Mushroom Risotto

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. 

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in enough warm water to cover them
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan.   Finely slice the onion and add to the pan, cooking until soft.
  3. Slice 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).
  4. Add 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’.
  5. Depending 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.
  6. Now is time to stir in the grated parmesan.  Personally for me the more cheese the better, but this is up to your own personal preference.

Don’t forget to use your left over risotto for arancini balls (you’ll love them)

Game Night at The Academy

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

Kitchen Sink Cauliflower Cheese

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 dish.

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).

Ingredients

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

Method

  1. Wash the cauliflower and separate the head into florets, and chop the outer leaves and stalks.
  2. In 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
  3. Chop 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, 
  4. Gently fry the spring onion in same pan for one minute and put to side with the chorizo
  5. In 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 
  6. Add the chorizo and spring onion back to the sauce and combine with the cooked cauliflower in an oven proof dish.
  7. Sprinkle the combined ingredients with grated cheese and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown

Halloumi, Orange and Hazelnut Salad

Halloumi, orange and hazelnut salad

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.

Ingredients

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 salad

Method

  • 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 vinegar)
  • Distribute the orange segments and hazelnuts between the plates and top with the fried halloumi.

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Pork Chops with Mushrooms and Dijon Mustard

These are a really quick and easy midweek, but are also impressive enough if you are cooking for friends

They are delicious with mashed potatoes and some greens, but also go well with rice or salad depending on how hungry you are feeling.

The recipe calls for stock, and a stock cube or bouillon powder mixed with hot water is fine.  While fresh stock is great, realistically how many of us have the time to make it. 

Pork chops with Dijon mustard and mushrooms
Pork chops with broccoli and potatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Broad pork chops

1 Onion

100gms Mushrooms

½ Cup of stock

100gms Low fat crème fraiche

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. Olive oil

Parsley to garnish (if you can be bothered)

Method

  1. In a large frying heat the olive oil on a high heat, and add the pork chops. 
  2. When the chops have coloured on side, turn them and add the onions and mushrooms, cook for 5 minutes until the chops have coloured.
  3. Add the stock, and cover with a lid.  If you’re frying pan does have a lid you can use tin foil to cover the pan
  4. After another 5 minutes remove the lid or tin foil and cook for another 2 minutes until the stock has reduced a little.
  5. Stir in the Dijon mustard and crème fraiche, and make sure it’s fully mixed through the mushrooms and onions.
  6. Sprinkle parsley (if you’re arsed), and serve.  This keeps well for a day or two in the fridge if you have leftovers.

Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa Cake

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 less.

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.

Ingredients

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup tinned fruit cocktail in syrup

Method

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.