Tag Archives: Pumpkin

A Summer Soup for Winter, Mostly From a Cupboard

Winter Vegetable Soupe au Pistou

A Staples Stand-By

The Big Guy has been worrying about our plants. More specifically, he has been fretting over a rather leggy basil plant, that really was on its last legs. After the third day of him agonising, I decided that we should use up the whole plant. Whilst mulling over winter uses of basil, I kept coming back to the thought of soupe au pistou; the Provençal summer soup.

Try as I might, I kept returning to the pistou, which is like pesto, but without the pine nuts. In fact, I couldn’t really think of anything else, so I gave in. Instead of courgettes and peas, it had to be about what I had knocking about. Between the fridge and the garden, I knew that I could come up with the goods.

Despite the name, the original recipe is more like a summer vegetable stew;  thick with beans, squash, tomatoes and alliums, as well as vermicelli. I could easily substitute most of these for suitable winter vegetables, so I went on a domestic forage.  As well as the basil, I grew thyme, garlic, carrots and cavalo nero (amongst other things), so these were definitely going in. The fridge yielded half a butternut squash, some aging tomatoes and a leek. If I didn’t have fresh tomatoes, I would have substituted these for half a tin of chopped tomatoes. That’s the brilliant thing about store cupboard soups – you use what you have.

I was also excited to experiment with cooking dried beans in my new pressure cooker. I’m dying to test the assertion that you can cook dried beans without a pre-soak, which will be amazing for someone who can forget to do the little things, like me. However, when I went to look, the cupboard was bare of dried beans, apart from some kidney beans I have, which wouldn’t have tasted right in this soup. I am still reluctant to forego the pre-soak for these beans, due to the toxins they contain. With a sigh, I added dried beans to my shopping list and went for tinned instead. I generally prefer dried beans for taste and texture, but I always have a tin or two on stand-by, because I am also a realist about my lack of foresight. Since this was a root-around, use-up, make-d0 type of soup, I wasn’t going to go shopping for beans, so I made use of what I had.

The classic soupe au pistou always contains starch. I used vermicelli, because I had some. Other pasta shapes (especially the small ones, such as ditolini, risoni, or stellini) are fine – or you could break up spaghetti into small bits and use those. You could add rice to this soup, in case you don’t have any pasta, or you can’t eat wheat. If you use rice you’ll need to add it much earlier than I suggest adding the pasta, or use pre-cooked rice.

This soup may be a winter version of a summer classic, but the intense smell as you mash the pistou is like a shot of glorious summer in a winter kitchen.

Since this is a winter warmer, and definitely comforting, I’m entering it into this month’s Cheese Please, over at Fromage Homage. There are some really great recipes there this month, so do come over and have a look.

Cheese Please blog badge

Recipe: Soupe au Pistou du Placard

Ingredients

For the Pistou:

1 fat garlic clove

A good pinch of salt

30 g basil leaves

About 60 ml extra virgin olive oil

About 40 g parmesan cheese, finely grated (or mature vegetarian cheddar, since parmesan is not vegetarian)

1 tomato, peeled and de-seeded (optional)

For the soup:

1 leek, washed and sliced

2 carrots, diced

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or ½ tsp dried thyme

1.5 l vegetable stock

400 g butternut squash, or pumpkin, diced

100 g cavalo nero

400 g can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 medium tomatoes, diced; or half a tin of chopped tomatoes

100 g vermicelli noodles, rice or any other small pasta shape

Method

Make the pistou. I like to use a pestle and mortar, but you can also use a small food processor. If you are using the food processor, either mince the garlic first with a chef’s knife and the salt, or grate it on a microplaner before adding it to the processor.

Whichever method you are using to make the pistou, add and blend the ingredients in this order: garlic and salt, basil, some of the oil and cheese. Be sparing with the both the oil and the cheese. You must taste as you add these, because all basil will vary. You want  fairly thick pesto, but it still needs to be flavoursome. Once the pistou is to your liking, stop adding things.

Make a concasse of the tomato and stir it through the pistou. Traditionally soupe au pistou has tomato flesh gently crushed into the pistou with a pestle and mortar, which you can also do if you prefer. If you are using tinned tomatoes, omit the tomato from the pistou, or you risk diluting it too much.

