I’ve probably said this before, but I’m firmly of the belief that risotto is the perfect comfort food. Creamy, though not overly heavy, cheesy (but not greasy), and it can be loaded full of nourishing ingredients. When I’m feeling under the weather, need cheering up or just generally want some comfort food, it’s risotto that I turn to.
This recipe is perhaps a bit more indulgent than the risottos I tend to cook, with less emphasis on the vegetables, more cheese and a healthy dose of wine. Whilst I don’t tend to use wine in my risottos (why cook with it when you can drink it?!) I do find it pretty necessary in this one to add an extra note of background flavour. It intensifies the sweetness of the leeks, tempering the harshness of the blue cheese. And if you’ve opened a bottle to cook with, it would be rude not the finish it, right…?
#Recipe (generously serves 2)
1 tbsp olive oil
Fresh thyme, leaves only (around a tbsp)
1 onion, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
500ml vegetable stock
150g risotto rice
175ml white wine (roughly 2/3 of my large wine glass)
2 leeks, sliced
A knob of butter
100g blue cheese
25g walnuts, roughly chopped
Gently fry the onion, celery and garlic in the oil for around 5 minutes until softened but not brown. Add the rice to the onions and stir for a couple of minutes until the grains are slightly translucent.
Increase the heat and add the wine, stirring until it is all evaporated. Then add the stock a ladelful at a time, again stirring until absorbed before adding more. Repeat until the rice looks creamy and tastes cooked – I find it takes 20 minutes but it varies depending on the type and brand of risotto rice.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan, gently fry the leeks and thyme in the butter. Add to the risotto when it is cooked with plenty of black pepper then crumble in the parmesan and most of the blue cheese. Cover, take off the heat, leave for 2-3 minutes, then serve sprinkled with the remaining blue cheese and some chopped walnuts.
Perfect for a cosy Friday-night in, or indeed a meat-free Monday meal! I also like it with some crisp bacon on top, although admittedly this adds to the washing up…
Are you a risotto fan? What’s your go-to comfort food?
These monthly pizza reviews could become a bit of a ‘thing’ here – I certainly enjoy writing them at any rate. Any excuse to eat cheesy carbs…
Today’s review is perhaps a little overdue, given that it was another place I visited on my birthday (basically, the day it’s completely acceptable to eat alllll the food). Especially since the pizza was so damn good and, actually, I’d been thinking about it ever since.
Hai Cenato, Jason Atherton’s New York-Italian restaurant and cocktail bar in Victoria, has been on my radar for a while. We met the main man at Pollen Street Social back in April last year, and *really* enjoyed the food there, so I was intrigued to try his take on pizza. With a decent selection of white pizzas I’m only surprised it took me so long to visit!
My beautiful friend ordered the Margherita – with San Marzano tomato, London mozzarella, basil & parmesan. Obviously I didn’t try any, but it both looked and smelt delicious, and it all got eaten so it must’ve been tasty!
And if my pizza was anything to go by, it was certainly tasty. I ordered a pizza with the description “mozzarella, guanciale, egg yolk, black pepper, confit potato.” I mean, egg yolk on a pizza?! How could I resist?! Guanciale turned out to be Italian cured pig cheek, so vegetarians perhaps should be a little wary when ordering, but I have to say it was delicious. A world away from the last potato pizza I tried at Mother LDN, both lighter and more indulgent at the same time. There was just enough potato to be substantial without making me need a nap, the egg yolk was rich and added creaminess and the base was cooked to perfection. I’d put this in my top five pizzas of all time – though the order of which I’m not sure I could commit to paper/a screen.
As for the atmosphere, this seems to have been plagued with criticism in online reviews. I have to say I really enjoyed it. Service was friendly (plus they bought me a complimentary ice-cream with a candle in as I’d mentioned it was my birthday!), the music buzzy without being overly loud. The toilets were also insanely pretty, to the point I regretted not taking my phone so I could Instagram them…
Would I head into Victoria ‘just’ for a pizza again? Yes I would. It’s not going to replace our go-to treat on payday (cheers Dynamo), it’s the perfect date-night spot, and the perfect place to get a ‘special’ pizza. I know I’ll definitely be dragging W there asap!
Have you ever visited Hai Cenato? Where’s your favourite pizza spot?
