I had these for the first time in New York, with a cocktail in an air conditioned bar which felt like I’d arrived in heaven after pounding the streets on a hellishly warm day.
These make a great
little starter, or are divine with a glass of wine or a cold beer.
If you are
organised enough to have made the mushroom risotto a day or two before then
these are pretty quick and easy. Some
people like these with a marinara sauce, but I think these are delicious enough
on their own.
500 grams Mushroom risotto
100 grams Mozzarella
(dolcelatte also works really well)
2 Tbsp. Plain
*100 grams White
breadcrumbs (See food hack)
Olive oil for deep
Salt and pepper
the mozzarella into 1.5 cm cubes, or you can use the little mozzarella “pearls”
you can buy in some super markets
a tablespoon of the cold risotto mixture in your hand and flatten it. Add a small piece of cheese and form the
risotto around it to make a ball. Do
this until you have used up all the risotto (it’s useful to have a bowl of
water handy to wet your hands and stop the risotto sticking.
and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Heat oil on a large heavy based pan or deep fat
the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper, which the eggs in a
separate bowl, and add the breadcrumbs to another dish
Heat oil on a large heavy based pan or deep fat
Role the risotto balls in flour, then beaten
egg, and finally the breadcrumbs
Add the breaded risotto balls to oil and fry
until golden brown, remember to drain any excess oil on kitchen paper and
season with salt and pepper.
* Food Hack – When you’re shopping pick up bead that has been reduced because it’s going stale. When you get home, take 5 minutes and whizz the bread up in a food processor until it’s crumbs. Put these breadcrumbs into a large freezer bag and keep in your freezer. Bread crumbs are an amazingly versatile ingredient, that you can use in everything from gratins, deep fried crusts, stuffing or even thickening sauces.
This is a big batch, but there is
method in my madness.
Firstly this risotto is really unctuous and yummy so you’ll have to fight with yourself not to keep spooning it into you plate. But if you can resist eating it all, the left over risotto makes the most amazing risotto balls or arancini (if you’re feeling posh).
A lot of people are purists about
the type of rice to use whether it’s Arborio or Carnaroli, and to be honest I
haven’t found much of a difference. So
use whatever you can find and what you prefer.
500 grams Carnaroli or Arborio rice
2 Tbsps. Olive oil
1 Large onion
500 grams Mushrooms
4 Cloves of Garlic
3 Tbsps. Dried porcini mushrooms
1.5 Litres Chicken or vegetable
stock (made with stock cube/s is fine)
1 Glass of white wine (this is optional,
I usually prefer to drink wine than cook with it, but it’s also the perfect
excuse to open a bottle)
Grated parmesan (you can also use
Grana which is similar to parmesan, but is a bit cheaper)
Herbs to finish, again this is
optional but it does add another layer of flavour
the porcini mushrooms in enough warm water to cover them
the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan.
Finely slice the onion and add to
the pan, cooking until soft.
the fresh mushrooms and garlic, add to the pan and cook gently until the
mushrooms have softened and started to brown (don’t move the mushrooms around
too much in the pan).
the rice and stir the grains are coated in the oil. Add the stock a ladleful at a time. Yes I know this bit is a total faff, but who
am I to argue to with generations of Italian Nonas’.
on the type of rice you use, you may not need all the stock, or you may need a
little. Keep adding the stock until no more will be absorbed by the rice.
is time to stir in the grated parmesan.
Personally for me the more cheese the better, but this is up to your own
Don’t forget to use your left over risotto for arancini balls (you’ll love them)
Belfast is also home to two Universities. Ulster University has a campus right in the centre of the fashionable Cathedral Quarter. It also produces graduates from their hospitality and tourism degrees, who work in world class restaurants and resorts across the globe.
As part of student’s training, the University has their own restaurant (The Academy), which gives students experience of working in a fine dining establishment. The restaurant produces some of the best food I’ve eaten and is priced reasonably to cover running costs. Student are also trained to deliver Michelin star service.