Prepare all of the vegetables for the soup. I decided to cook the cavalo nero stalks separate to the leafy greens. So, I stripped the greens from the stalks, and sliced both. Slice the stalks into 1cm chunks, like the rest of the vegetables. Slice the greens thinly, and keep them separate.

Sweat  the leek, carrot and the bay leaf in the olive oil in a deep pan, until the leek turns a vibrant green. Add the garlic and thyme and sweat off for another minute or so.

Add the stock, and simmer for a few minutes, or none at all, if you prefer your carrots crunchy. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Add the pumpkin and cook until you can just pierce it with the point of your knife. The time required will depend on the size of your dice. It took me about 5 minutes, based on 1cm dice.

Chuck in the beans, chopped tomatoes, and cavalo nero stalks, and allow them to simmer for five minutes, before adding the vermicelli and the greens.

Allow the soupe to cook until the pasta is al dente. Check for seasoning, and serve in deep bowls, topped with a large dollop of the pistou.

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Making Plans with Nigel

Vegetable, Bean & Citrus Stew

Stew, Changed

(c) I. Nemes 2013

A couple of weeks ago, I found out that a few fellow bloggers had, like me, received Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II. Like me, they had also read it cover to cover, and enjoyed it as much as his first diary (which I have also read; I’m afraid my shelf life is too short for 50 shades, when I can fill my head with the sights, sounds and smells of food). Unlike me, Janice and Susan decided to pay him homage by hosting the Dish of the Month in his honour. Obviously, I was keen to join in, whilst cursing the fact that I hadn’t thought of it first!

I decided to cook from both books, on alternate months. Originally, I had intended to cook things I haven’t tried before from each of the books in turn. However, I was cooking stew for my new team, because I could make it the night before. One of them professed a love for beans and chickens. And just like laid plans, and mice; my intentions gang aft agley.

Once I knew of these preferences, I had to cook the humbly-named Chicken Stew and Mash from Kitchen Diaries (p.79). It has become a favourite. Although it uses winter seasonal vegetables, it tastes a bit like summer.

Two of my team are vegetarian. And you know me, I had to make them  feel as welcome as the others. So I needed a veggie stew. But couldn’t get away from the thought that this stew was the one I wanted to make. So, I had to come up with a vegetable version that would still hit the citrus and savoury spot, but with the same depth of flavour as the meat version.

The depth came from caramelised onions. The bulk came from pumpkin, as being in season, and good with orange. And a few chickpeas, because I had some that I’d cooked and frozen previously.

What I ended up was reminiscent of the original stew, with the savoury, citrus, and sweet tones from the orange, herbs and balsamic vinegar; but by necessity was pretty different. Since Nigel himself says in the introduction to Kitchen Diaries II “neither am I someone who tries to dictate how something should be done, and I am never happier than when a reader simply uses my recipes as inspiration for their own”, I think he won’t mind too much, do you?

If you’d like to enter Dish of the Month, then you can find the full details over at Farmersgirl Kitchen or at a Little Bit Of Heaven On A Plate. Add your post to the linky there, so that we can all see what dish you’ve chosen.

Dish of the Month

Recipe: A Bright Vegetable Stew

Ingredients

100 g white beans,

100 g chickpeas

1 1/2 onions, sliced

2 tsp herbs de Provence

2 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic

Pared rind and juice of an orange

2 leeks, sliced into coins

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2-3 tbsp plain flour

1/2 butternut squash, diced

Vegetable stock 

Method

If you are using dried beans and chickpeas, soak them in plenty of cold water overnight. Cook them in fresh, unsalted water. They will cook further in the stew, so make sure they are not soft when you drain them. Nigel and I agree on about 40 minutes.

Some of the depth of flavour in Nigel’s version of this stew comes from the Maillard reaction that occurs as the meat browns. I had to replace this somehow, and probably the best way is to allow onions to caramelise really slowly until they are brown. As they started to turn golden, I added the herbs and the bay leaves.

As the onion reaches a deep brown, add the garlic cloves and the orange rind, and cook for a further minute. Add the flour, and mix it in well, followed by the juice of half an orange once you’ve cooked the flour through.

Add the squash and the beans to the a deep casserole dish with a lid, then add the cooked onion and flour mixture.