One of my favourite past-times is scrolling through Instagram. Sure, it drives me mad as I’m finding it impossible to grow my own platform, but I love looking at people’s food styling, people’s pretty plates, yummy bakes and creative dinners. I quite often do round-ups of my favourite accounts on my Stories, but thought I’d do a proper, more permanent one on here too…
What I’ve done is included an embedded picture on their account – choosing on of my favourites from recent weeks. I hope you find new accounts you can follow! (above photo is the un-squared version of my most liked ‘gram of 2017)
Rebecca is one of the people that has really inspired my own photography style – I’ve followed her for a while, but her dark photography really stood out for me. It’s the styling that does it as it always looks both perfect, effortless and totally in keeping with whatever plate of yumminess she’s snapping. And her recipes sound delicious too. I mean, Buttermilk Roast Chicken with Sourdough, Leek and Pancetta Stuffing…
Hazel’s grid is the perfect mis-match of food and lifestyle photos – very much a heavy focus on food, but like me she seems a sucker for a pretty building! One of my favourite things about this feed is the captions – it’s like a mini-blog and I love the personality it gives! Oh, and she has a recipe for Gin & Tonic Cheesecake. Nuff said.
I genuinely don’t know how this profile doesn’t have more followers! Every single picture is perfectly thought out and styled, everything looks yummy. I love the usual backgrounds used too – not the usual tea towel or chopping board (I’m guilty of both!).
This one is quite different from a lot of the styles I love – I’m really into dark and moody photography, this is lighter, brighter and more cheerful. But how damn good do Annette’s Turkish Eggs look?! Her pics almost always make me click straight through to her blog and I plan to make a lot of her recipes.
I mean, just go and look at this feed! It’s absolutely stunning, I could spend hours scrolling down it – and yep, it was a real struggle to only choose one recent photo to embed. In the end I couldn’t resist this photo of a sexxed up hot chocolate. They’ve made a bog standard hot chocolate completely seasonal with chesnut puree and orange. If someone could whip me a great big mug up right now that would be very much appreciated, please and thank you!
I love me a good hash. Quite honestly, I could probably eat a hash every day of the week and not get bored. I mean, what’s not to love?! Crispy fried potatoes, oozy runny eggs and endless possible combinations of fillings to use. The best thing about a hash, though, is that it’s the perfect way to use up leftovers. Of course the best possible use of leftovers is a bubble’n’squeak, but a hash is a close contender.
Put it this way. You have a jar of roasted peppers you want to use up. Feta lurking in the fridge, possibly from the lunchbox salad during the week. An onion about to go past it’s best. You’ve cooked too many potatoes. What better way to revamp all of that than by frying it up and topping with an egg? Exactly.
This recipe is inspired by one from Dan Doherty (otherwise known as the brains behind Duck and Waffle), though I’d spiced it up with chilli, switched out the regular onion for salad ones, and added a load of coriander for freshness.
Recipe – serves 1 for a big breakfast/lunch/brunch, and easily scaled up
1 handful of cooked new potatoes, sliced thickly
2 salad onions, finely slices
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
30g feta, crumbled
Chopped coriander, to garnish
Fry the potatoes in a drizzle of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan until starting to crisp, then add the onion. Continue to fry until the onion is softened, before adding the chilli and pepper. Make two dents in the mix, and crack an egg into each. Crumble over the feta, then pop until the grill (covering the pan handle if necessary) until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Season well and serve sprinkled with coriander.
And that’s it – a comforting hash using up odds and ends in the fridge. This has become a regular study day lunch for me, though I have to say a hash made with leftover bacon and black pudding is my favourite…
I’ve gotten into such a lovely, lovely habit of writing these cosied up on a Sunday night. I find it really starts my working week off well the next day, as I’m in such a good mood having remembered all the lovely things that have happened recently. And it just so happens this last fortnight has been absolutely amazing!
My Hen Do being planned. It’s a total surprise right now but I’m really excited to see what’s going to happen, and just to spend time with my best girls.
Bridesmaid shopping. I actually found the idea of this really quite stressful (no idea why – my girls are lovely, but I just don’t enjoy shopping when I have to buy something in particular), but it was a really lovely day. I just know the three of them will all look completely and utterly gorgeous on the day!
More wedding things – but my hair and makeup trial. Again something I was nervous about as I’m not really one to have a nice hair-do and lots of makeup on, but I think I found a gem in the lady I’ve booked.
A Tasting Menu lunch at Roganic. It was my Christmas Present from W and the boy did goooood! I’m not going to be blogging about it as it was such a treat meal, but I can highly recommend it if good, tasty and slightly fancy British food is your thing.
Snuggles with my pup. At 12 he’s starting to get a bit older now, but that means he’s more up for cuddles!
