Herb Salad with toasted walnuts and goat cheese
On Halloween night when everyone else was heading out, I was tucking in for a very nice home alone. By choice, I had a date. A hot date with myself. It was a perfect Saturday night. Sunday night supper was already planned and out of my hands, so I decided to cook for myself and do a "cook the book" from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home. I love Jamie Oliver and his cooking style. He does uncomplicated but powerfully flavorful dishes. He uses the best ingredients, often grown in his own backyard (the "at home" part). Listening to my strong, nagging, unrelenting desire for warming foods, I picked grilled mushroom risotto. I decided to have accompany it with a Herb Salad with toasted walnuts and goat cheese, Peri-Peri Whole Roast Chicken (a page from my own cookbook), and some caramelized brussels sprouts.
Peri Peri Roast Chicken and Caramelized Brussels Sprouts
It was a really enjoyable menu. One I would gladly put in front of a guest or large group of guests. That said, it was nice to treat myself as well as I would treat others. I am currently big into reading food memoirs and a few of them specifically talk about the things we will cook for ourselves that we wouldn't dare share with anyone else, the secret guilty pleasures eaten over the sink. While it is true that I nosh on my oddities when it is just me, I actually think I am the most adventurous when cooking for myself. When I know my audience is just me, I have no fear of failure. I am willing to dive in and go big, go out of my comfort zone and risk the whole thing going in the bin. And though that has never happened, I don't cook for others usually with the same reckless abandon. It's a curious thing to have such performance anxiety with something I do so often, am trained for and loved. Maybe its because of all those things that I want to impress people with what I can do and leave the experimenting for on myself. I am sure in time that will change. As I turn my little ship towards my culinary dreams and goals, I know I will need to relinquish that fear and self-doubt. Plus, it is unfounded, nights like Halloween remind me that I have got some great skills and I can cook things that have my exclaiming (out loud into an empty house), "good lord that is tasty!". It was indeed a tasty reminder to have a little faith in myself. I am gaining a good deal of momentum in my own cooking and look forward to building on that through more original recipes, cook the book postings, sunday night suppers and restaurant reviews. And from there even more content and casting my net even further! Such a delicious journey I am on!
Grilled Mushroom Risotto
grilled mushroom risotto from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home.
main courses | serves 4-6
A mushroom risotto can be taken in many different ways, depending on what kind of mushrooms you have and whether they are introduced at the very beginning of cooking or just added at the end, as I’m going to do here. The inspiration for this recipe came when I was in Japan and saw mushrooms being cooked completely dry on a barbecue or griddle pan. This way of cooking brings out a really fresh and nutty flavour in them; perfect for being dressed lightly with olive oil, salt and lemon juice or stirred into a risotto at the last minute before serving.
Heat your stock in a saucepan and keep it on a low simmer. Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour in just enough hot stock to cover. Leave for a couple of minutes until they’ve softened. Fish them out of the stock and chop them, reserving the soaking liquid.
In a large pan, heat a glug of olive oil and add the onion and celery. Slowly fry without colouring them for at least 10 minutes, then turn the heat up and add the rice. Give it a stir. Stir in the vermouth or wine – it’ll smell fantastic! Keep stirring until the liquid has cooked into the rice. Now pour the porcini soaking liquid through a sieve into the pan and add the chopped porcini, a good pinch of salt and your first ladle of hot stock. Turn the heat down to a simmer and keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.
Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. This will take about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, get a dry griddle pan hot and grill the wild mushrooms until soft. If your pan isn’t big enough, do this in batches. Put them into a bowl and add the chopped herbs, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. Using your hands, get stuck in and toss everything together – this is going to be incredible!
Take the risotto off the heat and check the seasoning carefully. Stir in the butter and the Parmesan. You want it to be creamy and oozy in texture, so add a bit more stock if you think it needs it. Put a lid on and leave the risotto to relax for about 3 minutes.
Take your risotto and add a little more seasoning or Parmesan if you like. Serve a good dollop of risotto topped with some grilled dressed mushrooms, a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.