In the same pan as you browned the onion in, soften the leeks, being careful not to burn them. When you can separate the concentric rings, they are about ready. Add the juice from the rest of the orange, balsamic, and about 500 ml of veg stock to the softened leeks. You can also add a pinch more of the herbs de Provence too, if you feel it needs it. I did. Bring all of this to the boil, season generously with salt and pepper, and then pour this over the vegetables in the casserole dish. 

You want the liquid in the pan to come about three-quarters of the way up the vegetables, bearing in mind that the veg themselves will give off extra liquid as they cook. If you need more liquid, add more vegetable stock.

Cook for 40 mins to an hour at 180°C, until the butternut is tender, but still holds its shape. The flour that you have added should have thickened the sauce somewhat, but if you want to thicken it further, slake a little cornflour in a few drops of cold water, and mix that in. Return it to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until it has thickened up. If you are gluten intolerant, skip the flour at the beginning, and just do this step instead (you’ll need about a tablespoon if you are not using flour, then slake and add as instructed)

I return to Nigel’s instructions, and recommend that this is also served with a big pile of creamy mash  – potatoes, or a mix of potato and celariac – so that the juices can form little puddles in the mash.

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Tabouleh or not Tabouleh?

That is the question.

Winter Vegetable Tabouleh

Salad as Substantial

The snow caught me out last week. I knew it was coming towards the end of the week, but it arrived a few days early, was preceded by a very hard frost, and caught me on the hop. I hadn’t harvested my salad greens, and they have been under a really good coating of snow ever since. I did manage to get the solitary fennel bulb that I had left, and had that in a risotto, so it didn’t make a salad.

I had also not got round to sowing microgreens, although I have now corrected that. I am waiting on radish, rocket, basil, chervil and beetroot to sprout and grow their first true leaves.

Sprouted Chickpea Bread

Salad as Bread

My poor planning left me with no other choice but to go for sprouted seeds. I put a sprouting mix (which looked like it contained chickpeas, aduki beans and lentils), and some separate chickpeas to work. I followed many of the other bloggers, who have been sprouting seeds for weeks now. Inspired by Joanna, who commented on the blog of Gilly in Ariege, I made bread with the chickpeas, and then added the mix to a sandwich that I made with it. I hope to share the bread recipe, but it needs a bit of work first.

Sprouted Salad Sandwich

Salad as a Sandwich

As last week was all about the sprouts, this week has been filled with thoughts of using flat leaf parsley. I have two pots that I sowed last year, which live on my windowsill, so that I always have access to parsley. The cold weather left me wanting, and with a desire for something more substantial than sprouted seeds.

I kept coming back to the idea of a tabouleh. They should be really leafy, and vibrant with flat leaf parsley, fine bulgur wheat, tomatoes and onions. Most commonly found as part of a mezze, it cleanses the palate, and is a fresh and light dish.

I already knew that I was going to make a lot of changes, because I wanted a more substantial dish, I didn’t have enough parsley to make it the star, and tomatoes are not in season. In addition to all of this, I had some pumpkin and an aubergine to use up, so the focus shifted to a more winter-based dish.

The dish still had the vibrancy from the parsley, but it also had bulk from using larger bulgur wheat, and winter warmth from using cooked vegetables and the spice. But, is it tabouleh?

Ingredients

Half a small pumpkin

Few sprigs of thyme

2 Garlic cloves

Small pinch of chilli flakes

Vegetable oil for roasting and frying

Aubergine

150 g Bulgur wheat

300 ml Vegetable stock

2 tbsp Lemon juice

Zest of ½ a lemon, finely grated

Extra virgin olive oil

½ tsp Sumac

Large bunch of flat leaf parsley, stalks removed & roughly chopped

Peel & deseed the pumpkin, and chop it into small dice. Put it into an oven proof dish, sprinkle with chilli flakes, thyme leaves and salt and pepper, and a splash of oil, along with a garlic clove still in its paper. Give it a good toss around, so that the oil and chilli can coat the pumpkin. Stick it into an oven at 180°C and leave it to roast until the rest of the ingredients are ready.

Chop the aubergine into small dice, of a similar size to the pumpkin. Heat a little oil in a frying pan. When the pan is hot, add the aubergine and cook until it is brown. You may need to add a little oil, as it is quite absorbent, but it will release liquid again as it cooks, so don’t add too much. You want this to fry, not braise. Don’t have the heat too high for this stage, let it fry gently.