The night I visited was a theme night based around game. The set menu included wood pigeon and venison with a quirky blackberry and lavender sorbet served in between as a palette cleanser. It took every ounce of reserve I had not to lick the plates.As part of student’s training, the University has their own restaurant (The Academy), which gives students experience of working in a fine dining establishment.
The restaurant produces some of the best food I’ve eaten and is priced reasonably to cover running costs. Student are also trained to deliver Michelin star service.
If you live in a city that has a hospitably/catering or culinary arts school, check out if they offer similar training facilities. You’ll eat extremely well for a reasonable price and provide students with a chance to gain experience with paying customers
Cauliflower cheese has always been
a favourite of mine. Unlike most
purists, I use it as vehicle to help use up what’s in my fridge. In this recipe I’ve included what was in my
fridge when I made it.
In the past I’ve included ingredients
such as sautéed mushrooms, bacon, red onion or sweetcorn. As with most of my recipes, you can adapt
them to suit your own taste. I usually
eat this on it’s because it’s pretty substantial, but can also use it as a side
As everyone has got obsessed with low carb eating, cauliflowers have started to get expensive. (I don’t care what anyone says cauliflower rice is not as good as proper rice). I’ve learned that you can also eat the outer leaves of cauliflowers and they’re pretty tasty (think a milder version of cabbage).
1 Large cauliflower
6 Spring onions/scallions
100 grams Chorizo
500 mil Milk
50 grams Flour
50 grams Butter
100 grams Grated Cheese (I use a
mixture of cheddar and mozzarella, because it’s what was in the fridge, but use
whatever you have
Salt and pepper
the cauliflower and separate the head into florets, and chop the outer leaves
a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the cauliflower until just
tender. Once cooked, drain well and
transfer into a shallow oven proof dish
the chorizo and spring onion, in a deep sided frying pan fry the chorizo until
the it starts to release it’s oil, and put to one side,
fry the spring onion in same pan for one minute and put to side with the
the same pan again melt the butter and then gradually whisk in the flour and
milk. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes
over a gentle heat until you have cooked out the flour (this means the sauce
shouldn’t taste floury). Season with
salt and pepper
the chorizo and spring onion back to the sauce and combine with the cooked
cauliflower in an oven proof dish.
the combined ingredients with grated cheese and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or
until golden brown
This is a quick and easy recipe, that makes a tasty lunch. It’s also great as a simple starter, that can be done with little fuss if you are cooking for other people.
The bright tangy orange balances the salty cheese and crunch
of the nuts brings it all together.
1 Large orange
225 grams Halloumi
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
25 grams Hazelnuts
1 Packet of mixed salad
Olive oil and vinegar to dress the
Cut the peel from the orange, making sure you
take all the white pith off. You should
cut out segments (leaving the skin between the segments behind), or cut the
peeled orange across thinly in rounds if you prefer. (This can be done in advance, this is useful
if you are making this as a starter).
In a dry pan toast the hazelnuts, until they
smell nutty. Don’t leave these
unattended as they can burn. (This can also be done advance if you are making
this salad as a starter).
Heat a frying pan with a tablespoon of oil,
slice the halloumi in 1 cm thick slices and fry until golden brown on each side.
Divide the salad between the plates and dress
with your preferred dressing (for this salad, I prefer olive oil and white wine
Distribute the orange segments and hazelnuts
between the plates and top with the fried halloumi.
I’m going to be honest, I stole
this recipe from one of my roles models in life, the fabulous Ms Dolly Parton.
One rainy afternoon while I was
firmly wedged on the sofa watching Steel Magnolias, Dolly Parton’s character
calls out this recipe to a friend. When
I had recovered from having a little cry at the film, I decided to go shopping
and see if this recipe would work, and it did.
I think it’s more of pudding than a cake, but you’ll enjoy it none the
Dolly’s recommendation is to serve this with ice cream (to cut the sweetness), and it does go extremely well. So have a go at this recipe, put on Steel Magnolias and treat yourself to some cuppa cuppa cuppa cake.
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup tinned fruit cocktail in
Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius
Combine all the ingredients, mix
well, and transfer to a greased cake tin.
Bake for 30 – 40 mins, or until golden and crunchy on top.