Sunday, March 26, 2006

Spring risotto

Yesterday on my way to the university on my bike I came across this beautiful patch of crocus. What better sign to say that spring is here! In fact after weeks of cycling in as many clothes as I could reasonably wear yesterday I was happy to peddle along in my shirt sleeves! As I went thorough the main doors I came across a ladybird (may be on its way to an OU course) and smiled to myself. Down at the markets there were lots of fresh looking veg so I thought I'd whip up something full of the fresh flavours of leeks and purple sprouting broccoli. And so a spring risotto - I wanted the leeks to impart as much flavour as possible so I started with them in the pan - though if you fancied something a bit more vibrant in the green department you could add them half way through the cooking.

knob of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
220g risotto (arborio) rice
3 leeks sliced
1 small glass of wine (for the cooking not the cook)
salt and pepper
hand full grated parmesan

4 griddled chicken breast and purple sprouting broccoli to serve

Melt the butter in a heavy based pan with the oil and then add the leeks. Cook very gently for a couple of minutes and then add the rice. Have a pan of stock barely simmering and ladle a spoon full at a time into the rice allowing the liquid to absorb before adding more stock. I had about a litre on the go and blanched my broccoli in it too. Once the rice is just about cooked (20-30min) add the wine and allow it to absorb too. Then season to taste and stir in the parmesan. Pile up in a bowl and top with the chicken and broccoli! This will serve about 4 as a light meal.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What a weekend!

Indeed what a weekend (and what a week so far.....its been rather busy hence the late blogging about the weekend). As you may have gathered it was my birthday last week! And to celebrate in style I bought tickets for a few friends to go to a ceilidh on Saturday night. First, ten of us piled into Buonissimo in Harborne. This splendid little restaurant is at the end of a road where I lived as a student, not that it was there then, and so I was a little nostalgic as we dashed in (I was fashionably late!). Though quite a small menu, the food was delicious - lots of piatti and less pasta which was rather nice for a change. The puddings were great too though I think we managed to share my Baileys and Sambucca cheesecake between three as it was rather rich! Then on to St Mary's parish centre for a Bard ceilidh - traditional scottish dancing (or irish or english these days). Our band for the evening the Flos Headford band and our caller was Flos's wife Sheila Mainwaring. They had us whirling round the dance floor and generally throwing ourselves into it with gusto! The three hour dance went by in a flash and soon it was time to rest our weary feet.
On Sunday Dougal, Wampe and I meandered round the Olton resevoir to get the blood pumping again, spotting a gold crest zipping about in the undergrowth. Mum and Dad joined us and we had more cake (a very yummy bannoffee variety, in fact birthday cake number 5!). For dinner we pottered into town to Cielo - where we were welcomed warmly and looked after very well all evening. I had zingy fettuccine al limone, melt in the mouth halibut al vino blanco and finally macedonia di frutta with a little glass of Eylsium! How fabulous!! (The pictures are of Dougal's tea - prawns, sea bass and tartufato) I'll have to turn thirty more often!! Lastly a big thank you to all my friends and family for a fabulous time at the various celebrations over the last week and a special one to J for getting me home in one piece on Tuesday night!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Fairtrade Brownies

Monday saw the start of Fairtrade Fortnight. So I got myself a fairtrade pack from ZeroPointZero and invited some friends round for tea and coffee, Geobars, Fairbreaks and mini Divine chocolates. There were also lots of leaflets and recipe books in the parcel - so I have dutifully been handing them out! I hope that just a few more Fairtrade goodies will be purchased! I also made Fairtrade brownies with spices and berries. The nutmeg I used was bought from the lady who actually owned the tree in Sulawesi and the chocolate was the very tasty Fairtrade Divine! The recipe is adapted from one of Nigella Lawson's. And I am sure that there must be Fairtrade sugar and flour and probably vanilla essence out there!

125g butter
250g white chocolate
4 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
350g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
170g mixed berries

Melt the butter and chocolate together, being very careful as the white chocolate can easily catch on the heat. Whip together the eggs and sugar and then add the vanilla essence. In another bowl mix together the salt and flour. Cool the chocolate mixture and then whisk into the eggs. Fold the dry ingredients, spices and berries in to this mixture. Pour into a 20 by 30cm greased baking tray/ roasting tin. Cook at 170°C for 35min. Cool in the tin and cut out about 20 brownies. Enjoy with a cup of Fairtrade tea or coffee!

Monday, March 06, 2006


After discussing the writing journals while on holiday recently, someone asked if I ever went back and read them. Well, yes I do and while I was rifling through one from my holiday to far eastern Russia I found this recipe for Oladi - a sort of yeasty drop scone. I remember well sitting round the fire one morning while we were camped near the beach and Vladimir making these. They were delicious - hot straight out of the pan and dripping with condensed milk. One of the other local breakfast specialities was prawns with the local beer!

15g yeast or two 7g packets of instant yeast
225g flour
150ml warm milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
25g butter
oil for frying

condensed milk to serve

Mix the yeast with the milk, flour and sugar and then leave in a warm place until doubled in size. Then mix in the egg, salt and butter. Squidging it with your hands seems to work best. Then leave to rise again. Once you have a big dome of yeasty mixture heat a frying pan over you camp fire, or on your hob if you're at home! Then fry tablespoons of the mixture in a scant amount of oil until golden brown on both sides. Drizzle with condensed milk and try not to eat all of the oladi by yourself!!

I knew I'd find it eventually - here is Vladimir cooking oladi over the camp fire!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

World Book Day

Today is world book day and this gives me the incentive to get on and write about these two fabulous books. They were published sometime ago now but with one thing and another, not least the massive pile of books to be read by my bed, I read them over the Christmas break. Collette Rossant has writtwen a beautiful account of her early childhood in Eygpt (Apricots on the Nile) and then later in Paris and her early married life (Return to Paris). The descriptions are mouth watering and there are even recipes. It all just makes me want to get out there and browse the markets and unusual shops for new and exciting ingredients!
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