Tag Archives: entree

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!!

imagesCAFT0O3W

Ethiopian Sweet Potato and Lentil Wat with Injera Flatbread

22 Oct Wat & Injera Flatbread

A wat or wot (what?) is an Ethiopian stew. I first read about Ethiopian cuisine on The Taste Space and I knew I had to try it out for myself. It is spicy, which I love as you might have guessed and is great for vegetarian or vegan food lovers. The flavour comes mainly from an Ethiopian spice mix called Berbere. Berbere has as many different variations as I have shoes but the one I have chosen to make includes: red chilli flakes, turmeric, paprika, ginger, fenugreek, cardamom, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, allspice & clove.

I decided to make it with sweet potatoes and yellow lentils (or split peas) because the sweet potatoes are at their peak here at the moment which means delicious and cheap. You could also use pumpkin and chickpeas or any other vegetables you need to use up. Just add a legume to the pot to make it authentic and nutritionally balanced.

The traditional accompaniment to any Ethiopian meal are Injera flatbreads. Injera are slightly spongy crepe or pancake-like flatbreads made with a yeasted dough batter made from Teff flour. Teff is an ancient grain believed to have been cultivated in Ethiopia and Eritrea since 4000 BC.

I have a brilliant flour supplier in Alhaurin, Andres from El Amasadero who can get hold of these unusual flours. He also holds bread making workshops which I am threatening to attend one day.  Fortunately you don’t have to make these with Teff flour you can use spelt or normal flour instead. It’s actually fun to do. Or you could just buy some Indian or Middle Eastern flatbreads if you’re short of time (or patience).

Ethiopian Sweet Potato & Lentil Wat Recipe

Serves 3-4, vegan, gluten-free.  Adapted from The Taste Space

For the Berbere spice mix:

Makes 1 small jar. You only need 1 Tbsp for this recipe

  • 4 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

Grind the fenugreek seeds, red chilli flakes & sea salt in a mortar & pestle or spice grinder until you have a powder then mix with the rest of the ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a dry place.

Sweet Potato & Lentil Wat Recipe

  • 2 sweet potatoes (about 600g), scrubbed and cut into 1-2 cm chunks
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp Berbere spice mix (see above)
  • 1 cup dried yellow lentils (or split peas)
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/4 cabbage (250 g), shredded
  • 1 large tomato, roughly chopped
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • fresh coriander to serve

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over a medium heat and cook the onions, with a pinch of salt, for about 4 minutes until translucent. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or two more. If it gets dry add a little splash of stock. Add the 1 tbsp Berbere spice mix, cabbage, tomato and season with salt & black pepper.

Add the lentils, sweet potatoes and veg stock, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20-25 minutes until the sweet potato is soft and the lentils are cooked. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes more with the lid off. Add the fresh coriander just before serving and check seasoning.

Injera Flatbread Recipe

Serves 3-4, vegan. Needs an hour rising time

  • 110 g wholemeal, spelt or teff flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast (or 15 g fresh)
  • 155 ml warm (not hot) water

Mix everything together in a large bowl to form a batter. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour or longer until well risen.

When ready to cook, stir the batter then tip into a blender with about 110 ml (1/2 cup) water and blend. The batter will be quite thin.

Heat a large non stick frying pan over a medium high heat without any oil and pour about 1/2 cup of the batter into the pan, swirl or spread it about with a spatula until it covers the base of the pan evenly like a crepe/pancake. Cook until little bubbles or cracks appear all over the top. You do not need to turn it over to cook the other side. Keep warm on a plate covered with a tea towel while you cook the rest.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…..

Rufus posing in the autumn sun.

Pink Roses & Acorns, there’s got to be a recipe in there somewhere….

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
 
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