Monthly Archives: January 2014

Leek and wild mushroom risotto…a quick midweek, singleton’s supper

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There are definitely some positives to being single and one of them is being able to cook exactly what I want when the kids are with their Dad. Mushrooms were always a no-no in our house, especially anything that resembled a wild mushroom, so I sadly forsook my beloved fungi to cook family friendly dinners.

One of my favourite dishes is mushroom risotto ( well, I love all risotto really…its one of my top ten comfort foods). Imagine, lovely oozy, buttery rice with the deep earthiness of wild mushrooms. I also love leeks, another pet hate of the children, especially the teen..although the littler kid will tolerate them blitzed to a pulp in soup, if he has to.

So now when I’m on my own I revel in the opportunity to savour my new favourite mid-week supper which combines leek, thyme and mushroom (dried wild and organic chestnut).

A lot of people seem afraid of making risotto. Its one of those dishes, like panacotta or meringue, that seem far more complicated than they actually are. It only requires one pot (so minimal washing up) and if you stick a couple of simple principles you can’t go far wrong.

1/ Don’t over cook the rice (it should be al dente)

2/ Let it rest for 5 minutes before you serve it. The residual heat of the pan will keep the rice cooking, so even if you think the rice is a little underdone, it will be utter perfection by the time you serve it.

3/ A good risotto is nice and wet. Theres nothing worse than hard, dry rice or rice that isn’t thickly coated in a rich, buttery, deeply savoury sauce. Having said this you don’t want it to resemble rice pudding. The trick is to keep adding hot stock, stirring almost continually until its absorbed by the rice, then add a little bit more. I find that recipes are often wrong and inevitably you need more than stated.  Even if you think you’ve added too much it will mostly absorb as you leave it to rest.

Another trick with this risotto, and any dish that includes mushrooms, is to slice and dry fry them before adding. I learnt this recently from friend, colleague and former Jamie Oliver Fifteen cadet, Tom. He cooked me an amazing risotto explaining that dry frying the mushrooms helps seal in the flavour, and by only adding them to the risotto when cooked it also prevents them turning mushy and formless. He’s right of course, he knows his stuff and this is a tip I have followed ever since.

Leek and wild mushroom risotto: recipe to feed one person

A small knob of butter (plus another 25g)

a dessertspoonful of olive oil

One small leek finely chopped

a sprig of thyme, leaves removed from the stem

half a dozen wild mushrooms, fresh or dried. I used dried shiitake, rehydrated for 20 mins in hot water them roughly chopped. If you are using fresh mushrooms slice and cook them in the same way as the chestnut mushrooms below.

100 g or so of chestnut mushrooms, wiped and sliced

2 – 3 handfuls of arborio rice (I used around 75 g because I have little hands)

a good glug of vermouth

500 ml vegetable stock

salt and pepper

parmesan to serve (if required)

a handful of wild rocket

Method:

Heat the knob of butter and olive oil in a saucepan. Add leek and cook gently until it begins to soften but not brown. Add the fresh thyme and rice and stir for a couple of minutes until the rice begins to turn translucent (i.e. it no longer looks so chalky white). Turn the heat up a fraction and add a glug of vermouth. Within a minute it the rice will absorb it and there will be little alcohol left. Begin to add the hot stock stirring frequently until the rice has absorbed most of it, then add more. Keep doing this until the rice has absorbed most of the stock (you may not need it all, or you may need a little more depending on how much rice you have used) and has reached the desired al dente point.

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While the rice is cooking heat a non-stick frying pan and when hot add the sliced mushrooms in one layer. Cook until beginning to brown then flip over. Remove from the heat and keep to one side.

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To serve:

Once the rice has reached the al dente point add the dried and rehydrated wild mushrooms, the remaining 25 g butter, the mushrooms and check seasoning adding plenty of black pepper. Remove from the heat and allow to rest. If you wish to top with a few slivers of parmesan that’s ok, but it doesn’t need it. Finish with a handful of fresh peppery rocket; it will help make you feel virtuous that you are at least attempting some greenery with your bowl of rich buttery comfort food.