Meanwhile, heat up the stock. When it is boiling, pour it over the bulgur wheat. The stock should cover the wheat by about a centimetre. Cover the bowl over, and set aside for about 15 minutes, During which time the bulgur will cook and absorb the stock.

Finely mince the second clove of garlic. You will need this a bit later.

Make a citrus vinaigrette with the lemon juice and the extra virgin olive oil. I always start with the lemon juice, and then slowly pour in the oil, whisking constantly to form an emulsion. I taste it regularly to see when I have a good balance between oil and citrus. Add salt and pepper to taste, and pour some over the bulgur wheat. Set aside for another 10 minutes, so the bulgur can take on the vinaigrette flavour.

Don’t worry if you have a bit of dressing left over, it keeps well in the fridge in a sealed jam jar. You could use it on next week’s salad challenge!

While the bulgur wheat is soaking up the vinaigrette, add the minced garlic to the aubergine, which should be nicely browned by now. The garlic will not take that long to cook, and will give the aubergine flavour.

Stir the aubergine and the pumpkin into the bulgur wheat, with a half teaspoon of sumac, the lemon zest, and the roasted garlic, which you should now be able to squeeze from its papery jacket. Stir through the parsley, and serve immediately.

I served mine with some sautéed mushrooms and leeks. It might not strictly be a salad, and it is definitely not a traditional tabouleh, but it was warm and satisfying, which was just what I needed tonight.

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Pumpkin, Bacon and Swiss Chard Soup

Bacon Pumkin & Swiss Chard Soup

A soup for this season – warm and velvety

It is that time of year when my cooking is populated with soups. They are great for using up slightly too tough or slightly too old vegetables. And in the Netherlands, it is practically compulsory to have soup and a sandwich for lunch, whatever the weather outside. I am likely to be making quite a few more before the winter is out.

This year, I lost my young pumpkin plants to something, most likely slug-shaped. However, the chard has been going strong for a while now. As I would ordinarily be feasting on my own pumpkins, I have decided that it is not really cheating to add this to the ‘Farmed’ category.

I like my soups quite chunky, and my greens slightly underdone – having been subjected to many an overboiled brassica in my youth. You may prefer to pre cook or even use frozen greens in this soup, and chop or blend them a bit finer. This soup keeps very well in the fridge, and should also freeze well, although I have not tried it.

This soup is easily adaptable for vegetarians, just omit the bacon, and fry the onion in olive oil. I would suggest that you add slightly more smoked paprika at the end instead of the bacon.

Recipe: Pumkin, Bacon & Swiss Chard Soup

Ingredients

450 g pumpkin

A pinch dried chilli flakes

2-3 cloves garlic

2 tsp lemon thyme leaves, plus stalks

1 medium onion, finely chopped

500 ml stock (veg or chicken)

200 g Swiss chard (spinach would also work well, or maybe a savoy cabbage – it needs to be an iron-rich green vegetable)

200 g bacon, diced

80 ml white wine (optional)

Nutmeg and smoked paprika to taste

Method

Heat the oven to 180°C. Cut the pumpkin in half or quarters, depending on the size and type of your pumpkin. Essentially, it has to fit in a roasting tin. You should leave the skin on. Sprinkle with a little oil (any type except your best olive oil) and season with salt, pepper, and the dried chilli. Rub the thyme sprigs over the pumpkin, and tuck the stalks into the dish as well. It may seem like a pain, but it will save you having to remove the stalks from the soup later. Put the garlic cloves inside or between the pumpkin. No need to remove the papery cover, this will come off much easier when the garlic has been roasted.

Roast the pumpkin in the oven, until the flesh is dry, and it comes away from the skin easily. The time this takes will depend on which type of pumpkin that you use.

Roasting the pumpkin concentrates the flavour a bit. If you don’t have an oven, like many people who I know, you can still use the pumpkin without roasting. just add the thyme to the pot when you sweat the onion, and the pumpkin and the chilli flakes when you add the (now chopped, not roasted) garlic. You will also need to let the pumpkin simmer for longer, until it is tender. Obviously, peel the pumpkin before you add it. No one likes a soup full of skin.

While the pumpkin is cooking, prepare the other vegetables and the bacon. I like the stalks of the chard, but they take much longer to cook than the leaves, so I cut the stalks out, and kept them separate to the leaves. You may decide not to use them, or use spinach. Up to you. Whatever you use needs to be chopped up. How fine you want it is also up to you. I sliced the stalks thinly and the leaves a bit thicker.

