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Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Bulbs with Tomato Sauce

20 Mar Risotto Stuffed Fennel

Risotto Stuffed Fennel with Tomato Sauce

Fennel is another one of those vegetables, like cauliflower, that gets a bit of a bad name. People have preconceived ideas about it. They don’t like it. But many have never tried it cooked. I may have been one of those narrow-minded people.

Fennel Plants

Running past this field full of feathery fennel fronds floating in the breeze in front of an 11th Century Moorish watchtower while Rufus begs me to turn around and run back because of the pack of very tiny dogs who bark (or actually yap) at his heels as we pass, made me want to research this undervalued vegetable a little more deeply.

And by research I mean, look at recipes. On Pinterest mainly. Not that I’m addicted or anything but that is where I store all of the recipes I like the look of and want to make soon.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Fennel Bulb

The idea for this recipe didn’t come from Pinterest though. It came from Jim, The Washer Up’s dad. It’s not his recipe. I don’t think he stretches much farther than a ham sandwich in his own particular kitchen, but he does send me everything food related cut out from the British press, neatly folded in a brown envelope every couple of weeks. This is always a very welcome distraction, for me, from any cleaning that might need doing.

It was in one of those envelopes that I found out about baking and stuffing fennel.

Fennel Stock & Bulbs

Because I bought four whole fennel (complete with long feathery fronds still attached)  from the farmer’s market on Sunday, I decided I wouldn’t waste all of that aniseedy greenery and I made a stock out of them for the risotto. This isn’t essential but if you have them, you may as well if you have the time.

Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel

In the original recipe they stuffed the fennel with wild rice. I decided to make a risotto using brown rice and the mushrooms I had in my fridge and use that to stuff them instead.

I have finally worked out how to make risotto from brown rice that actually looks and tastes like risotto. You have to part cook the rice first so it is nearly done. Then you add it to the risotto and continue as you would with uncooked risotto rice. It’ so much softer and creamier. I have to give credit to The Washer Up for this tip, he has been telling me to do it for ages.

And he was right. There I said it.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel

To make the fennel stock I cut the stalks and fronds off of the fennel bulbs and chopped them up roughly. I put them in  a large pot with 3 or 4 bay leaves, 15 whole peppercorns and a good teaspoon of salt. Bring this to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered for about an hour. Taste and add more salt if necessary . Then drain and store in the fridge or freezer in 500 ml or 1 litre pots.

You can just use a normal vegetable stock if you don’t have the fronds, time or inclination.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Recipe

Serves  4, vegetarian. Adapted from

  • 300 ml brown rice
  • 600 ml fennel stock or water

Put the rice and stock/water in a pan. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the rice is nearly cooked. Drain if necessary. Rinse under cold water if not using straight away to stop the cooking and set aside.

  • 4  fennel bulbs
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • white wine (or cava)

Preheat oven to 180C. Cut about 2 cm off of the base of each bulb so it can stand up. Then cut another inch or so off of the tops. Remove any damaged/bruised outer layers. Using a teaspoon, hollow out the fennel bulbs as best you can (see picture above) reserving the fennel flesh for the risotto.

Stand the hollowed out fennel bulbs on a large sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt & pepper. Start to bring the edges of the foil up and around the fennel then carefully pour in about 4 Tbsp white wine. Seal the foil package completely around the fennel but make sure that they are still standing. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until nicely softened.

  • reserved fennel flesh from above, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves, garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 lemon, zested 
  • about 250 g mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • a splosh of white wine
  • up to 1 litre vegetable/fennel stock
  • 30 g grated manchego/parmesan
  • a handful of breadcrumbs
  • a handful of manchego/parmesan
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • a handful of pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • tomato pasta sauce/marinara sauce

Put the stock in a small pan over a medium heat and keep hot but not boiling.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, chopped fennel and a pinch of salt and cook for about 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Then add the garlic, thyme, chilli flakes, half of the lemon zest and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, cook for three minutes until softened then add the part cooked rice. Add a good splosh of white wine and cook until evaporated. Season well with salt & black pepper then start adding the hot stock a ladleful at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful, stirring and swirling occasionally. Keep going until you have used all the stock and the rice is cooked. The risotto should be soft and quite liquidy.

Add a squeeze of lemon, a little of the chopped parsley and stir in the 30 gr grated manchego/parmesan. Turn off the heat, put a lid on and leave for 3-5 minutes. Heat up your tomato sauce.

