Recipe: Low-Carb Mushroom “Risotto”

It’s been well documented on here many, many times that my ultimate comfort food is mushroom risotto. It’s rich, creamy, comforting and can be rib-achingly heart. And it’s that last point that lead me to devising this recipe. Sometimes I want the flavour and creamy texture, but I also want something lighter. Something that doesn’t make me want to spend the rest of the evening napping. This is perfect.

Substituting cauliflower “rice” in place of my beloved risotto rice not only squeezes more veggies in my dinner, but it increases the nutritional value and lowers both calories and carbs. Of course it’s not a ‘healthy’ dinner as there’s plenty of cheese and cream involved, but it is less guilt-inducing and certainly makes my tummy feel happier (too many carbs don’t really agree with me – I say with a sob as pasta, bread, rice etc is life!). Making a mushroom risotto with cauliflower rice just means I can enjoy my favourite meal more often!

Recipe – Generously Serves 1

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, or around 15g of butter
  • 1 small onion, or two shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch dried thyme (or 1/2 tsp fresh)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 large handful of sliced mushrooms, I prefer to use chestnut ones
  • 2-3 dried mushrooms, crumbled
  • 1 cup stock, vegetable or chicken
  • 1/2 a cauliflower, riced in a food processor (I use a mini chopper)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of creme fraiche (I used half-fat)
  • 30g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 handful of fresh spinach, either to serve, or wilted in right at the end

In a medium pan, heat the butter or olive oil over low heat and add the onion/shallot, celery and thyme. Fry until the onions are soft, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and continue to cook for around 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add the mushrooms (fresh and dried) and fry until golden brown, adding a spot more butter or oil if it’s looking dry.

Add the cauliflower and stock and, stirring frequently, cook for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and stir in the creme fraiche and cheese, and season well (plenty of black pepper!). Cover with a lid and leave to stand for 3 minutes, then stir in the spinach (if you want it wilted) and serve with extra parmesan.

Cauliflower is being use in a lot of inventive ways in the food blogosphere right now (check out my recipe for Cauliflower Cheese Pizza Bases). Whilst I’m definitely not a fan of depriving myself (if I want a proper pizza I’ll damn well eat one) I do like making little healthier switches so I can enjoy my favourite foods and still fit into my skinny jeans.

Have you tried doing anything ‘unusual’ with Cauliflower?

Recipe: Leek & Blue Cheese Risotto

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 parmesan
  • 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?

Recipe: Beetroot Risotto

This isn’t the most attractive of dishes, I fully own up to that. It’s quite possibly the pink-est thing I have ever cooked, have ever eaten. W (quite rightly, though I wasn’t impressed at the time) claimed it looked at bit like brains.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 2_zpstpdq0qtl.jpgI spoke about my love for beetroot a few weeks ago (when I published my Beetroot, Black Pudding & Goat’s Cheese Salad recipe), but here we go again. For years I shied away from it, and when I did try it I thought it tasted of soil. Not particularly offensive, but not particularly pleasant either. It’s only been in the last year or so that I’ve actively enjoyed eating it, something I have our engagement meal to thank for. Now not only do I love it in it’s own right, it’s also absolutely essential for me in my No-mato sauces.

Now, I get that to the non-beetroot lover it’s not a great vegetable. It can be bitter yet sweet, and of course it’s quite an earthy taste to become acquired too. This is a recipe I would highly recommend to someone not to sure about it. Sure, the colour is off-putting, but the flavour is muted by the mascapone, the texture is that of a classic risotto – very creamy. It’s also pretty cheap to make, so it’s been a favourite of mine over winter!


  • 2 beets from a vac-pack (freeze the remaining ones – or chop and roast for scattering on the top)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 150g risotto rice
  • Small glass of white wine, optional
  • Around 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • Handful grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp mascapone – or a soft goat’s cheese is excellent (and my favourite!)

Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic, then fry in the olive oil or 5-7 minutes over a low heat. Turn the heat up, stir in the rice until well coated. Pour over the white wine, then allow to evaporate whilst stirring. Add the stock gradually, a ladleful at a stir, stirring often. Keep adding stock until the rice is cooked (but still with a little bite). If you run out of stock, just use a little water.

Whizz the beetroot in a food processor to make a purée. Stir most of the Parmesan, the beetroot purée and the mascapone through the risotto. Season well, then leave to rest for 5 or so minutes. Served scatter with the remaining Parmesan. If you’ve roasted some beetroot, add it to the top or (as I did here) fry some cubes of black pudding to scatter over.

 photo Beetroot Risotto 4_zpsmsvmsk4s.jpgThe perfect dish to begin falling in love with beetroot!

Are you a beetroot fan? What’s your favourite type of risotto?