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Filed under home cooking, Italian food, local produce, photography, Recipes, vegetarian dishes

Conwy Rural Producers dinner at Coleg Llandrillo

Back in October last year, before life became a tad fraught, I attended the Conwy Rural producers dinner, a showcase for some of the best produce in the area. Hosted by the catering department at Coleg Llandrillo in Colwyn Bay in their training restaurant The Orme View, the evening brought together selected producers, local businesses, restauranteurs and chefs to try out a variety of dishes made from wonderful local produce and it gave Llandrillo catering students the opportunity to show off their talents. Supervised by the wonderful team of Mark, Glenn and Mike (they pay me to say that you know!) they put together a creative and interesting menu.

I spend most of my time too-ing and fro-ing around Anglesey and Gwynedd so it made a change to head off down the coast in the other direction.  Even though it’s just 20 mins drive away I rarely get up to places like the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre or get the opportunity to meet up with other Conwy Food producers and businesses, so it was a pleasure to venture out of my usual domain.

I’m also lucky that I know the college lecturers well. I’ve worked closely with a couple (Mark being one who regularly joins me on jobs and keeps me in order) and that gave me access to the frantically busy kitchen. I enjoy taking pictures of people when they are busy. The rest of the evening was hilariously surreal. In between speaking to producers and annoying the chef’s and waitresses with my camera, I sat chatting to the other occupants of my table. These included the quiet but friendly owners of a local farm, the pretty blond owner of a local B&B who it transpired was vegetarian so couldn’t eat most of the food, myself, the host of the event John Rooney from Conwy council, and the manager and chef from a local restaurant. The latter of the last two proceeded to order copious amounts of wine, which he tried to ply both myself and the blond woman with. We were both driving so not drinking. We then spent the rest of the evening watching him get drunker and more outrageous. As we got ready to leave he asked me if I was sure he couldn’t give me a lift somewhere….I declined, stating that I was driving. He turned to the blond and asked her the same thing…she too declined. A jokey comment about ‘independent women’ floated around the table, and his passing remark, before his colleague ushered him from restaurant towards the waiting cab...’yes, you independent women…I bet you’ve got toys as well’.…an awkward silence descended over the table, broken only by me dissolving into peels of laughter. Chefs, I know them well. Crude to the last!

The menu

**Pant Ysgawen goats cheese in a ginger crumb with beetroot cake and chutney (produce supplied by Tan Lan Bakery, Cae Melwr Farm and Cegin Croesonen

**Courgette veloute with brioche flavoured with truffle oil (Produce supplied by Cae Melwr Farm)

**Welsh black beef steak tartar (Produce from AL & RO Jones)

**Elderflower sorbet

**Seared loin of pork with slow cooked belly served with braised potato, squash and apples (Produce supplied by Pigging good Pork, Cae Melwr Farm and Bryn Cocyn Farm)

**Carrots cooked in duck fat (Produce from Belmont Farm)

**Lamb Scottadito (Produce from O E Metcalfe)

**Ice cream served with soft fruits (Produce supplied by Bodnant Welsh Food Centre and Bryn Dowsi Farm)

**A selection of Bodnant cheese

**Coffee (supplied by Chris Martindale at Caffi Cristobal/Cilydd)

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The Orme View Restaurant is open to the public. Attending a training restaurant is a great way to try out new food, prepared by the trainess, at a fraction of the price of a restaurant. You never know you might be tasting the early creations of the next Bryn Williams, Angela Hartnett, Jamie Oliver or Tom Kerridge. Opening times and contact details are below.

