Time for some more Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

Having enjoyed the butternut risotto the last time we had it, I made it again.

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, always use a proper risotto rice, it won’t work with other kinds of rice.

For this recipe I used:

      • 250g of Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice
      • 1 clove of garlic
      • 1 onion
      • 1/2 red pepper
      • 1/2 yellow 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
      • 50g parmesan cheese
      • Water

Dice the onion, pepper and butternut squash.

Cut the chestnut mushrooms into chunks.

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.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto

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  parmesan cheese.

Season if required.

Serve.

Mushroom Risotto

Wanting to have something nice to go with some fish I was cooking I decided to cook some risotto.

One of the key ingredients for this is the rice. I like Gallo as the rice cooks well and the resulting dish is creamy and soft, but with defined grains of rice.

For this recipe I used:

      • 250g of Gallo Traditional Risotto Rice
      • 1 clove of garlic
      • 1 onion 
      • ½ red pepper
      • ½ orange (or yellow) pepper
      • 100g chestnut mushrooms
      • 100g woodland 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 and peppers.

Cut the chestnut mushrooms and the woodland mushrooms  into chunks. I used the mushrooms from Morrisons, but you can get similar mushrooms from Sainsburys and Asda.

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 and peppers.

When these are softened add the chestnut and woodland 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.

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.

Risotto a la Milanesa

I recently picked up a box of Gallo’s Risotto a la Milanesa, which is risotto with parmesan & saffron.

This is prepared risotto rice to which you only need add water, though you can add butter and parmesan at the end of cooking to add a little bit of luxury and more cheese flavour to the dish.

I usually cook risotto from scratch and I hadn’t really read the box when I picked it up, so thought I was buying plain risotto rice with some saffron included.

What you actually get is a bag of saffron coloured rice which you cook in water for 12 minutes before adding butter and extra cheese.

It’s a really bright yellow, which might put people off, but it was rather tasty. If I can find it again I think I will get another pack. A quick and easy rice dish.

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.

UCISA Conference Dinner

I have found conference dinners can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes you get something really special, other times you get something that, well you ask yourself why did I bother!

I remember one conference dinner in Sheffield Town Hall which was really quite awful. It comprised an over-cooked chicken breast wrapped in a rasher of bacon, served with soggy tasteless vegetables.

Whereas the ALT-C 2008 Conference dinner at Leeds at the Edgbaston Cricket Club was out of this world. This was cooked by students from the local college. The main course comprised lamb cooked three ways and we had homemade chocolates.

The venue can also be a critical aspect of the conference dinner. Hotel conference dining rooms may be convenient, but often lack character or personality. mLearn 2008 had two conference dinners, one was at the Ironbridge Museum amongst the tools and engines of the Industrial Revolution. The second was at RAF Cosford under the wings of a Comet jet airliner. The food was pretty good at those dinners too.

The UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities Conference dinner was a pretty good one. The venue was the Birmingham Museum & Gallery which was very atmospheric, well apart from the freaky statue, don’t blink!

Freaky statue at the Birmingham Museum & Gallery

We had a chance to explore the museum and see some of the exhibits. The tables were set in part of the museum and was well lit. It was really nice to sit amongst the exhibits in the Industrial Gallery, housing the Decorative Arts collection. The Industrial Gallery is a brilliant example of Victorian architecture, boasting steel work, a glass ceiling and colourful tiled floor.

UCISA Conference Dinner at the Birmingham Museum & Gallery

The food was really nice and beautifully cooked and consisted of three courses, coffee and chocolates. The starter consisted of an olive salad with parma ham, a tomato pie and a risotto rissole.

n olive salad with parma ham, a tomato pie and a risotto rissole

The rissole was full of flavour and the crumb coating had a nice crunch. The olive salad was tasty and I really enjoyed the tomato pie.

The main course was chargrilled chicken stuffed with safe, served with potato dauphinoise, shoestring vegetables and gravy!

chargrilled chicken stuffed with safe, served with potato dauphinoise, shoestring vegetables

This was nice, not outstanding, the chicken was tender, but I felt it was a little overcooked, or more likely had been standing around for a little too long. The shoestring vegetables was tasty and clever.

The pudding, which I forgot to capture, was a lime desert. This was fresh and sharp and helped clear the palate.

Overall it was a tasty conference dinner, in a beautiful environment and with excellent company.

Leek and Lemon Risotto

Leek and Lemon Risotto

I seem to have been making paella a lot recently, so for a change I decided to make a risotto. As with paella, having the right kind of rice is critical to get that creamy risotto texture. I have used arborio, though this time I used carnaroli.

In a large frying pan, I put some olive oil and some butter, to which I added the zest of a lemon and some chopped garlic. I then added onion, red pepper and leeks.

These were cooked off in the pan until they were soft. I then added the carnaroli rice, this I coated in the oil, butter, onions and leeks. You can tell how far to go before adding the stock, the rice should be at what is called the “popping stage”. Now if you have some white wine, this would be an ideal time to add some, otherwise add some stock.

Don’t add all the stock, the key to success with a risotto, is adding stock a little at a time and lots of stirring.

After twenty minutes and just before serving, first check the rice is cooked, I then added the juice of a lemon and some parmesan cheese. You could add some rocket if you wanted, this adds flavour and colour. Freshly chopped parsley would be another nice idea.

I served the risotto garnished with lemon slices.

Making Risotto

I have been making risotto much more often now, as you might expect, the more you cook it, the easier it is and also becomes less daunting. What I like about risotto is how easy it is to add different flavours and make something different each time. The key of course is to use the right kind of rice; I have started to experiment with different kinds of risotto rice. As well as the usual suspect, arborio, I have also been using carnaroli. The end results are very similar, the creamy consistency is what makes a risotto a risotto.

The process I use is as follows.

In a large frying pan, place some olive oil. Then add some finely chopped onion.

Soften the onions.

Bring up the heat.

Add the risotto rice and ensure that the rice is coated in the oil
and mixed in with the onion.

Now add some stock. I either use chicken stock or vegetable stock. If it’s in the fridge I also occassionally use some white wine.

Keep topping up with stock to ensure that the rice doesn’t dry out.

Stir on a regular basis. This will help create a creamy texture.

Once the rice is virtually cooked, add a large handful of grated parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper.

Serve.

For flavours I will either add the ingredients in with the onions, or cook them separately. With some ingredients such as mushrooms I may do both!

Simple Risotto

Yesterday I made a very simple risotto.

In a large frying pan, place some olive oil. Then add some finely chopped onion.

Soften the onions.

Bring up the heat.

Add the risotto rice and ensure that the rice is coated in the oil and mixed in with the onion.

Now add some chicken stock.

Keep topping up with stock to ensure that the rice doesn’t dry out.

Stir on a regular basis. This will help create a creamy texture.

Once the rice is virtually cooked, add a large handful of grated parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper.

Serve.

Vegetable Risotto

I do like risotto and have in the past made a very nice lemon and rocket risotto.

Sainsburys do sell plain risotto rice, but they also sell a Mediterranean Style Vegetable Risotto Kit. At £2.99 I didn’t think it was value for money, however I did find it on offer recently for just £1.49, so I thought I would give it a try. It comprises arborio rice and dried vegetables.

It’s very simple to cook, virtually no preparation and then cook in the pan with stock.

It wasn’t that bad, quick and easy to cook and quite tasty.

However if it was £2.99 then no I wouldn’t buy it, for that sort of money I would prefer to buy the raw ingredients and make it from scratch. The preparation saved isn’t huge and fresh vegetables would certainly make a difference to flavour and the final dish.

I served mine with some grilled chicken.