Tag Archives: comfort food

Post festival recovery risotto with Trealy farm chorizo and artichokes

Travelling here, there and everywhere is unsettling at times. It always takes me a while to  get acclimatised once back at home and despite finding cooking remarkably relaxing and therapeutic, I often struggle to get back in to the familiar groove of  daily routine, family meals and planning shopping. Instead I crave quick, easy suppers with limited washing up and preparation time, often using whatever I have in the store cupboard and not go charging about to the supermarket.

Add to my current state of de-stabilisation a large dose of stress, a sudden influx of work and if I’m  honest I just want to hide away. I am juggling the desire to eat well with a severe lack of creative energy. I want to be cooked for, or at least if I have to cook I want to be able to rustle up something that’s quick but also delicious, comforting and soothing. A recovery dish.

If I’m looking for comfort food then risotto is one of my favourites. Deep, intense, savoury flavours, but also rich and satiating. Laden with cheese and butter, with a hint of wine or vermouth. I love all risotto, whether it be full of parmesan, seafood, a gorgeous mushroom one cooked for me by a lovely friend, or a kid friendly one that my daughter loves with chicken, fresh herbs and a dollop of mascarpone.

Once, when I was still working as a researcher I stayed in Oxford for a week. Life can get lonely when you go away to work, so my trick was always to find a good restaurant and a friendly bar. The restaurant I found in Oxford was Branca, a popular Italian on the edge of the trendy Jericho district. With welcoming staff and no urge to usher me out the door I often lingered over my evening meals, plus it was the place where I ate the best risotto I have ever had. I can’t to this day work out what made it so good….I know it had masala in it and finished with perfectly cooked scallops. It was so good I ordered it three nights in a row. I haven’t been to Oxford since so have no idea if they still make it, but the memory stayed with me.

My festival recovery risotto was less glamorous, but no less tasty. Chorizo is another favourite and armed with my stash from Trealy Farm a tin of artichokes I found in the cupboard, and some left over parmesan I set to cooking.

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Chorizo and artichoke risotto (serves up to 4 people)

2 small onions, finely chopped

2 fat cloves of garlic (or I used a quarter of a bulb of elephant garlic) finely chopped

50g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

350g arborio rice

1 stick of Trealy farm sweet chorizo diced

100ml vermouth

750ml hot vegetable (or chicken) stock

6 artichokes, quartered taken from a tin

50g parmesan cheese (with a bit extra to grate on top)

Melt the butter and oil in a large pan and add onion. Sweat without browning for about 5 to 10 minutes or so. Add the garlic and rice and stir well to coat. Cook until the rice begins to turn slightly translucent (about 5 minutes) then turn the heat up a little and add the vermouth. Allow to bubble until the vermouth has almost been absorbed into the rice then begin to add the stock a ladle full at a time, waiting until it’s totally absorbed before adding the next.  It’s not necessary to stir continuously, but it is important to stir or shake the pan frequently to make sure the rice doesn’t stick and the starch in the rice has broken down. You may well run out of stock; if you do just add a little boiling water, but don’t over do it. You are looking for the rice to be ‘al dente’, soft, but with a bit of bite which should take about 15-20 minutes. If you want it softer just cook for another 5 minutes, but don’t overdo it.

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In a separate pan heat a little oil and when hot chuck in your chorizo. Fry briskly until just beginning to crisp then remove with a slotted spoon and add to the risotto.

Turn off the heat and add another knob of butter, the grated parmesan and the artichokes. Check seasoning then put a lid on the pan and allow to rest for a couple of minutes.

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Whisky and orange crepes….perfect for a snowy day

So, I’m snowed in. It’s a reasonably common occurrence where I live as I’m up on higher ground. Whilst those in Bangor city wonder what all the fuss is about, my village just a few miles outside is hit by snowmageddon! Abandoned cars, icy roads and snow drifts render some parts of the village inaccessible (including my street) but the fun we have tobogganing makes up for it. We all love a ‘snow day’!

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So of course I did the only thing a girl could do. I panic bought whisky and ginger wine to make whisky macs, drank Bailey’s hot chocolate with whipped cream, enjoyed a snowy walk or two and tried not to fall over on the ice. Sledging was unfortunately out of the question what with my back being bad and all, but I made up for it with some dedicated ‘apres ski’.