If your fennel bulbs are done remove them from the oven and put the grill/broiler on high.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, grated manchego/parmesan, rest of the lemon zest, some pine nuts & some chopped parsley in a small bowl.

Check the risotto for seasoning add more salt if necessary. Spoon some risotto into each fennel bulb right to the top and a little bit more, sprinkle over the breadcrumb mix and put them under the grill for a minute or two until browned.

To serve: Cover the base of each dish with a shallow pool of risotto and place the stuffed fennel in the middle. Spoon some of the tomato sauce on and around the dish and garnish with some of the breadcrumb mix if you have any left, some chopped parsley or fennel fronds.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel & Tomato Sauce

Buen Provecho!!

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Farro “Risotto” with Broad Beans, Wild Asparagus and Poached Egg

18 Jan Broad Bean Farro Risotto

Farro Risotto with Poached Egg

Farro is barley from spelt rather than wheat. This is whole Farro (or spelt).  You can also buy it pearled or semi-pearled apparently but I haven’t found it here yet. Pearling removes some of the outer husks, this means it cooks more quickly but you will also be missing out on some of the fibrey wholeness.

Farro

I bought half a kilo of broad beans at the market this weekend because they screamed “Spring” at me from behind a pile of cabbages and cauliflowers. I love cabbage and cauliflower but it’s nice when new things start to appear.

Broad Beans

I also bought a bunch of wild asparagus, trigueros in Spanish. It is a very fine type of asparagus that grows wild in fields and at the side of the road underneath spiky bushes (very clever). There are sometimes rather scruffy looking men selling big bunches of it at roundabouts at this time of year.  They are probably so scruffy because they have been scrabbling around underneath spiky bushes looking for the asparagus. They are the epitome of “being dragged through a hedge backwards.”

Farro Asparagus Risotto

Revueltos de Esparragos Trigurerosis a classic Spanish dish where the wild asparagus is sautéed in pan until just tender then you add some beaten eggs and cook it all together. Scrambled eggs with asparagus basically. This is what inspired me to top this risotto with a poached egg. It’s lovely because if your egg is perfectly runny when you stick your knife in it the yolk runs into the risotto giving it a rich creaminess that works really well in this dish.

 The flavour or the trigueros is slightly more bitter than the thicker asparagus and you still have to trim off quite a lot of the woody ends or the twiggy bits get stuck in your teeth I found, not attractive.

Broad Bean Farro Risotto

I cooked the farro using the risotto method, adding a ladleful of warm stock, waiting for it to be absorbed, then adding another ladleful and so on. It took a long time to cook, about 40 minutes in total I think. If you are using whole spelt/farro like me then I would probably suggest that you cook it according to the instructions on the packet (mine didn’t have any). Cooking it normally, in water or stock, will probably shorten the cooking time, you still want it to be nutty and have some bite so don’t overdo it.

You can then add your broad beans, asparagus etc at the end of cooking and heat it all up together. If you are using normal asparagus you will need to blanch it in boiling water for a few minutes before adding it to the risotto at the end.

Farro Risotto with Asparagus

Farro Risotto with Broad Beans, Asparagus & Poached Egg

Serves 3, vegetarian

  • 300 g Farro (spelt barley) I used whole but pearled or semi-pearled cook quicker
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • a pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 30 g ( a handful) of grated manchego/parmesan, plus shaved to garnish
  • 500 g broad beans still in their pod chambers (as in the picture above)
  • 1 bunch of wild (or not) asparagus, woody ends trimmed off, cut into 1- 2 inch pieces
  • 100 g frozen peas, left to defrost
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • about 15 basil leaves
  • toasted pine nuts
  • 1 egg per person
  • white vinegar

Remove the broad beans from their chambers, then put them in boiling water for a minute or two, drain, rinse under the cold tap, then squeeze the bright green beans out of their pale jade cases. Discard the cases. If using normal asparagus cook this in boiling, salted  water for about 3 minutes until just tender, drain and run under the cold tap to stop the cooking, set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and cook the onion with a pinch of salt over a medium heat for about 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme and chilli flakes and cook for another 2 minutes.

At this point you can either:

1) Add in the uncooked farro, stirring to coat for a minute. Heat the veg stock in a small pan until hot but not boiling. Add two ladles of the hot stock to the farro and cook until absorbed then add another two ladles of stock, repeating until the farro is tender but still with a nutty bite. If you need more liquid add some boiling water from the kettle. Season with salt & black pepper.

