A week in my kitchen (including River cottage bread baking)

I can’t believe it’s a week since my last post. It’s not through lack of cooking/baking though so this post is a bit of a catch up with my River cottage bread baking experience and a few other things I have cooked and want to bookmark (plus share with you) for future cooking over the last 8 days.

Pizza

I’ve been baking my own pizza’s from scratch for some time now to the point where I know longer look at a recipe to make the dough or remember where the recipe came from. But in the spirit of baking my way through the River Cottage bread handbook I followed the recipe in the book last week. I’m so glad I did! The River Cottage recipe uses half plain flour and half bread flour making the resulting dough much softer than I am used to and the end result was a perfectly thin pizza base. I also used a recipe in the book for garlic infused olive oil to make a garlic pizza bread as well. The topping in the photo above was spinach, feta and prosciutto. This pizza dough recipe was previously published in the guardian here.

Sourdough

I baked my first full sourdough bread last monday following the recipe in River Cottage Bread. It started with making the sponge the night before and then the following day I followed the recipe to make the dough and let it rise as directed. You can find a sourdough recipe here on Belleau Kitchen. The bread turned out well, I’m just not sure we enjoyed the sourness enough to be worth the time it takes to make sourdough. I’m still keeping my started alive as I think I will use it to try some recipes from Dan Lepards the handmade loaf but I’m not sure if I’ll make another sourdough (even though there are several different sourdough recipe I haven’t baked in RC).

Simple pasta sauce

I shared my secret to delicious, simple pasta sauces here.

Malted and seeded loaf

I’ve updated my post on the malted grain loaf to include details of a very similar bread.

Pikelets

I baked a big batch of pikelets from the River cottage book. I love crumpets but don’t have any of the rings needed to cook them in. Pikelets are really simple to make and they taste delicious toasted spread with butter (the recipe made a lot so I froze most of them and I am happy to report they toast well straight from frozen). I can see these being baked a lot in my kitchen.

Smoked mackerel and pea risotto


In an effort to eat more sustainable fish, I cooked a smoked mackerel risotto. I just cooked a basic, plain risotto and added frozen peas and flaked up smoked mackerel with the last ladle of stock and finished it off with a squeeze of lemon juice. If your looking for more of a recipe to follow you can find one here.

Cook book review – Easy tasty Italian – Laura Santtini

Another great Italian cook book! I know I have only just reviewed Antonio Carluccio’s simple cooking but what can I say I love cook books and I love Italian food. However this cook book is completely different to Antonio Carluccio’s so there is room on my bookshelf and in my kitchen for both! This book is completely different to any cook book (Italian or otherwise) I have browsed through before. Its very unique in style and a little bit quirky too. This book claims that after reading this book your cooking will never be the same again! Quite a big statement perhaps but I suspect it maybe true. I’ve read my fair share of Italian cook books but I can definitely say I have learnt a thing or two already from this book (which has only been in my possession a couple of days). It’s much more than a collection of recipes, this book aims to teach you how to create flavour bombs that make even simple food sensational.

The secret – umami. This is the fifth taste, discovered by the Japanese in 1908 but only recently accepted by Western scientists. Umami means deliciousness and refers to intensely savoury tastes. Laura has christened umami in the Italian kitchen ‘u-mamma!’. Classic umami flavours in the Italian larder include tomatoes, Parmesan, white truffles and balsamic vinegar to name just a few. Reading this chapter on umami helped me understand why dishes as simple as Antonio Carluccio’s cart driver spaghetti can taste so delicious (porcini mushrooms are another Italian umami flavour) and why the soffritto base (onions, carrot and celery) are such a key component of Italian cooking.

As well as the umami larder, there are details of the typical Italian larder (a comprehensive list of typical ingredients like beans and pulses, pastas, cheeses and seasonings) and of the alchemic larder. This alchemic larder suggests adding edible metals, dried flowers, nuts and seeds and many other ingredients designed to add magic to dishes.

The next chapter has basic recipes and procedures to prepare flavour bombs, “using ingredients as a writer uses words and an artist uses paints”. These include flavoured mayonnaise’s, pestos, flavoured butters and pastes as well as marinades. There are serving suggestions for each flavour enhancer. For example she suggests adding chilli, chocolate, wine paste to rich stews, marinading red meat in red u-mamma! marinade, serving sweet and sour carrots with honey & thyme as a side dish or stirring a spoonful of basic basil pesto in to minestrone soup.