Fry the bacon in a deep saucepan. I don’t bother using oil, as the bacon will render its own fat pretty quickly – just keep it moving so that it doesn’t burn.With a slotted spoon, drain the bacon onto kitchen paper, but be sure to retain the fat.

Sweat the onion in some of the bacon fat (you may not need it all). If you are making this a veggie soup, sweat the onion in a little oil. Either way, don’t let it colour.

Add the garlic from the roasting pan, which should slip easily from their skins now. No need to chop them. Add the wine at this point, if you are using it. A glug is fine. Let it cook off and absorb into the onions.

Add the smoked paprika. I usually use about a teaspoon, but this will depend on your taste, and whether or not you are using bacon. Let it cook off briefly while you remove the skin from the pumpkin. This should come off easily with a spoon. Break it into rough lumps, and add to the pan with the onion. Allow it to cook briefly, and take on a paprika coating.

Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

I blended the soup at this stage, but if you prefer a less chunky soup, then you could also blend it after you have added the chard. After the soup was well blended, and smooth, I brought it back to a simmer, and grated in some nutmeg, until it tasted like there was enough in there.

Then I added the stalks of the chard, covered and let it simmer for about 5 minutes before I added the leaves, and allowed them to wilt. If you use spinach, or just the leaves of chard, then this bit will be shorter. If you are using savoy cabbage, I suggest parboiling it a little first before you add it to the soup.

Add the bacon back to the soup, and adjust seasoning to taste.

I served this with a swirl of double cream. You can leave this out if you like, because it is a smooth and unctuous soup without it.

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Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone with Pumpkin Gnocchi

Despite the changeable weather, it is most definitely autumn. There are no more leaves on the trees, and the clocks will go back this weekend. To me, this means using up beans. We have been eating our borlotti beans for a little while, and I had a few other veg that I had in the ground or in the fridge.

Soup is always a great way to use up veg, and minestrone soup has beans as  the key ingredient for this hearty vegetable soup. As long as you have good base flavours from onion, carrot and celery, there are a million other veggies that you can add.

I used an onion and a half (the half was leftover from something else, and it needed using up), 3 carrots, 2 sticks of celery and a leek, which I chopped finely and sweated off with a few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary. I added a  couple of cloves of chopped garlic, and cooked them off a little before adding the stock.

I am a bit of stock obsessive, and always have portions of roughly 500 ml of various stocks in the freezer. At the moment, I have pheasant, and beef. I usually always have vegetable and chicken stock too, but not today. So, I used 500 ml of beef stock and added water to cover the veg.

As this came up to the boil, I shelled the beans – this time a mixture of borlotti and the last of the french beans, whose pods are getting leathery, but the beans inside are large enough to eat on their own. I chucked them in with a few chopped pomodori tomatoes (you can also use tinned). I left the soup to simmer until all the beans were cooked through. You can also use dried (and soaked), or tinned beans if you haven’t any from the garden.

About half way through cooking,  I had a taste, and added a little tomato puree, and seasoning.

I also had half a fennel to use up, which I chopped finely. I love fennel, but wanted to retain some crunch and the fennel flavour as separate from the overall soup, so I didn’t add it until about 5  minutes before the soup was cooked.

I would have added a bit of shredded cabbage, kale or cavolo nero at this point, but we managed to lose the sweetheart cabbage we had bought at the market, so we had to do without that tonight.

Another traditional ingredient in minestrone is pasta. I had some fresh tagliatelle, because the Big Guy often buys it on impulse. I also wanted to try something a little different, so I divided the soup at this point, and chucked in some chopped tagliatelle into one pot, cooked it for a couple of minutes and ate the first night. It is also possible to use smaller pasta shapes, like acini, or ditalini. However, I was using what I had. I think smaller pasta is better in soups, so if I only had dried, I would have cooked it and chopped it before adding at the last minute.You can use rice if that is what you have too – either cook it in the soup or chuck in some cooked rice about 5 mins before serving.

I was recently inspired by a recipe from Niamh Shields, of Eat Like  A Girl, fame to try Pumpkin Gnocchi. I have been following her blog for a few years now, and this really seems to be her year, with new columns, a book, and a truck-load of awards. I have to say I am really pleased for her, I have tried a lot of her recipes and they always turn out well, and she is a real enthusiast on the subject of all things food.