With food running slightly short in the house (yep, bought plenty of booze, but nothing of much use other than that) we resorted to split pea soup (at least I’d made it with proper fresh chicken stock and topped with crispy bacon) and a wonderfully indulgent creation of whisky and orange pancakes. Made in the same way as crepe suzette, the retro classic french dessert, but with whisky and not Grand Marnier and using a couple of the 15 kilos of Seville oranges from the load delivered on Thursday. They were a massive hit. Using the Seville’s with a couple of lemons produced a sharper citrussy sauce, but I liked that sweet and sour effect. Just like squeezing lemon juice on your pancakes.

Whisky and orange crepes:

To make 8 crepes:

120g plain flour

pinch of sea salt

2 large eggs

half a pint (275ml) milk

oil for cooking

For the sauce:

zest of one orange and one lemon

juice of one lemon and three oranges..I used Seville but you can use any juicy orange.

90g butter

120g caster sugar

100ml whisky

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs and milk and whisk together to make a smooth, lump free batter.

Heat a small flat-bottomed pan. Add a trickle of oil and swirl it around the bottom of the pan. When it is really hot and just beginning to smoke a little add some of the batter. Quickly swirl this around the pan to coat the bottom. Cook until it looks golden brown and then flip it over to cook on the other side. Remove the crepe on to a plate and repeat the process until you have used all the mixture.

In another pan, this time larger melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and simmer together for a few minutes until it just starts to change colour. Immediately add orange and lemon juice and zest and simmer for a couple more minutes. Add whisky and then start to add one pancake at a time folding into quarters, they should all be able to fit snugly into one pan. Allow to bubble gently for a few minutes so they soak up the sauce

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You can serve these with cream or ice cream, but they really don’t need anything else but the rich, sticky sweet-sour sauce. True comfort food!

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A healing bowl of chicken ramen

Sometimes it’s really hard to please a teenager that’s as changeable as the wind direction in Wales and whose food fads keep me in a whirlwind. It’s even harder to please a sick teenager, but one dish that managed to both satisfy and apparently cure was the Wagamama inspired chicken ramen.

 As the poor girl huddled in bed shivering and sniffing I attempted to stimulate her appetite with various ideas mostly failing until I suggested her favourite, a simple chicken ramen (funnily enough the recipe is in a book she just happened to buy me for Christmas!).

The Christmas recipe book collection...anyone would think I liked to cook!

 So while she slumped under the covers snuffling and feeling sorry for herself, I went to whip up a quick soothing supper. Returning a little later with a steaming bowl of chicken, noodles, broth and pak choi she visibly perked up. After the first small bowl she requested a second, at which point she had recovered enough energy to chat to her friend on Facebook!! The conversation went like this

 Teen: “I’m ill in bed, mum’s made me chicken noodle soup”

 Friend: “ooohhhh not fair, I want chicken noodle soup. Hold on I’m gonna ask mum to make me a dippy egg with soldiers”

A bit later

The teen: “did you get your dippy egg?”

Friend: “it was rubbish, the egg was hard and I only got three soldiers AND it was brown bread”.

My teen emerged from her room looking suitably smug about her superior supper of chicken noodle soup.

 For my chicken ramen (to serve four) I used:

4 chicken breasts, vegetable oil (to oil the chicken), 500g ramen noodles (available in most supermarkets these days or failing that specialist Asian shops) 2 litres chicken or vegetable stock either freshly made or really good ready-made, stock cubes are really not good enough for this, 4 pak choi roughly chopped or shredded (which I got from Moelyci.  Amazingly it has continued growing all through the winter even surviving the snow), 24 canned bamboo shoots known as menma in Asian supermarkets, 8 spring onions finely chopped and a handful of bean sprouts. I also added a heaped teaspoon of miso to the stock and the teen added some soy sauce.

 Either grill or use a char grill pan to cook the seasoned chicken breasts brushed with a bit of oil. Once cooked allow to rest then slice on the diagonal and set aside.

 Cook the noodles in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes until tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. Divide between four deep bowls. Heat the stock until boiling and if you want to experiment like we did add the miso. Put the pak choi on top of the noodles followed by bean sprouts, then pour over the boiling stock. Finish with the chicken breast, menma and spring onions.

a big soothing bowl of chicken ramen

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