The second section of the book contains the main recipes which are divided in to 4 sections Air ‘I am raw’, Water ‘I was cooked’, Fire ‘I was burned’ and Earth ‘I am tasty’. Each chapter describes different techniques used in Italian cooking and has a selection of recipes with suggestions for variations and which taste bombs can be added.

Air uses only raw ingredients. So this chapter covers antipasti, carpaccio, ceviche & tartare and dips. Recipes include wild mushroom trifolata, crab salad with pomegranate and mint, tuna and orange carpaccio and aubergine and lavender dip.

Water covers the techniques of boiling, absorption and reduction (risottos), poaching and bagno-maria (gentle cooking in water that is merely hot). There are recipes for sweet potato soup which can be enhanced in several ways including the addition of the flavour bomb of tomato, pepper, orange and cinnamon paste. Pasta is of course included with notes on cooking pasta, making pasta sauces and recipes for the top 10 classic pasta sauces of all time. Risotto is also included, teaching the basic method and lots of tasty ways to transform the basic recipe. Other recipes include sea bass santini and umamma! meatloaf.
Fire covers grilling, frying and hob stews with a step by step guide to good grilling, suggestions for rubs and seasoning and recipes including a delicious looking lamb chops with u-mamma! grapes and no-fuss roasted sea bream.

Earth is all about creating delicious food through slow cooking including tender and moist looking rib of beef al barolo and leg-over lamb. There are also recipes for the top 10 Italian vegetable dishes and 12 quick and easy desserts.

This book is bursting with delicious looking and sounding recipes but more than I believe that Laura Santtini is right when she says it can transform your life in the kitchen. I already feel inspired to not only try some of the recipes in the book but also to try out the pastes and butters etc in dishes I already cook to give them the u-mamma! deliciousness they deserve.

Its not out in the shops until the 2nd October but I would recommend to anyone who enjoys cooking Italian food even if you thought you had all the Italian cookbooks you needed.

Thank you to Quadrille publishing for sending me this great book to review and tell you all about.

Further information:
Easy tasty Italian – Laura Santtini
Published by Quadrille publishing 2nd October 2009
Hardback, full colour photography, 192 pages
ISBN 978 184400 755 4
£20

GYO: Smoked salmon and mangetout risotto

Just before going on holiday I picked my first crop of mangetout from my garden. It was only a small bowl full but even so I was pleased that I would be able to eat something that I had grown myself.
I decided I wanted to cook them as part of a dish where they would really shine instead of just cooking them and serving them as a side to meat or fish.Risotto came to mind and I thought I would combine them with some smoked salmon. The result was a dish that was both delicious and colourful. The mangetout added a crunchy texture and complemented the salmon well.
Smoked salmon and mangetout risotto

Serves 2
Olive oil
small onion, peeled and thinly diced
stick of celery, thinly diced (optional)
1 garlic glove, peeled and thinly chopped
150-200g Arborio rice
Good splash of dry white wine
Approximately 600ml Chicken stock
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Good handful of fresh mangetout sliced into pieces roughly 1-2cm thick
3 Smoked salmon slices cut into small strips
Salt and pepper

  • Heat the stock in a small saucepan.
  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot add the onion and celery and sweat (with the lid on), stirring occasionally until soft but not brown (5-10 mins).
  • Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for a few minutes, again stirring frequently.
  • Add the rice and turn up the heat. Stir to coat the rice (from here on you need to stir much more frequently to stop the rice sticking or burning and also to release the starch to make it deliciously creamy).
  • You should notice the rice become translucent and at this point you need to add the wine and continue to stir.
  • Once the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add the first ladle of stock and turn the heat back down to medium. Keep stirring.
  • Once this ladle of stock has been fully absorbed by the rice, add another ladle, stir and repeat until the rice is cooked.
  • Add the mangetout strips to the pan after a couple of ladles of stock have been absorbed, stir well. You can add the mangetout later if you like them really crunchy or sooner if you like them well cooked.
  • Once the rice is cooked, remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and smoked salmon, season to taste.