Or…

2) Add the uncooked farro and the veg stock, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered until the farro is cooked, tender but still with a nutty bite. Season with salt & black pepper.

Then, when ready to serve stir the peas, broad beans and chopped asparagus into the farro stirring to heat through for a few minutes until cooked. Then stir in the cheese and most of the fresh herbs. Taste for seasoning

For the poached eggs:

Meanwhile, using a pan big enough to hold all the eggs, fill it 2/3 full with water and bring to the boil. Crack the eggs into separate teacups or ramekins.

When the water is boiling, squeeze in about a teaspoon of vinegar and some salt. Remove the pan from the heat, stir it with a wooden spoon very fast to create a little whirlpool then, quickly but gently, slide the eggs into the water, one at a time. Put on a lid and leave for 3 – 3 1/2 minutes.

When the white is cooked, carefully lift the eggs out, one at a time with a slotted spoon onto a double sheet of kitchen paper to drain, cover the tops with another sheet of kitchen paper.

Serve the farro “risotto” in warmed bowls and carefully use the paper and spoon to move the poached egg on top of the farro. Season the egg with a little salt & black pepper and garnish the dish with some shaved manchego/parmesan, the rest of the herbs and the toasted pine nuts.

Farro Risotto with a Poached Egg

Have a Great Weekend Everyone!!

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Tomato and Saffron Risotto with Basil, Pine Nuts and Parmesan

24 Aug Tomato & Saffron Risotto

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe inspired by our trip to Cape Town. This one is a version of the Tomato Risotto I had at Sand at The Plettenberg Hotel in Plettenberg Bay.

Sand is one of the restaurants in the Liz Mcgrath Collection of three hotels overseen by the Grand Chef, Peter Tempelhoff. I have been lucky enough to have eaten at all three. I had an unforgettable passionfruit souffle at The Marine, Hermanus a few years ago that I must remember to have a go at with my next  lot of passionfruit.

I had one of the best meals of my life, a 7 Course Vegetarian Tasting Menu at The Greenhouse , Cellars Hohenort, awarded restaurant of the year and number 1 in South Africa, this year. More of that in a future post, I am still trying to get close to replicating one of the recipes from that memorable meal, but failing miserably at the moment. I can see why he is a multi award-winning Grand Chef.

Above are some pictures of the beautiful meal I had at Sand prepared by the very capable sous-chef , Tronnette. We were presented first of all with some Baked Rosemary & Sea Salt Lavash with Aubergine Puree and a Melon Shot with Cucumber Salsa Bruschetta. For a starter I chose the Double Baked Underberg Cheese Souffle with Chive & Parmesan Veloute which was light, fluffy and creamy, the best  savoury souffle I have ever had. A Tomato & Artichoke Risotto was prepared especially for me (being vegetarian). It had an intense tomato flavour (from the stock I think) that made it particularly special. The dessert was a Madagascan Vanilla Creme Brulee, Coconut Foam, Marshmallow Compresse and Pineapple Almond Biscotti, this was totally amazing!

They very kindly sent me the recipes for both the souffle and the risotto. So, with it being summer here now and with tomatoes being at their cheapest and best at the moment, I had to make the risotto first.  I added some saffron for colour and for that extra Spanish touch and topped it with my favourite tomato friends: basil, pine nuts and parmesan. They were meant for each other.

The first part of this recipe is making a tomato fondue (or sauce) to add into the risotto when it is cooked. You could skip this part if short on time and replace it with some shop-bought tomato pasta/marinara sauce.

Tomato & Saffron Risotto with Basil Pine Nuts & Parmesan

Serves 4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Sand at The Plettenberg recipe

For the tomato fondue (sauce)

  • 2-4 ripe tomatoes, I used 2 huge Spanish ones that hardly have any seeds
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • salt & pepper

Drop the tomatoes in boiling water for about 20 seconds, drain and remove the skins, seeds and chop the tomato flesh. Cook the onion in olive oil for a few minutes with a pinch of salt then add the garlic & oregano and cook for another minute. add the tomatoes and cook until softened. Add the ketchup, sugar and season with salt & black pepper. Cook until reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust sugar/salt as required. Set aside.

For the Risotto:

  • 350 g risotto rice
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (I made my own recipe here using lots of tomato to intensify the tomato flavour)
  • a big pinch of saffron
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 150 ml sherry or white wine
  • about 120 ml (1/2 cup) tomato fondue/pasta sauce (see recipe above)
  • 200 g cherry/baby tomatoes (on the vine if possible)
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • 30 gr grated parmesan or manchego (vegetarian) plus shaved for garnish
  •  a hand ful of basil leaves juliennned, plus leaves to garnish
  •  a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • 40 gr toasted pine nuts

Put the veg stock and saffron in pan over a medium low heat to warm up but not boil.

