Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Having thought for many years that risotto was a complex dish to cook I now find it one of my go to recipes when we want something tastier than plain rice to go with a meal. Sometimes we just have the risotto.

One of the key ingredients for this is the rice.

For this recipe I used:

      • 250g of Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice
      • 1 clove of garlic
      • 1 onion 
      • 1 red pepper
      • 1/4 of a butternut squash
      • 4 chestnut mushrooms
      • 20g of butter
      • Dried Italian herbs
      • Splash of olive oil
      • 1 Knorr Chicken Stock Pot
      • 15g of dried porcini mushrooms (rehydrated)
      • 50g parmesan cheese
      • Water
      • Parsley

Dice the onion, pepper and butternut squash.

Cut the chestnut mushrooms into chunks.

Rehydrate the porcini mushrooms by placing in container and covering in boiling water, and set aside to hydrate. I used some from Lidl.

In a large hot frying pan add the olive oil and the butter. When the butter has melted and is sizzling, add the garlic, diced onion, pepper and butternut squash.

When these are softened add the chestnut mushrooms.

The add the Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice and stir into the mushroom, onion and pepper mixture, until the rice is coated and well stirred in the pan.

Add the Knorr Chicken Stock Pot and water to cover the rice. Stir well.

As the water and stock is absorbed, add more water and continue to stir. 

Cook the rice for 16-18 minutes until the rice is soft tender and creamy, but the grains are still firm.

Stir in the chopped rehydrated porcini mushrooms as well as the parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley.

Season if required.

Serve.

Time for a cheaper pizza

In the past we’ve had some good experiences at the Bella Italia at Cribbs Causeway and we’ve had some pretty poor ones too. We have been there a number of times, and they have revamped the places a few times over the years. Now it has a more of an American diner feel to it, rather than the Italian restaurant style it had before.

One of the key reasons we decided to return to eat was that we had a special offer. We used an offer code, so we only paid five pounds for each dish, which made the whole meal very good value for money.

Though we had to wait for a while, we were once our table was ready we were given a warm and friendly welcome and and it was quick and easy to place our order.

I ordered the Funghi Luganica – A ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

unghi Luganica - A ‘white pizza’ with a mascarpone and porcini base, topped with garlic & thyme chestnut mushrooms, pancetta, Luganica sausage and mozzarella.

I’ve had this pizza before at Bella Italia and I enjoyed it last time, and I enjoyed it this time as well. The base is mushroomy (is that a word) and savoury, over the traditional tomato that you find on most pizza. The chunks of mushroom on the pizza were very nice and I really enjoyed them.

My son had the Queen Margherita pizza. Tomato and mozzarella base, oven-baked then topped with torn bufala mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, rocket and green pesto.

Queen Margherita pizza. Tomato and mozzarella base, oven-baked then topped with torn bufala mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, rocket and green pesto.

This looked great and he said it was fresh and tasty. It was finished off, which doesn’t always happen.

My wife had the fresh egg tagliatelle in a tasty carbonara sauce with crispy pancetta and leeks.

fresh egg tagliatelle in a tasty carbonara sauce with crispy pancetta and leeks.

However this didn’t look anything like the picture on the menu on the website when we got home, where are the leeks? Having said that she did say the pasta was very tasty.

Service was mixed, our main waiter was warm and friendly, but other staff looked rushed and flustered.

Overall though we had an enjoyable dining experience.

Time for some Italian food

It has been nearly ten years since I visited a branch of Carluccio’s.

I do like Italian food, but I’ve not really had the inclination to visit Carluccio’s in that time. Their menu always looks interesting, but for quick lunches it was always on the pricey side.

So staying over in London and needing somewhere close and not too expensive, finding and reading the set menu online for Carluccio’s which was a few minutes walk away, I thought, well why not. It might be nice.

This branch of Carluccio’s was very close to Spitalfield Market and inside was dark and atmospheric. There was limited lighting, complemented with candles on the tables. I felt that it spoke of mystery and intrigue, so different to brightly lit restaurants.

I had a lovely warm welcome from the waiting staff and I was allowed to choose my own table. I do like being able to choose my own table, I realise when it’s busy that may not be possible, but when the place is quiet (as it was when I got there) it’s really nice to have a choice, and not been placed somewhere because it makes life easier for the waiting staff.

As it was dark, it was challenging to read the menu, I am glad I read it online before I had gone out.