Trying Aligot for the first time. It’s basically an insanely cheesy mashed potato, made with Alpine Cheese. It’s super-rich and filling, and quite possibly one of the most delicious things to have some out of my kitchen
Just before Christmas I wanted a quick and easy cookie recipe. Something that looked special, tasted amazing and was reasonably “wintery” or festive looking. Something that meant mince pie haters (ahem, me) wouldn’t feel left out at a mulled wine and mince pie gathering. I found a recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, tweaked it a bit and came up with these beauties.
Chocolatey without being too rich, soft and chewy, and so pretty to look at. They were perfect, easy to make (if not overly quick due to needing a spell in the fridge), and went down so, so well. They also kept for a good few days in an airtight container – I originally made around 80 and not unsurprisingly we couldn’t quite eat them all straight away! As an added bonus the rolled dough, without the icing sugar dusting, froze well too. I’d recommend defrosting slightly before coating and baking.
Recipe – for around 25 cookies, easy to divide and multiply
2 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1⁄4 cup cocoa, unsweetened
1 large egg
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup icing sugar, for rolling
In a bowl, stir together sugar and oil before blending in the cocoa powder – I find it best to do this gradually as it can go a little lumpy. Beat in egg (again, I do this gradually) followed by the vanilla and salt. Sift over the flour and baking powder, then folder the mix together. Note that the mix will be a lot more fudge-like that normal cookie dough! Pop the dough into the fridge for at least two hours.
Use teaspoons to scoop out portions of the mix, then roll into balls (they should be around 1 inch in diameter). Roll each ball in the icing sugar until fully coated, then place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. As these cookies spread, I’d avoid putting them too close together! Bake the cookies in batches at 175 for around 11-13 minutes – they will look gooey in between the cracks, but should firm up when cooled. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Enjoy at any time of the day – we made have had these as a cheeky breakfast on my sister’s birthday!
Having stuck loyally to a certain brunch place in Putney since Summer ’16, my birthday gave me the excuse to branch out a little. Now. there’s absolutely nothing wrong with The Dynamo and it’s probably still my favourite spot (given the fact that it’s significantly closer and also does pizza!) but I kinda fancied something new.
There’s a couple of other places I’ve love to try, but with things to do and places to be we needed somewhere we could book a table and served a decent menu pre-10am. A surprisingly difficult criteria, but Antipodea on the Lower Richmond Road managed to meet it and I’d seen it look cutely decorated with fairy-lights the other month. And so come 9am on the 24th birthday, we were legging it down the road, late for our booking and cursing that it’s a good 25 minutes brisk walk away.
We needn’t have worried about being late – the staff were welcoming and friendly, once they’d stop laughing at the performance I’d made trying to get the folding door open. Shown to a little table tucked in a corner, complete with comfy armchairs, I’d already made up my mind. I liked this place.
Drinks were ordered and arrived swiftly. My Mörk hot chocolate was dark and hearty, without being overly rich. It’s not a hot chocolate for everyone (it’s certainly not thick, sweet or creamy) but I loved it. There was no complaints about the decaf mocha either.
One of the things I love about The Dynamo is their short and sweet brunch menu (though it has now grown and I need to get down there and try some of the new dishes!). Antipodea is the opposite – the brunch menu is HUGE and I deliberated for a good ten minutes between a couple of options. There’s the usual standard breakfast grub, sweet treats and some more unusual items. Turkish Eggs appears to be the new ‘thing’ in London right now and their Instagram suggests these are pretty damn good ones…
In the end, though, I couldn’t resist pancakes. And it was my birthday. Blueberry Pancakes, served with Caramelised Banana, Creme Fraiche and Maple Syrup was exactly the sugar fix I was in the mood for. Perhaps slightly too heavy on the syrup (though better than not having enough!), these pancakes were DELICIOUS. Thick and fluffy, but still decently caramelised on the outside. Not stodgy in the slightest. I could have eaten two platefuls!
W’s breakfast made me wish I wasn’t allergic to tomatoes, though he said he wished it had a bit more of a kick – some more bacon perhaps. Especially as the bacon there was delicious, smoked-in-house and apparently rather yummy. He ordered the Smokey Bacon Boston Beans, which came looking perfectly Instagrammable and with the most delicious sourdough. I’m actually *really* hoping their bread isn’t made in-house as I’d love to be able to buy a loaf for lazy weekend breakfast in beds…
Whilst the food wasn’t anything overly special, it was certainly yummy. But for me it was the atmosphere and service which really made this place. It was relaxed, all the staff had a smile on their face and it just felt comfortable. I wonder if they’ll mind me heading down there for a few hours to study…?!