Meanwhile, cook the onion in the olive oil with a pinch of salt over a medium heat for 3 minutes then add the garlic, oregano & chilli flakes and cook for another 2 mins.  Add in the rice stirring to coat in the oil and cook for 2 minutes before adding the sherry/wine and cook until it is dry.

Start by adding 2 ladles of the hot stock to the rice and swirl the pan until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add another ladle of stock, wait for it to be absorbed, swirling  and continue like this until the rice is cooked and you have used all of the stock. If you run out of stock you can add hot water. Then stir in the tomato fondue/sauce.

Stir in the grated parmesan, sliced basil, lemon juice and season with salt & pepper. Remove from the heat and put the lid on.

Preheat a griddle pan (or frying pan if you don’t have one), season the cherry tomatoes in a bowl with salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat. Cook them on the griddle pan until you get black marks and they start to soften.

Taste the risotto for seasoning and serve topped with a pile of  cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan, toasted pine nuts and basil leaves.

Buen Provecho!

 Sand at The Plettenberg

Look-out Rocks, 40 Church Street
P. O. Box 719
Plettenberg Bay 6600
South Africa

+27 44 533 2030
 

Spring Pea & Thyme Risotto with Manchego and Olive Tapenade

18 Jun Summer Pea Risotto

When we were in South Africa, one of the most memorable meals, for me was at Makaron at Majeka House in Stellenbosch. Having visited, and eaten in, about thirty restaurants in nineteen days it takes something quite special to stand out from the crowd.

In a sea of  mainly white, minimal, distressed wood interiors (which I love, by the way), this was a welcome diversion.  The bar has an opulent gentleman’s club/hunting lodge feel, with dark navy and gold upholstery and lighting. It manages to be eccentric and elegant at the same time. It is quirky and doesn’t take itself too seriously which is very refreshing.

 The Washer Up was very pleased (understatement) with the fact that they have a beer pairing with each of the dishes as well as wine pairings. This is the first time that I have come across this and think it is genius, especially as they are promoting local microbreweries at the same time. I have read in numerous publications recently that Beer is the New Wine and that some restaurants have started hiring beer sommeliers but this is the only place I have seen it in action.

 There is a sense of humour in the food that compliments the quirkyness of the restaurant perfectly.

The bread was brought out on a slate (my favourite thing) and included a beautiful braid, crispy lavash, homemade butter, anchovy mayonnaise, olives, figs, lavender & rosemary. The Amuse Bouche was a Peppadew Popper in beer batter with guacamole & sour cream.

For a starter we ordered the Caprese Terrine, tomato cloud, basil gelee, semi dried tomatoes, olive oil powder which was beautiful and delicious. And the Garden Pea Risotto, garlic espuma, smoked olive tapenade.

The main courses we had were an Open Duck Egg Ravioli, young artichoke, asparagus, truffle caviar, which was amazing, I loved the little beads of truffle caviar. And a Mushroom & Roasted Corn Open Lasagne that the chef Tanja prepared especially for us.

All the food was excellent but the stand out dish was the pea risotto with olive tapenade, it was stunning, and I don’t even like olives. This dish changed my mind. The pea risotto tasted like the best mushy peas you have ever had, the flavour intense & the texture comforting. There was a deliciously creamy garlic & parmesan veloute with it and the olive tapenade just took it to another level taste wise. Such a surprisingly good combination, even if you think you don’t like olives, like me.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get the original recipe from Tanja because she is a very busy lady working in Paris at the moment sharpening her skills even further at Alain Passard’s restaurant L’Aperge. But when I picked up some of these beautiful fresh garden peas in my organic veg box I couldn’t wait any longer and I had a go at it myself anyway.

I love the mixed mauve colours of these olives, so pretty with the bright green peas. A match made in heaven, believe me.

I used a mixture of fresh and frozen peas. I made a puree with the frozen and kept the fresh ones whole. You can use all fresh if you have that many, or indeed all frozen if you have no fresh. I used brown short grain rice to make my risotto but you can substitute arborio for a creamier finish and a lot shorter cooking time. It will also make the finished risotto look more green than mine.