Recipe: Butternut Squash & Goat’s Cheese Risotto

I love risotto. The carbines of the rice, the creaminess of the whole dish, the cheesiness. The fact you can eat with a fork, bowl in hand, snuggled on the sofa. A bowl of risotto is my ultimate comfort food and my go-to meal if I’ve had a bad day.

And it so happens that the one bad thing about living with W is that I can’t indulge my passion for mushroom risotto. I’ve loved all things mushroom since my early teens and despite trying, nothing will convince my fiance to eat them. Rather than give up my risotto love-affair, we’ve come to the agreement that I can try numerous other recipes on him. This is the second and was the one I was most nervous about – the last time I tried butternut squash (four years ago) I hated it. I’ve pretty much avoided it, apart from in spicier soups, ever since. Now it’s my new obsession.

This butternut squash risotto is slightly different from my usual recipes in that some of the squash is blended down, which adds an extra creaminess and cuts down the need (though not my desire!) for excessive cheese. The goat’s cheese stirred through adds a savoury tang which in my opinion is completely necessary against the sweetness of the squash. The celery adds a bit of bite. The roasted squash adds texture and a different layer of flavour. And of course, it’s scattered with parmesan for that salty kick.

This meal was only made better than I timed it to perfection. It was just ready for dolloping into bowls when W walked through the flat doors AND Bake Off was just starting. Doesn’t get much better than that! It does take a little bit longer than my standard risottos, just under an hour, but that’s because of the faff that comes with prepping a squash. It’s completely worth it and standing there stirring (with wine) counts as therapy, right?!

 photo Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Risotto 2_zpsrqaoviiv.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • 750ml stock (we usually use chicken as I have a minor reaction to most vegetable stock cudes)
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 onion
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 dried bay leaf
  • 150g risotto rice
  • 2 tsp soft goat’s cheese
  • parmesan to serve

Peel the squash and separate the rounded send from the slender top. Chop the slender end into 2cm cubes, toss in a little oil, season lightly and roast in the oven with two cloves of garlic (peeled and halved) at 200C, stirring occasionally, until golden brown on the outside and soft in the centre. I found this took around the same length as the risotto did to cook. Cut the fatter end in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Again, chop the flesh into 2cm pieces and pop into a small pan with the stock and bay leaves. Poach on a gentle heat whilst the risotto cooks.

Finely chop the onion and celery, then fry gently in the butter until soft. Add the garlic and risotto rice and increase the heat slightly – stir constantly for around two minutes before adding a ladle of stock from the pan (try not to add any of the squash). Keep stirring until the stock is absorbed, add another ladle and repeat until the rice is almost cooked; around twenty minutes.

Discard the bay leaves and transfer the poached squash into a blender. Process until smooth, then add to the risotto along with the goats cheese. Stir to combine, season with plenty of black epper, cover and leave to rest for 4-5 minutes. Divide into bowls, scatter with the roasted squash pieces and finish with a lot of little parmesan.

 photo Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Risotto 3_zpsi7fal0li.jpgThis was the perfect warming dinner for a cold Autumnal night – which really took us by surprise here in London in early October! All of a sudden the balmy summer evenings were gone, I needed a scarf to walk home in, and I just made it to the flat in the light. I do love Autumn, but I also miss the lighter evenings. Still, not too long to Christmas now… #24sleepstilSanta! We also found this recipe great for using up a super-cheap pumpkin following halloween. At 30p I couldn’t resist!

What’s your ultimate cosy-night-in comfort food? Also, how on earth do I get someone to eat mushrooms?!

Recipe: Courgette Risotto

Perhaps a bit late in the year, this post, as the courgette glut tends to happen in late summer, but so damn delicious I couldn’t help share. I can’t believe how behind I am at posting recipes; it seems like I make something, photograph it and then it’s months before it makes it’s debut on the blog. Whoops! I’ll definitely have to try and be prepared for the Christmas themed recipes I have planned…

 photo Courgette Risotto_zps6n6dzibs.pngThis Courgette Risotto, admittedly not the easiest thing to photograph, was born out of desperation for risotto. I’ve talked about my favourite-ever-meal before, mushroom risotto, and how it’s my go-to meal when I’m stressed, ill, tired, need cheering up or just fancy treating myself. I love it. And W hates mushrooms. I’ve tried converting him. I’ve tried sneaking them into things. It’s not worked; he hates the taste, despises the texture and I’ve not made mushroom risotto since moving out of uni in June. I was craving it so much in my first week of work I spent an hour researching different risotto recipes and proposed this one. Admittedly it was quite a bit of work for an after-dinner meal, and on one of the hottest days of the year I was certainly sweating over the hot stove, but it was delicious.