One of the big buzz words this year is sustainability. Whether it’s cutting down on your plastic consumption (I always, always travel with a bottle of water in my bag for this very reason) or making more ethical food choices, it’s quite clear that sustainability is going to be a BIG thing in 2018. And that’s something I can get on board with.
One of the easiest ways to eat more sustainable is to purchase local, seasonal produce. Veggies and fruit grown in the UK will have a smaller carbon footprint than imported produce (and let’s face it, imported strawberries eaten in the depths of winter just don’t taste that good). You can say the same for meat too. Sure, you can argue that it’s not really possible to eat meat ethically, but going vegetarian just isn’t for me (more on that another time). This is a compromise. My butcher can tell me the exact breed of cow, the exact farm my steak hails from. And of course, cutting meat-eating down to just a few times a week goes a long way to eating more sustainably, plus it cuts your food budget too. Winner, winner, no-chicken dinner if you ask me!
With all this in mind, I was asked to create a dish made from locally-sourced ingredients, and worth of a dinner party. Living in London makes this a tad more difficult that it perhaps would do elsewhere, but I’d like to think we managed okay-ish. I will say the cucumber was not local – I have an in-built fear of UK-grown cucumbers (my Granddad had an allotment for years and years, and the one thing that was pretty much inedible was the cucumbers, always so bitter!) so this was imported direct from Sainsbury’s shelves. For a completely local dish it could be left off, or you could try your luck with a UK-grown one! The duck came from our local butcher, and we were assured it hadn’t travelled far. The kale was from a local market, but you could easily use another leafy green vegetable that’s more seasonal/local. The malt crumble was the star of the show. We picked up the malt from a brewery in Bermondsey – and I’m so looking forward to introducing it into other recipes. For more tips on eating ethically, have a look here.
The resulting dish is absolutely delicious. Inspired by a recipe from The New Nordic (one of the most beautiful cookbooks on our shelves), the combination of ingredients sound like they shouldn’t work – but they totally too. The cucumber mellows the sharp apple, so the tartness blends with the dish. At the same time the cucumber adds a welcome freshness, cutting through the rich duck. The malt crumble adds the most wonderful texture, and it even has the combination of crunchy and soggy that the best fruit crumbles have. Here we’ve simplified the original recipe a tad – whilst it looks and sounds impressive it’s decidedly easy to put together!
Ingredients (Serves 3-4 as a Starter, or 2 as a Main with some good bread)
1 granny smith apple, half cored and thinly sliced into water with a squeeze of lemon (to prevent it from browning), the other half left whole
1 large duck leg
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
200ml chicken stock (if you’ve used homemade, you can leave out the carrot and celery above)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
50g salted butter
1 tablespoon malt
2 tablespoons wholewheat flour
2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
150g kale – we prefer to buy whole leaves and leave them chunkier, rather than the bags of shredded stuff you can buy
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a hot frying pan (don’t add any oil), brown the duck legs, skin side down, until they have rendered all their fat and the skin is golden brown. Turn them over and cook for 1 minute before placing with the whole half apple in a casserole dish. Sauté the carrot and celery in the duck fat and then add the stock and vinegar. Deglaze the pan by scraping up any bits stuck to the base, then pour over the duck. Cover the casserole with a layer of foil and then top with the lid, then cook at 170°C for 1½ hours.
Meanwhile, make the crumble by rubbing together the butter, oats, malt and flour. Spread out the mix on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10 minutes, or until golden. Set aside.
To make the charred cucumber, preheat a grill (we used a George Foreman). Halve the cucumber lengthways and remove and discard the seeds – I find it easiest to scoop them out using a teaspoon. Cut each length in half to give you 4 batons. Place them skin side towards the heat and cook for 5 minutes on each side, until soft and lightly charred. Transfer to a food processor, add the yoghurt and plenty of seasoning, and blend briefly. You want the mix relativity smooth, but still retaining some texture. Set aside. Best not to make this part too far in advance as I find it can go a little watery.
When the duck is ready, use two forks to pull the meat apart. Return the meat to the cooking juices to keep it warm. You can discard the carrot and celery, as these were just used to add a base note of flavour to the duck – however if you’d prefer not to waste them you could leave them out. A bit of a tip – if you make your own chicken stock, we keep a bag of offcuts (celery/leek ends, carrot peelings) in the freezer to simmer with the chicken carcass to reduce food waste.
Wash and pat dry the kale, chopping it into smaller pieces if necessary. Heat the oil in a frying pan until very hot, almost smoking, then add the kale and sauté for less than a minute. Drain on paper towel.
Arrange the drained raw apple slices, shredded duck and kale in serving bowls. Dollop around some cucumber purée and drizzle over some of the juices from the pan. Serve immediately.