Summer Pea & Thyme Risotto with Manchego and Olive Tapenade

Serves 3, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150 gr frozen peas (or fresh if you have that many)
  • 50 gr fresh peas (podded weight)
  • a handful of fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  •  a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves removed & chopped plus extra for garnish
  • 1 litre (up to a litre & a half for brown rice) veg stock
  • a little freshly grated nutmeg
  • 50 gr manchego (or parmesan) grated plus 1 tbsp to finish
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 250 gr arborio (or brown) rice
  • 200 ml white wine
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese
  • a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

For the tapenade:

  • 75 gr good quality olives, buy with stones in, then remove them if possible (better flavour)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (or to taste)
  • fresh thyme leaves
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • salt & black pepper
  • extra virgen olive oil

To make the tapenade, put all the ingredients except the oil in a blender and blitz to a smoothish puree. Drizzle in the oil a bit at a time, blending until you get the desired consistency. Taste and adjust salt, lemon or garlic as required.

Cook the 150 gr frozen peas in two ladles full (just enough to cover the peas) of boiling veg stock with the parsley & thyme for about 5 minutes until soft. Puree this (stock & peas) with the grated cheese and season with salt, pepper & nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Put the veg stock in a small pan over a medium low heat to keep warm but do not boil. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat then cook the onions for 4 minutes with a pinch of salt, add the garlic and cook for another minute. Do not brown. Stir in the rice and coat in the oil, add in the wine and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Add the hot stock a one ladle at a time waiting for each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked and you have a soft soupy risotto. This should take about 20-25 mins for arborio, longer for brown rice. If you run out of stock add hot water.

After about 15 minutes add the uncooked fresh peas, then when the rice is nearly cooked stir in the pea puree. When the rice is cooked add the cream cheese, tablespoon of grated cheese and squeeze of lemon. Put on the lid, remove from the heat and leave for 2 minutes.

Taste for seasoning before serving with a quenelle (or dollop) of the tapenade, a few fresh thyme leaves and some shaved Manchego.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

Jacarandas, I love their pretty purple flowers, like a tree full of droopy bluebells…..

And Oleanders in soft apricot…..

Or electric pink against the bright blue sky….

Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls, Manchego Thyme Crisps, Roasted Garlic Watercress Mayonnaise

22 Mar Mushroom Risotto Spring Roll

This recipe is inspired by an amazing meal we had at La Colombe in Contantia Uitsig. La Colombe has always been very special to us ever since the first time we visited about five years ago. We had such a great time that we both agreed that it was the best restaurant we had ever been to.

The thing is that it had reached such an iconic status in our memory that I was secretly worried that it wasn’t going to live up to our very high expectations this time. I was actually preparing myself for disappointment.  Silly me, this time actually exceeded my expectations by quite a long way.

The food is, well you can work it out for yourself. This was how it went….

Amuse Bouche: caramelised onion tart with goat cheese, parsnip soup (in an egg-shell), pea salsa

Starter: Beetroot Cannelloni, beetroot mousse wrapped in pickled beetroot, toasted olive brioche, roasted golden baby beets, fromage blanc, poached raisins, 12 yr old balsamic drizzle

Palate Cleanser: Granny Smith Sorbet, pimms foam, cucumber, mint

Main Course: Wild Mushroom Risotto Spring Roll, butternut puree, sous vide butternut, caramelised onion, smoked garlic veloute, thyme foam.

Desserts: Coconut & Rosewater Panna Cotta, rose meringue, rose foam, turkish delight, cashew nut streusel  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Terrine, candied cranberries, apricots, peanuts, chocolate, pistachio nut dust

And if that is not enough for you, they bring around a wooden trough filled with petits fours. Okay it’s not a trough but that’s what we called it. Bring me the trough!!!

Petits Fours: Rose Turkish Delight, mini citrus madeleines, maple meringues, cinnamon marshmallows and espresso pistachio dusted chocolate truffles filled with salted caramel.

Yes, that was espresso pistachio dusted chocolate truffles filled with salted caramel. They didn’t last very long, someone at our table may have stuffed his face with them before I could stuff mine. Not mentioning any names but you know who you are…

I don’t think I need to say that the food was outstanding do I? The beetroot cannelloni was light, elegant, sweet and exquisitely made. The mushroom spring rolls were rich with truffle butter and earthy morels, the pastry was perfectly crisp, I didn’t want it to end.

The desserts were a complete triumph. Everything a dessert should be, playful, sweet and nostalgic with a grown up twist.  The attention to detail is what makes this an unforgettable dining experience. From the amuse bouche (very amusing), the palate cleanser (I mean Pimms!!), all the way through to the petits fours (bring me the trough and leave it please).