I have decided to submit this post to July’s Grow your own round-up founded by Andrea’s Recipes and this month hosted by Amy of Playing House.

Beetroot and spring greens risotto

I’ve been putting off doing something with the beetroots from the veg box for the last few nights. Tonight I decided to get on with roasting them and use them in a risotto. I washed them and put them in foil parcels with olive oil, fresh rosemary, a splash of orange juice, a pinch of salt and peeper. I roasted them in a hot oven (200C) for around 1 and a half hours. Once cooled, I peeled (wearing rubber gloves!) the beetroot and diced into roughly 1cm cubes. I added the beetroot to a basic risotto along with a bowl full of thinly shredded spring greens and ended up with a really vibrantly coloured (as usual my photo doesn’t do the dish justice) and very tasty dish. I only used half the amount of beetroot I had for this risotto, the rest is going in the freezer for the next time I want to create a similar risotto (maybe spinach next time). I still have lots of spring greens left which I need to use up in the next few days.

Beetroot and spring greens risotto
Inspired by Able and Cole’s Beetroot and summer greens risotto

Serves 2

Olive oil
small onion, peeled and thinly diced
stick of celery, thinly diced (optional)
1 garlic glove, peeled and thinly chopped
150g Arborio rice
Good splash of dry white wine
Approximately 600ml Chicken stock
Finely shredded spring greens (a good cereal bowl full – I know I should have weighed it for you!)
3 Roasted beetroots, diced
Salt and pepper
handful of parmesan cheese

  • Heat the stock in a small saucepan.
  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot add the onion and celery and sweat (with the lid on), stirring occasionally until soft but not brown (5-10 mins).
  • Add the garlic cook for a few minutes, again stirring frequently.
  • Add the rice and turn up the heat. Stir to coat the rice (from here on you need to stir much more frequently to stop the rice sticking or burning and also to release the starch to make it deliciously creamy).
  • You should notice the rice become translucent and at this point you need to add the wine and continue to stir.
  • Once the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add the first ladle of stock and turn the heat back down to medium. Keep stirring.
  • Add the beetroot to the pan, stir well. The rice will start to become pink.
  • Once this ladle of stock has been fully absorbed by the rice, add another ladle, stir and repeat until the rice is cooked. Add the spring greens after the first few ladles of stock or later if you like it more crunchy.
  • Once the rice is cooked, remove from the heat, season to taste.
  • Scatter the parmeson (and a few small knobs of butter if you like) over the top, replace the lid and leave to become oozy/creamy ( few minutes).
  • Once the cheese and butter(if using) have melted, stir well and serve.

Chicken leftovers – Chicken, Lemon and Pea Risotto

As promised below is the first of the two dishes I cooked to using up leftover chicken. I only started roasting whole chickens sometime last year, so I have fairly limited experience and so far the leftovers have been turned into nacho’s or mixed with pesto and pasta (both great weeknight meals). Nacho’s are a rare treat so pasta and pesto usually won out, so I felt it was time I expanded my range of recipes.

I often thought of adding the chicken to a risotto but never quite got round to it. After reading Donna Hay’s Simple essentials Chicken, I decided to try a risotto inspired by one of her recipes (Baked chicken, lemon and pea risotto). Her’s used uncooked chicken breasts and was baked in the oven, however I have tried a baked risotto before (a Bill Granger recipe – one of my favorite chef’s no less) but it failed to win me over. A baked risotto takes roughly the same amount of time as the usual method but has the convenience of not requiring you to stand over it stirring. However for me the end result is not as good and I’ve grown to quiet enjoy the stirring! and it’s quiet therapeutic too. I’ve been known to ring my mum and catch up whilst cooking a risotto before! After a particularly hectic day at work on Monday – 30-40 minutes in the kitchen (and all that stirring) was exactly what I needed to unwind. The finished dish was delicious and very spring like.