This is exactly the kind of thing we like to cook on our date-night evenings in. We love to spend an evening in the kitchen together, cooking up a plate of fancy food. This resulted in something that was both cosy and warming (and perfectly hygge) whilst still being light and clean-tasting thanks to the cucumber. We’ll definitely be making it again!
*This is a sponsored posts, however all opinions are my own as always!
Are you keen on eating local and seasonal food? How do you eat more ethically?
This is an absolute staple in our household. We make a big batch at least once a month, usually doing me for a week of lunches, one evening meal for the two of us and possible W’s lunch group (for 5) too. It’s tasty, filling and healthy – a portion or so of veg, plenty of protein and just general yums.
What’s even better is that it works hot and cold. W in particular loves it warm, with sausages and steamed green veg. I love it cold of a lunch time, with plenty of spinach. It’s also great with a spot of extra stock, turned into a bit of a soup with leftover roast chicken. Mushrooms work well too, as does a spot of roasted kale. It’s so, so versatile. If we don’t quite have the ‘right’ ingredients we can switch things up – leave out the celery, use a different kind of stock, different herbs, add mustard, add white wine vinegar. Be luxurious with a splash of cream. Leave out the feta. Leave out the bacon. Ad different cheeses, extra bacon. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and that’s why we love this recipe so much.
Recipe – makes around 5 big portions
200g dried brown lentils
4 rashers thick streaky bacon, or equivalent rate of lardons
2 sticks celery
2 cloves garlic
Herbs – I like a combination of thyme and tarragon, but rosemary also works well
Handful of Greek feta, crumbled
Optional – dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, mushrooms etc…
Fry the bacon in a little oil until starting to crisp. Meanwhile, chop the veg finely, before adding to the bacon and frying over a low heat until soft. If you’re using dried herbs, add with the veg. Add the lentils to the pan, then add chicken stock until they are just covered. Stir in any fresh herbs, if using, then simmer for around 30-45 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked to your liking. If adding them, stir though a teaspoon of dijon mustard and a scant teaspoon of white wine vinegar, tasting to adjust to your liking. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper, before serving warm or cold, scattered with feta. I also find it goes really well with baby spinach leaves.
Do you have any similar recipes that are good for batch-prepping lunchboxes?
I’m sat here writing this on a Sunday evening. I’m in my cosiest PJs (they’re from Next and they are the softest things I’ve ever worn), I’ve got a wee dram of whisky and I’m feeling delightfully sleepy and cosy. That pretty much sums up my January to be honest – cosy. Lots of evenings in, snuggled with a good book or Silent Witness. Lots of comforting, seasonal food. It’s been wonderful!
Afternoon Tea with my besties. We visited Alice & The Hatter Tearooms in Herne Bay and whilst it wasn’t exactly a refined afternoon tea it was yummy enough. A bit of a sugar overload, but we very much enjoyed it!
Trying to squeeze in some daily exercise. I’m struggling a bit with the daily, but I’m doing something more often than not. I’m alternating between Yoga and more HIIT style work-outs which feels more sustainable to me.
An exercise mat. My dad picked one up for me from Aldi and it’s made the aforementioned yoga workouts so much more enjoyable – no more bruised back from our wooden floors!
A payday treat at Honest Burger (previous review here). I remembered exactly why I consider The Honest to be my favourite burger so far, and how addictive their rosemary chips are. Any other burger places you can recommend?!
Silent Witness. It’s my guilty pleasure – I usually wait until later in the week then watch the two episodes back to back…
A Cauliflower Cheese Risotto. Quite possibly my favourite thing I’ve cooked so far this year.
A belated Burn’s Night celebration. We cooked up Haggis, Neeps & Tatties and a Whisky Peppercorn Sauce, then finished with Cranachan. Delicious – and all the more so with bagpipes playing in the background!
Finishing off a really difficult but enjoyable project at work. I had to learn a new software and start a fairly complex project all within four weeks, and I’m proud to say I achieved this. Coupled with an unexpectedly good annual performance review I’m feeling fairly #girlboss right now.
Getting loads of wedding-related things pencilled into our diary. I’m having a hair/makeup trial later this week, a dress-fitting is booked for February, we have menu-tasting in a few weeks and there’s a date for my hen weekend.
Homemade Pitta breads. I’m not sure I’ll be able to eat bought ones again!
Tacos. We made Duck & Pineapple Tacos a few weeks ago, and last week we used leftover marinade to make Pork Pibil ones (recipe here). I do love a good taco!
What’s made you happy lately?