The set menu I was choosing from had four choices for each course. I went for the Antipasto Misto. This was pane carasau with gorgonzola dolce & 14 month aged prosciutto, caperberries, olives, finocchiona salami, baby pepper with pesto, marinated green beans, caponata.

Antipasto Misto. This was pane carasau with gorgonzola dolce & 14 month aged prosciutto, caperberries, olives, finocchiona salami, baby pepper with pesto, marinated green beans, caponata.

I’ve not had pane carasau before, it is a traditional flatbread from Sardinia. It is very thin and crisp. It is made by taking baked flat bread, then separating it into two sheets which are baked again. It was interesting, but I think I would have preferred some ciabatta or focaccia instead.

There was very little gorgonzola dolce, reflecting on this when writing this, I initially thought there hadn’t been any on the plate, but then remembered there was a small piece. The prosciutto and finocchiona salami were nice, and I enjoyed the caponata, but I think it would have gone better with some bread (and not the flatbread).

My main course I chose was the Risotto ai Funghi. This was a risotto made with porcini, chestnut, oyster, shiitaki, shimenji, baby king oyster, closed cup mushrooms and garlic.

Risotto ai Funghi. This was a risotto made with porcini, chestnut, oyster, shiitaki, shimenji, baby king oyster, closed cup mushrooms and garlic.

You could certainly taste the mushrooms in this risotto dish, and the risotto rice was al dente and creamy. I thought it was slightly salty for my taste.

I had intended to go with the cheeses for a third course, this was three Italian cheeses, truffle honey, pickled walnuts and ciappe crispbread. However I was feeling somewhat full, so didn’t.

When I was presented with the bill, they had added a 12.5% service charge which was “optional”. When I have had good service I do tip, however adding the tip to the bill always strikes me as presumptive and I find it insulting. It appears to be saying we don’t trust you to leave a tip, so we are going to add a service charge to the bill to make you feel bad. I also wonder how much of that “service charge” goes to the actual staff? As I didn’t have any loose change on me, I left the charge on the bill and paid. I know waiting staff are poorly paid for what is a busy and can be stressful job (I have done it myself), so I think tipping for good service is a good thing. If I receive poor service then I don’t tip.

Overall I did enjoy the food, the service was attentive and quick. The environment was nice and did not feel crowded, nor was I rushed. Would I go again, probably.

Space

Leicester College Court

Now and again I have to attend conference dinners, most of the time they are like “just okay” mass produced meals that are served without care, then there are those meals which become a really nice memory. At a recent training programme in Leicester College Court I did have a really nice meal. As well as being really well cooked and presented it consisted of things I hadn’t eaten before.

For the starter we had ‘Life on Mars’ this was described on the menu as planet’s surface with the fresh Leicestershire goats cheese, pickled mushrooms, herbs and porcini soil.

planet’s surface with the fresh Leicestershire goats cheese, pickled mushrooms, herbs and porcini soil

The “surface” was a savoury sponge that I have seen before on cooking programmes, but not eaten. It was a nice texture to add to the flavoursome goat’s cheese. I wasn’t enamoured with the pickled mushrooms, but they did add a contrast in flavour. The porcini soil added a nice taste and another texture.

For the main course we had pan fried spiced Gressingham duck breast with a duck leg pastille, salsify, sweet potato and Romanesco.

pan fried spiced Gressingham duck breast with a duck leg pastille, salsify, sweet potato and Romanesco

The duck breast was perfectly cooked, but I felt lacked seasoning and my portion was a little on the small side. The first plate I was given had a decent duck portion but was missing the pastille, so I was given a different plate, but a smaller portion of the duck breast. The pastille was interesting, cooked duck leg in filo pastry, something that might be called a spring roll. Again lacked flavour. I do liked grilled Romanesco, but when grilling something like Romanesco or cauliflower it really needs to be served straight away. It had been left too long since cooking and as a result was a little soggy and lacked the crispness that grilling can impart, nice flavours though. I enjoyed the sweet potato done two ways, a nicely cooked disc and a puree. The salsify was interesting but didn’t add much to the dish.

Desert was described as a chocolate and honeycomb moon, though to be honest it looked more like that space station.

a dark chocolate sphere, filled with a white chocolate mousse, honeycomb, mango and chocolate crumb.

It was a dark chocolate sphere, filled with a white chocolate mousse, honeycomb, mango and chocolate crumb. I was worried it might be over sweet, but actually was just right, a clever desert full of interesting flavours and textures and great presentation. A really nice end to a nice meal.