Lunch: Tuesday – Friday 12:00 for 12:15
Dinner: Wednesday Evening 19:00 for 19:30
Contact: Joan Hammond 01492 542 341

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Filed under British food, local produce, North Wales restaurants, photography, pork, reviews, Sources and suppliers, Welsh food, Welsh produce

…hello 2014!..Favourite recipes and future plans

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Hello and happy new year! Welcome to the first day of 2014, a day of new beginnings, plans and looking forward.

After the turmoil of the latter half of 2013 I spent new years eve quietly. Eighteen years ago yesterday my daughter was born: eleven twenty, new years eve, 1995. My one and only plan for the day was to spend as much time as I could with her, opening presents, drinking champagne and eating cake, before she went off partying with her mates. New years eve is a hard time to have a birthday, so we have saved our celebrations until next weekend. Other than that I wanted to hang out with my son. It was a great day, we drank and made merry, but I really didn’t have the urge to go partying afterwards. Instead I listened to the fireworks at midnight from the comfort of my bed and a good book.

This has been a hard year in many ways. With work commitments and business building, juggling finances and making difficult and painful decisions my feet have barely touched the ground. Its been a year of buckling down. This has left little time for relaxation…(this year I need to figure in a bit more of that). Sadly, I feel that many of the highlights of my year were overshadowed by difficulties I’ve had to face…but still, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with some lovely, amazing people, being part of some great food events, and being given an opportunity to get paid for my writing! These were my highlights.

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I’ve travelled a lot around Britain, cooked on a huge scale, trained, demo-ed, mentored and employed.

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I’ve cooked at home and for myself less, written less and spent less time developing new recipes. That hasn’t stopped readers following the blog. My most viewed recipes of 2013 were all ones written and posted over the past year; the top three were for perfect falafel, egg-free cheesecake and my mum’s now famous smoked mackerel pate. I want to give more time to writing in 2014, to cooking and working on new recipes and looking at starting on a book. Not a standard recipe book, but something more related to food stories.

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So what’s in store for 2014? I have so many ideas and plans that I’m still trying to get to grips with what is do-able. What I do know is that I like being my own boss, but at the same time I am a social creature who works best with other creative people throwing in their ideas, inspiration and talents. I don’t have the time or the energy to do it all. So, this year will see more collaboration.

I am also scuppered since I lost my home and my business; so rather than running a regular supper club (which I can’t do in the house I am currently renting) I am planning ten exciting pop-up events in different (secret) locations, with interesting menu’s and different people taking the helm at front of house. These may include visiting chefs, music, amazing decor, or some kind of installation…..watch this space for dates.

I did a lot of cooking in other people’s homes this year and that will continue, as will my current ‘residency’ at The Oyster Catcher in Rhosneigr. Incidentally the other two most popular posts from 2013 are related to visits here (The Oyster Catcher project) or events which involved their staff and cadet chefs (A salty, sea food pop-up….run by Eamon Fullalove, former motivational chef at the project).

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In 2013 I employed a full-time chef. Mark Burns worked with me through the crazy summer period, then as business tailed off I helped him get some work experience with other local restaurants. As Christmas approached and his contract was due to end he secured himself a full-time, permanent post in The Black House Grill in Chester. A successful outcome and one we were both very happy with! This year may see new additions to my team, which is pretty huge now! I’m overwhelmed at how many people want to work with me on jobs (chefs and waitresses) and they are all fantastic! But a personal assistant is probably what I need most!

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We will also be getting a new ‘look’. For the latter part of 2013 I have worked with a very talented art director who has tried to brand me!! Not an easy job and I have been very specific about my desires. Nina Farrell art directed Felicity Cloakes book Perfect so I’m in very good hands and she’s done a great job! The new look is all set to launch this month…so watch this space.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who has supported me, booked me, stuck with me, trusted me, eaten my food, enjoyed my recipes, read my blog, cut me slack when life has been hard and made me smile with their lovely comments. I appreciate you all.

Keep coming back; comment more (its nice to read what people think) and have a wonderful 2014 🙂 xx

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