Chicken, Lemon and Pea Risotto
Inspired by Donna Hay

Serves 2
Olive oil
small onion, peeled and thinly diced
stick of celery, thinly diced (optional)
1 garlic glove, peeled and thinly chopped
zest of half a lemon
150g Arborio rice
Good splash of dry white wine
Approximately 600ml Chicken stock
Good handful of frozen peas
100g shredded cooked chicken, white, brown meat or a mixture
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
handful of parmesan cheese

  • Heat the stock in a small saucepan.
  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot add the onion and celery and sweat (with the lid on), stirring occasionally until soft but not brown (5-10 mins).
  • Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook for a few minutes, again stirring frequently.
  • Add the rice and turn up the heat. Stir to coat the rice (from here on you need to stir much more frequently to stop the rice sticking or burning and also to release the starch to make it deliciously creamy).
  • You should notice the rice become translucent and at this point you need to add the wine and continue to stir.
  • Once the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add the first ladle of stock and turn the heat back down to medium. Keep stirring.
  • Once this ladle of stock has been fully absorbed by the rice, add another ladle, stir and repeat until the rice is cooked (try it – is it soft with a little bit of bite left? Yes – then move on to the next step, No – add more stock).
  • Add the frozen pea before the last couple of ladles so they have time to cook.
  • Once the rice and peas are cooked, remove from the heat, add the lemon juice and chicken. Stir to mix well, season to taste.
  • Scatter the parmeson (and a few small knobs of butter if you like) over the top, replace the lid and leave to become oozy/creamy ( few minutes).
  • Once the cheese and butter(if using) have melted, stir well and serve.

Butternut squash, gorgonzola and pecan risotto

As a self confessed fussy eater. I am always looking for ways of getting more vegetables (quantity and variety) into my diet whilst still enjoying the food I eat. Risottos for me have been one of the best ways I have found.

Many people mistakenly believe risottos are difficult to cook but in my experience this couldn’t be further from the truth. Believe it or not before I cooked my first risotto I had never eaten one and my boyfriend was reluctant to let me cook him one as they reminded him of rice pudding. Now 12 months or so later risotto has become <!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–> <!–[if gte mso 10]> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:””; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} <![endif]–> a regular feature on our meal plans. Risottos can be cooked all year round. For example in the summer a lemon and rocket risotto can be enjoyable, whilst in the winter a butternut squash risotto is close to my ultimate comfort food.

The first risotto I cooked was a risotto primavera from a recipe in glamour magazine of all places. The end result was a bowl of satisfyingly, cream rice and vegetables with bags of flavour. Risottos are not only simple to make but are incredibly versatile. So long as I have Arborio rice, onion, garlic and stock cubes in my store cupboards (homemade stock in the freezer is good if I have time but by no means essential) I know I can always easily rustle up a deliciously, simple supper from the contents of the fridge or freezer. For convenience I like to have a supply of frozen white wine in the freezer for tossing in to dishes such as risottos. I also usually have bags of roasted butternut squash in chunks (that I have prepared and roasted previously) portioned up in the freezer so that I don’t have to roast a squash just to make a risotto.


Jamie Oliver has many inspiring and tasty recipes for risottos on his website and in his books. Having mastered his basic risotto recipe and tweaked it a little to suit me, I now keep to this basic recipe and play around with the flavours. Feeling inspired after starting this blog, last night I decided to play around with my basic butternut squash risotto. First I decided to replace the white onion with a red onion and after finding a couple of butternut squash and gorgonzola recipes on the internet (here, here and here) I decided to give it a go. My boyfriend is a huge fan of gorgonzola (and cheese in general!) so not surprisingly there was not much left but not to be deterred I decided that I would try anyway. I followed my basic recipe adding the butternut squash with the last ladle of stock. Once the rice was cooked I removed the pan from the heat and added a few small knobs of butter, approx 8 cubes of gorgonzola around 1cm square and a handful of grated parmesan, covered and allowed them all to melt into the rice for about 5 mins. Inspired by Oprah’s recipe I also decided to top each bowl with a scattering of chopped toasted pecans. The end result was a deliciously creamy risotto, with plenty of flavour and an enjoyable contrast in textures. I am not a big fan of gorgonzola on its own but I decided to try cooking with it as one of my favourite raviolis fillings is walnut and gorgonzola. So don’t be put off if you don’t think you like it. When used as part of a dish in small amounts mingling with other flavours the end result is yummy!