I was worried it was going to be a bit bland, but actually the gentler, subtle flavours really worked well together to create a rather tasty dinner. The mix of textures was spot-on, the seasoning just right and I felt it was quite possibly the perfect risotto consistency. Calorific, yes, but well worth it. Oh, and it can easily be made veggie by using veggie stock and checking the label on your cheeses.

 photo Courgette Risotto 1_zpswfg13ri5.jpgIngredients (for 2)

  • 50g butter, split in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, again split in half
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 150g arborio rice
  • 2 medium courgettes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • Handful fresh basil
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons mascapone

First, prep the veg. Finely dice the onion and celery, finely chop the garlic. Coarsely grate 1 whole courgette, and around half of the other. Chop the remaining courgette into 1cm chunks. Melt half the butter in a pan with 1 tbsp of olive oil, then sweat the onion and celery until softened. Make up the chicken stock and add the basil – this infuses it and adds a delicate herby taste.

Turn the heat up and add the garlic, grated courgette and rice. Fry, stirring constantly, for one minute then add the lemon juice (and a splash of white wine if there’s a bottle open). Stir until the liquid is absorbed, then add a ladleful of stock. Again, stir until absorbed (or at least every minute or so), adding ladlefuls gradually, until the rice is soft and creamy. I found it took around 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir through the Parmesan and macapone along with plenty of black pepper. Cover with a lid, off the heat, for around five minutes.

Whilst you wait, heat the remaining oil/butter over a high heat and add the diced courgette. Fry until slightly softened and golden. Vigorously beat the risotto and divide into warm bowls, and scatter over the fried courgette. Drizzle over some buttery pan juices, then enjoy with a crisp green salad (watercress and rocket works particularly well).

 photo Courgette Risotto 2_zpslzqwzso4.jpgWe both really enjoyed this risotto, the light flavours worked perfectly and it really showcased how delicious courgette can be. I know I love this vegetable, but a lot of people (other than trendy courgetti) don’t really know how to use it. I’ll definitely be making this again – and I’m a lot more open to experimenting with other risotto flavours now. I’m thinking a rather Autumnal butternut squash and sage version next…

Are you a fan of risotto?

Recipe: Mushroom Risotto

This is one of my absolute favourite meals. I’m sure I say that about lots of recipes, but this is my go-to if I’m stressed, my go-to if it’s a miserable day. It’s not the quickest so if I haven’t got much time I’d revert to a carbonara, but it still takes under an hour. It needs more attention that other meals I make, but the stirring calms me down. If you find me cooking a mushroom risotto, it’s often a sign something is wrong.

 photo IMG_4851_zpsnnf86rcl.jpg photo IMG_4850_zpsduvukhqw.jpgNot the healthiest of meals I try to avoid eating it too often – and when I do it’s a small portion bolstered with a good side salad. It’s carb-heavy with plenty of calories coming from the parmesan – of which I like lots. If you’re not such a fan you can easily cut down on the amount. I’ve found good stock isn’t too necessary in a mushroom risotto (cheap cubes are fine) as long as you don’t add extra salt. Just enjoy a slightly naughty meal every once in a while – it’s my go-to for a night on my own (W hates mushrooms), girly film, glass of wine. A bowl of risotto is perfect to curl up with in pyjamas.

 photo 2015-04-29 18.43.15_zps8kalqtmf.jpgIt’s also pretty budget friendly – perhaps surprisingly! I find that it doesn’t really matter too much if you use cheaper mushrooms, the rice isn’t that pricey, and I always have stock, onions and garlic around. Even parmesan isn’t essential – a strong mature cheddar is just as good. I tend to buy ‘pricer’ mushrooms on “whoops” offers and freeze them sliced, otherwise I stick to standard button mushrooms. I have a small tub of dried porcini ones for added flavour; initially I thought they were a little out of budget, but a tub has lasted me a good 18 months so far! Either way, it’s still cheaper than my other go-to treat meals of steak, duck etc!

It’s a great way of using up leftover roast chicken or turkey (hello turkey season!), it makes a fab change from more traditional comfort food, and it can easily be made veggie for a festive main course – basically having a risotto recipe under your belt for the festive season is pretty much essential.

Ingredients, for one greedy Chloe…

  • 100-150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 pieces of dried porcini, broken into small bits
  • 1 chicken stock cube (a risotto is not the place for cheap stock cubes, I find Knorr* have a great flavour without being overly salty)
  • 40g butter, split into three – 20g, 10g, 10g roughly!
  • 1/2 an onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 70g risotto rice (alborio is the variety I tend to go for)
  • A good handful of finely grated strong cheese

Melt 10g of butter in a medium saucepan (preferably one with a lid), and add the mushrooms. Fry over a high heat until golden – this may take a while if using mushrooms you have frozen. If lots of liquid is produced drain off but don’t chuck it away! Place your mushrooms in a bowl.