Speaking of attention to detail I have to mention that the level of service we received was actually on another level to anything I have ever experienced before. Jennifer and her highly knowledgable team made our evening a complete joy from start to finish. The waiter actually explained each dish on the menu FROM MEMORY! All those foams, purees and veloutes without reading from a notepad. That deserves a mention by itself.  And it is not at all stuffy, that’s what makes it so enjoyable, it is proper fine dining without the squeaky chairs and pretension.

Can you tell that I loved it?

I managed to acquire the recipe for the Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls from the very talented chef, Scot Kirton. Mine is a simplified version as you can see from the description. I don’t have  a syphon thingy to make foams but I wouldn’t mind if anyone out there wants to send me one. I made some Manchego Thyme Crisps instead.

You could use spring roll wrappers to make these, I used a double layer of filo and Scot uses a special Asian pastry that I am desperate to get hold of. Either way you roll them like this:

I couldn’t get any truffle butter or morels so I used a mix of dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for about 20 minutes and some fresh chestnut or cremini mushrooms. The advantage of using dried mushrooms is that you can use the mushroomy soaking liquid with the stock to give the risotto a deeper colour and flavour.

Mushroom Risotto Spring Rolls

Makes about 12 rolls, vegetarian. Adapted from the La Colombe recipe

The risotto needs to be chilled before you roll it so it is best to make it the night before and refrigerate overnight.

Prep time: 45 -60 mins (not including chilling time) Cooking time: 15-25 mins

  • 150-200 gr fresh mushrooms, chestnut/cremini/portobello/morels roughly diced
  • 25 gr dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20 mins (reserve soaking liquid) then chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 30 gr white truffle butter (optional)
  • a bunch sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
  • 250 gr risotto rice
  • 250 ml white wine
  • about 1 litre veg stock plus the mushroom soaking liquid
  • 50 gr parmesan/manchego, finely grated
  • 1 packet filo pastry/spring roll wrappers defrosted
  • olive oil for brushing

In a large pan, fry the chopped fresh mushrooms and thyme in a tablespoon of hot oil until nicely browned. Tip them into a bowl. Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan over a medium heat and cook the onions for about 4 mins until translucent then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rice and stir to coat in the onions for a minute.

Put the stock and mushroom soaking liquid in a small pan over a medium heat and keep hot but not boiling.

Add the wine and soaked mushrooms and cook until most of the liquid has disappeared. Add a ladle full of the hot stock to the rice and swirl the pan until all the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladle full swirl until it is absorbed and continue on like this until the rice is cooked.

Stir through the cooked mushrooms and truffle butter (if using). Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir through the grated cheese, remove from the heat. Leave to cool then chill in the fridge, overnight if possible. What I did was make the risotto for dinner, reserved about half for spring rolls for lunch the next day.

Cut a double layer 20 cm square of filo pastry (or use spring roll wrappers) and lay in a diamond shape on a board in front of you. Mound 2 or 3 tbsp of risotto onto the pastry and roll up following the pictures above brushing with olive oil to make them stick.

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, place the spring rolls on the tray, brush the tops with olive oil and bake for 15 -25 minutes depending on size. You can also deep-fry them.

Roasted Garlic, Watercress Mayonnaise

Enough for 2 people, vegetarian

  • 2 tbsp good mayonnaise
  •  a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a handful of fresh watercress (or parsley)
  • 1 large garlic clove (unpeeled)
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Roast the garlic clove in its skin in a hot oven for about 15 minutes (I did it with the spring rolls). Put the peeled roasted clove with the rest of the ingredients in a measuring jug and puree with a stick (immersion) blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning/lemon.

Manchego Thyme Crisps

Makes about 6, vegetarian

  • 50 gr manchego or parmesan, finely grated
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Mix together the cheese & thyme. Put a heaped tablespoon of the cheese on to the baking tray and flatten & spread out slightly. Leave about 1/2 inch between each circle.

Cook for 3-5 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Leave to cool if you want flat discs and remove carefully with a metal spatula.

If you want you can mould them gently around a rolling-pin while still hot to make them curved.

Enjoy!!

 For more information on La Colombe and Constantia Uitsig visit their website here.

Thanks to everyone at La Colombe who made our evening so special. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the next time…..

