. If your salmon has skin on it, remove the skin then cut into 1cm slices. When you've used about 2/3rd of the stock, add the wine and reduce this down too. 

Finally, add the last of the stock with the broad beans, salmon, prawns and mussels and cover over for 5-10 minutes while they cook and the last of the liquid is absorbed. Don't let it dry out entirely though - risotto should be faintly soup-y. Taste the risotto rice to check that it is cooked. If it is, roughly chop the tarragon and stir into the risotto with 3/4 of the parmesan and serve onto plates. If not, add a little extra water to keep the risotto moist and cook for a further 5 minutes or so until cooked. Once served up, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle over the remaining parmesan.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Roasted Round Courgettes with Cous Cous & Goats Cheese Stuffing

I apologise in advance if this inadvertently proves to be a more difficult recipe than I originally intended - the basic premise is simple, but I have no idea how easy it is to obtain rounded courgettes. I'll explain - I went to the south of France with my mother a couple of weeks back, and we bought these while we were out there. Sadly, we didn't get around to eating them in France (so much food; so little time) so they got packed into my hand luggage and came home with me. 

The cous cous filling is a variation on an Ottolenghi recipe, and I think it makes the perfect stuffing. I made a similar version of this recipe a few weeks earlier still, where I used roasted harlequin squashes and stuffed those. Whatever squash you use, this is absolutely delicious and a wonderful way of using up such gorgeous autumnal vegetables. Couchillo olives are wonderful - smaller than normal olives, they have a gorgeous, delicate flavour. If you can't find couchillo olives, use kalamata or any other mild varieties instead. For the goat's cheese, use Chavroux or any of the ones that come in a soft log form. 

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 round courgettes or small squashes
50g cous cous
25g mograbiah/israeli cous cous
1 small onion
25g sundried tomatoes
Small pinch saffron
1 tbsp couchillo olives
25g crumbly goats cheese
1 tbsp fresh tarragon
1/2 tsp nigella seeds

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C, then slice the courgettes in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeded area, place on a baking tray and season with a little salt & pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, cover and roast for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and roast for a further 10 minutes.

While the courgettes are roasting, pour the cous cous into a bowl, add the saffron, a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Cover with boiling water and then cover the bowl with a lid or plate and leave for 10 minutes. Next, cook the Israeli cous cous as per the instructions on the bag, drain and leave to cool. While the Israeli cous cous is cooking, peel and thinly slice the onion, then fry slowly in a little olive oil until golden. 

Slice the sundried tomatoes and arbequina olives, then fluff up the cous cous. Stir in the Israeli cous cous, golden onions, sundried tomatoes and arbequina olives. Finally, crumble up the goats cheese into the cous cous mix, add the nigella seeds and roughly chop the tarragon, Stir all of these ingredients in, and your stuffing is ready.

The courgettes should be just about ready at this point - test them with a sharp knife to make sure they are cooked - they should be soft and golden, but keeping their shape. Place two courgette halves on each plate and then spoon over the cous cous. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Quick & Easy Apple Tart

I went down to Somerset at the weekend with my mother and fiancé (I still can't get used to calling him that) to visit family and check out both the church where we'll be getting married and the reception venue. They are both everything I could have wanted and more.

I may have missed mushrooming season, but visiting Somerset at the tail end of October still has its advantages - my uncle had a surplus of apples which unlike cooking apples, won't last the winter. So my mother and I returned to London with bags of beautiful pommes. While hers were earmarked for apple crumble, I decided to try making a tart with mine. 

I am spectacularly lazy when it comes to all things baking related, so I used bought puff pastry - I don't think I could make it as good myself as I don't have the patience and will never make a pastry chef. Having had a second slice for breakfast, I can reassure you that it is as good cold from the fridge as it is hot out the oven!

Ingredients (makes about 6 slices):
For the purée
2 large cooking apples
25g unsalted butter
1 tbsp brandy
1/2 tsp cinnamon
50g caster sugar

For the tart
1 sheet of rolled puff pastry
2 large cooking apples
1 egg
1 tbsp icing sugar

If you're using frozen puff pastry, leave it out to thaw. Meanwhile, make the apple purée - peel, core and roughly dice two of the cooking apples (place the peeled and diced chunks in a bowl of lemony water so they don't brown while you peel the rest). Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the apples, brandy and cinnamon. As the apples can be quite tart, once the apples have softened to a paste, taste and add as much or as little sugar as you deem is necessary. I used about 50g as my apples were really quite sharp. Transfer to a fridge-friendly dish and leave to cool.

Once the apple purée is cool, preheat the oven to 200°C then place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and lay the puff pastry sheet flat on it. Spread the puree on the pastry, leaving 1/2 an inch clear around the edge. Cover and place in the fridge while you prepare the top layer of apples. Peel, core and thinly slice the remaining two apples (again place the peeled and diced chunks in a bowl of lemony water so they don't brown while you slice the rest), then remove the pastry from the fridge. Place the apple slices on top of the purée, beat the egg & brush onto the exposed pastry around the edge, then dust the icing sugar over the apples. 

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Leave to cool for 5 minutes then cut into slices and serve. Delicious with a scoop of ice cream or spoon of crème fraîche. Perfect!