Melt the 20g butter in the same pan, and gently fry your onions until soft and golden, adding the garlic for the last few minutes. Meanwhile add your porcini bits to a jug with the stock cube and 250ml boiling water. Stir to dissolve the cube, and keep the jug warm.

 photo 2015-04-29 19.13.08_zpsapyi6rgx.jpg photo 2015-04-29 19.18.03_zpsh3gfbzrz.jpgTurn the heat up and add the risotto rice to the onions, stirring constantly until coated in butter. Now add a little stock and stir until absorbed. Keep adding the stock in smaller amounts, stirring as you go – I find that the lower I keep the heat and the more I stir the tastier the risotto. However I have found that I don’t need to stir constantly; I just stir after adding the stock, leave it on a low heat, and come back and vigorously stir after five or so minutes before adding the next lot of stock.

Once you’ve used up all the stock, add back in the mushrooms and any juices. Stir until heated through, then taste. Adjust seasoning, and keep cooking with a little water if the rice is still too crunchy. Then add 10g butter and half the cheese, don’t stir, turn the heat off and pop the lid on. Leave for five minutes, then stir madly to incorporate – this gives the most amazing texture. Serve with extra cheese, snuggle up and enjoy.

 photo IMG_4847_zpsdfbagw0m.jpg photo IMG_4843_zpstws9mmio.jpgThis really is one of my all-time favourite meals. It’s ideal for making whilst revising as concentrating on the stirring and stock additions turn out to be quite relaxing, and a bowl of risotto is my idea of the perfect comfort food. Just delicious!

Disclaimer: I was gifted some Knorr stock to use in a recipe, however as always all opinions are my own.

Are you a fan of risotto? What’s your favourite comfort food?

Recipe(s): Chorizo & Prawn Risotto and Pizza Breads with SACO Apartments*

Having lived in student halls for nine months too long (bad experience) I know just how difficult it is to cook with a dodgy oven, little space, limited food storage and below-par equipment, so when SACO contacted me about their latest challenge I couldn’t not accept. They wanted bloggers to create a two course meal for two, under £20 and only using equipment found in their holiday apartments. Got to say, those apartments are better stocked than the kitchen in my halls was! Most look pretty cool too!

 photo 2014-09-17184532_zps5ce3fe8e.jpgI decided to go for something relatively simple, something I’d cook often but with a summery twist. Plus they compensated the cost of ingredients, so I couldn’t resist splashing out on chorizo and prawns. I planned a paella, but I had the wrong type of rice, the wrong type of pan. Plus I burn things easily. Risotto it was. As for the starter, this was something born out of an accident last year when I ended up with extra mozzarella. I love it, and quite often eat it for dinner (after an office lunch at Prezzo) or cold in my lunchbox. I also wanted something that would work well alongside the risotto if timings get difficult (they often do away from home), so I’m happy to say they go together perfectly. A really yummy meal!

Now I didn’t weigh anything, and got on with it straight from work. I had two courses on the table in under an hour – so it’s a pretty quick dish. Here we go;

 photo 2014-09-17180111_zpsabd40eaf.jpgGet in, throw your bags on the floor and preheat the oven to 180C. Dice a small onion and soften in olive oil over a low heat.

 photo 2014-09-17180342_zpsa1036e17.jpg photo 2014-09-17180732_zpsce3a1551.jpgSlice a part-baked roll (one for each person) in half, spread each half with a teaspoon of red pesto, and top with slices of mozzarella. Throw in the oven, they want 15-20 minutes; keep an eye on the cheese as you don’t want it to burn.

 photo 2014-09-17181228_zpsc50c255a.jpgBy now the onions should have soften. Tip in some chorizo (I’m loving the pre-diced little packs from Sainsburys at the moment, as it means I’ll actually eat the amount before it goes off) and let it release its oils. Add sliced garlic, paprika and whatever herbs you have to hand. Stir a spoonful of the red pesto in too.

 photo 2014-09-17181533_zpse50f4d93.jpgTip in the risotto rice (150g is good for two portions) and stir constantly for two minutes. Pour 1/2 pint of boiling water into a jug, then add 1/3 of this to the pan. Stir well, cover with a lid and leave for about ten minutes.

 photo 2014-09-17184352_zpsd6264d85.jpg photo 2014-09-17184526_zps4014002a.jpgAdd another 1/3 of the stock, stir well, leave for ten minutes, then repeat. Leave the lid off for the last ten minutes, add a handful each of prawns, and stir as often as you can bear to. You want it to be slightly less wet than a usual risotto, a little more paella like.

 photo 2014-09-17183607_zps77f92627.jpg photo 2014-09-17184532_zps5ce3fe8e.jpgCheck the rice is cooked to your liking, season to perfection (is it Jamie Oliver that says that in virtually every recipe?!) and serve up.

Disclaimer: I was invited to take part and reimbursed for my ingredients. I wasn’t expected or asked to add an opinion on SACO apartments, and I’m not affiliated with them in any way. 

What do you cook on holiday?