 

 

Beetroot and Red Wine Risotto with Oregano and Seared Halloumi

10 Mar Beetroot Risotto & Seared Halloumi

This recipe is inspired by our trip to the Holden Manz Wine Estate in Franschhoek. Holden Manz is owned by Gerard Holden and Migo Manz, an artist whose paintings and sculpture decorate the public areas. They took over the existing wine estate about a year and a half ago and have been reinventing it ever since.

There is a beautiful Manor House with luxurious suites that has an exclusive yet unpretentious atmosphere. This could be said of the whole estate. They have a refreshingly modern approach to the business which translates into every area. The spa, guest house, winery and restaurant all have a positivity that comes from the staff being well-trained and excited about what they do and where they work.

You can order a picnic with food fresh from the garden orchard and a lovely bottle of the Holden Manz rose. Wander down to the banks of the river, chose your spot under the oak trees and while away the afternoon. Try some of their award-winning wines, a food and wine pairing or the extremely popular tapas menu.

The Franschhoek Kitchen restaurant has very quickly become a name up there with the heavyweights in the culinary town of Franschhoek. And those are some big names.

The stand out dish, for me, was the Holden Manz shiraz and beetroot risotto with duck prosciutto. I didn’t eat the duck obviously but the sweet beetroot risotto with a hint of peppery spice from the shiraz really was delicious. The Washer Up said it was perfect with the salty, smoky duck. My challenge was to recreate this dish at home and find a suitable replacement for the duck. 

I immediately thought of feta because its salty, sour creaminess would be the perfect contrast to the sweet, dark and earthy beetroot. And this would still be great but halloumi has that slightly chewy, meaty texture that as well as the saltiness that gave it the edge over the feta. The oregano is because we have just bought an oregano plant so it is “new favourite thing” and it goes well with hallloumi for that extra bit of Greek flavour.

You make a beetroot puree to add to the risotto, we made a bit extra to use as a dressing on the plate. It really increases the volume on the beetroot flavour. It’s up to you.

Beetroot & Red Wine Risotto with Oregano & Seared Halloumi

Serves 3-4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from The Franschhoek Kitchen recipe

Prep time: about 30 mins if roasting beetroot Cooking Time: 25-35 mins

  • about 160 gr baby beetroots, roasted until soft with olive oil salt & pepper (or you can buy precooked vacuum packed beetroot) but don’t used the pickled stuff in jars.
  • 250 gr arborio rice (we used brown short-grain rice it takes longer to cook and more stock)
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano or thyme (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk young celery, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 250 ml (or more if using brown rice) red wine (Shiraz/Syrah if possible) something peppery and spicy
  • 250-500 ml veg stock
  • a handful of finely grated manchego (or parmesan) cheese
  • 250 gr pack halloumi cheese, in 1/2 cm slices
  • rocket or watercress to serve
  • some finely diced cooked beetroot for garnish (optional)

Blend the cooked beets with a stick blender to a smooth puree. Reserving some to finely chop for garnish if you like. Taste and season with salt and pepper (if you haven’t already).

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Put the veg stock in a small pan over a low-medium heat and keep hot, not boiling.

Fry the onions and celery in the hot oil until starting to soften (4-5 minutes) then add the garlic and oregano, cook for another minute then add the rice. Stir to coat the rice then add three-quarters of the beetroot puree, stirring again.

Add the wine, in three parts stirring all the time until each lot is absorbed into the rice. Then add the hot stock a ladle full at a time, stirring untill each ladle full is absorbed before adding the next.

Keep adding the stock until the rice is cooked (you may need to add more stock/wine to the small saucepan depending on the rice). Season with salt and black pepper.

Remove from the heat stir through the grated cheese, cover and leave to stand while you cook the halloumi.

Heat a frying/saute pan over a medium-high heat but DON’T add any oil. Dry the slices of halloumi on kitchen paper then put into the hot pan. Cook for a minute or so on each side until browned and slightly crispy.

To serve: spoon the risotto into bowls (or into a chefs ring on a plate) and top with the halloumi slices. Garnish with a smudge of the reserved beetroot puree, the rocket or watercress leaves, chopped beetroot and some baby oregano leaves.

Serve with a nice glass of the red wine you used to cook the risotto. The Holden Manz Shiraz if you’re lucky…..

For more information about the Holden Manz wine estate, visit their website here.

Have a great weekend!!

Indian Spinach Koftas with Creamy Tomato and Cashew Nut Sauce

19 Jan Spinach Koftas

Any excuse to get more spinach in my diet and I’m there. It’s not all about the iron you know, here are just some of the health benefits of eating this wonderful green leaf. Popeye wasn’t as stupid as he looked….

One cup of spinach has nearly 20% of the RDA of dietary fibre which aids in digestion, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.

Flavonoids — a phytonutrient with anti-cancer properties abundant in spinach have been shown to slow down the growth of stomach and skin cancer cells. Furthermore, spinach has shown significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.

The vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, beta-carotene, manganese, zinc and selenium present in spinach all serve as powerful antioxidants that combat the onset of osteoporosis and high blood pressure.

Both antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are especially plentiful in spinach and protect the eye from cataracts and age-related eyesight degeneration.

One cup of spinach contains over 337% of the RDA of vitamin A that not only protects and strengthens “entry points” into the human body, such as mucous membranes, respiratory, urinary and intestinal tracts, but is also a key component of white blood cells that fight infection.

The high amount of vitamin A in spinach also promotes healthy skin by allowing for proper moisture retention in the epidermis, thus fighting psoriasis, acne and even wrinkles.

This information is taken from healthdiaries. com

Some friends of ours, Nik & Stacey bought us a new cook book called I Love Curry by Anjum Anand on their last trip back to the UK.  On the first flick through this was the recipe that stood out for me, the one that I wanted to make straight away.

The blended cashew nuts in the sauce give it a creamy texture and flavour that is perfect with the light and fluffy spinach koftas. The koftas are made in a similar way to spinach and ricotta gnocchi and then fried. I used goat’s ricotta which gives a very mild goat’s cheese flavour and is so much better for you than cow’s milk. I served it with a spiced turmeric pilaf rice.

Indian Spinach Koftas with Creamy Tomato & Cashew Nut Sauce

Serves 3-4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from I Love Curry by Anjun Ananad

For the sauce:

  • 2 large tomatoes, quartered & deseeded
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 or 2 tbsp coconut oil (or other vegetable oil)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 50 gr cashew nuts
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 500 ml veg stock (or water)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • a dash of Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian)
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves, to serve

For the koftas:

  • 200 gr fresh spinach, washed
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 200 gr ricotta cheese (I used goat’s ricotta)
  • vegetable oil for deep-frying

For the Turmeric Pilaf:

  • 220 gr basmati rice, well washed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil (or butter or ghee)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Blend the tomatoes, garlic and ginger to a paste with a little water to get it going. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and cook the onion for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.

Add in the blended tomatoes, cashew nuts, spices, salt & pepper. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Blend until smooth with a little water if necessary then pour it back into the pan, add the stock (or water), tomato puree, sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes until it is the consistency of single cream.

Meanwhile make the dumplings. Wilt the spinach in a pan with a tbsp water, a pinch salt and 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg. When cool enough to handle squeeze out the excess water (in a clean tea towel) and blend to a puree with a stick blender. Then add the cornflour and ricotta and mix together well. Taste and season with salt & black pepper as required.

Heat about 5cm vegetable oil in a deep frying pan or wok over a medium high heat. To test if the oil is hot enough drop a tiny amount of the spinach mix into the oil, it should sizzle immediately but not brown straight away.

Drop heaped teaspoons full of the spinach mix into the oil. You will need to do it in batches. I got 16 out of this mixture.

Cook the koftas, turning occasionally with a metal spoon, so they cook evenly. They should take 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, add a squeeze of lemon to the sauce. You can add the koftas into the sauce to reheat them or serve them straight way with the hot sauce poured over and some fresh coriander leaves to garnish.

For the Rice Pilaf:

Tip the rice into a large bowl, cover with water and leave to soak. Heat the coconut oil/ghee in a saucepan over a medium heat then add the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, cardamom pods and cloves and leave to sizzle and pop for about 20 seconds. Add the onion and cook for about 4 minutes until turning golden.

Drain the rice and add it to the pan with the turmeric, salt & black pepper and cook, stirring for a minute. Add 400 ml water, taste the water and add more salt if necessary.

Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to its lowest setting, cover and leave to cook for 12-13 minutes without stirring. Check the rice it should be cooked. Remove from the heat and serve when ready.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…………..

Today we visited the Alcazaba (Moorish fortress) in Malaga. It’s the first time we’ve been and I was really surprised at how beautiful it is. Everyone goes to the Alhambra but I doubt many people even know there is a smaller much less touristy version in Malaga. It’s practically deserted. Apart from the robins that is….

I have obviously taken a whole load more photographs that I will share with you over the next few posts, this is just a teaser….

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