Anyway, back to the gnocchi. As I have pumpkins, and pasta is added to minestrone, I thought that I would combine the two, so I made up a batch of the gnocchi, using Niamh’s recipe. I brought the soup back up to a simmer, and then cooked the gnocchi in the soup. I served it with a good helping of chopped parsley.

I haven’t  given a formal recipe for this, as with most soups, the amount I make largely depends on the ingredients that I have to hand.  As this is an Italian recipe, I am sure that there are many different versions, and this will not be what any Italian mothers would have added, but that is the beauty of such a  versatile soup, where pretty much anything goes.

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Risotto “Masterclass”

Versatile flavours

So many flavours from one basic dish

I was talking about risotto the other day, when a few friends persuaded me that I should do a ‘risotto masterclass’. I suspect the fact that I have a larger than average kitchen (not difficult in a city where a ‘kitchen’ constitutes having a microwave on a shelf and a hob in many of the flats in the rental sector!) also had something to do with it, but I was flattered enough to go ahead.

We made three flavours of risotto – fennel, lemon and ricotta; pumpkin; and mushroom.

This is not to say that I made three risottos initially. My friends wanted to have a class so I wanted to show them how versatile risotto is with adding flavour, and how simple it is as a method. So, I started with a simple, white risotto, and we took it from there.

A good time was had by all, and I hope that they went away feeling more confident in making risotto, and experimenting with flavour.

Of course, there are more complex ways of building up flavour within the risotto, but adding ingredients at the end is a good way to get started!

I do most of my cooking by eye – especially as I wanted to make this one large enough to split into three, but the recipe that I give below should be enough to serve 2 people with leftovers. Leftover risotto is so versatile, that it really is worth making the extra.

Recipe: White Risotto

Ingredients

150 g risotto rice (risotto rice comes in a number of varieties, or is probably labelled just ‘risotto rice’ in your local supermarket. We used arborio for this one)

1 medium chopped onion,

1 tbsp olive oil

1 glass white wine (or you can use vermouth or another spirit relevant to your flavouring, such as Pernod, etc)

750 ml – 1 l stock (the stock you use can depend on what you are going to add. On this occasion I used vegetable stock)

Thyme

Knob of butter, or dash of cream or oil

50 g parmesan, freshly grated

Method

Sweat the onion in the olive oil until it is translucent, but not coloured. Add the rice, and stir until the rice is slightly translucent round the edges. Add the thyme at this stage too – the leaves but not the stalks.

Meanwhile, Bring the stock to the boil, and then leave it on a gentle simmer. I always make my own stock and freeze it in roughly  500 ml portions, so I use one of these, then add hot water as I run out. If you want a particularly ‘meaty’ flavour in the risotto, there is no reason why you cannot use all stock. It is important that you are adding warm stock to the rice, so I just leave it on the hob while I am cooking the risotto.

Turn up the heat a little and add the wine. Allow the alcohol to burn off and the rice to absorb the liquid. If you don’t want to have alcohol, this step can also be missed out altogether.

Add your stock, starting with just enough to cover the rice. Allow this to absorb completely before adding more, then add more a ladleful or so at a time. You will need to stir the risotto to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan. Much better chefs  than me (well, chefs, in fact) say that the more that you stir it, the creamier it will be, especially at the end stages. This will reduce the amount of butter or cream that you need to add at the end.

Taste the rice as you go. Before it is ready, it has a chalky quality to the grains. It is ready when this chalkiness is lost, but the grains are still a little al dente (especially important if you don’t want claggy leftovers). At this point, stop adding more stock.

Take it off the heat, ad beat in the butter or cream (which must be cold). Add the parmesan and seasoning. You will need quite a lot of pepper.

This is the basic recipe. Then you can flavour it by adding herbs, veg, meat. Whatever you like really.

The flavours I added for the three risottos were as follows:

Fennel, Ricotta and Lemon

I sliced a fennel bulb thinly, lengthways. Then I braised this gently in olive oil, with 2 garlic cloves, also sliced thinly. I added all the vegetables and the oil to the rice, mixed in a little ricotta, and the grated zest of the lemon. I then added the lemon juice, a little at a time to balance out the other flavours. I added the chopped fronds of the fennel as a garnish.

Pumpkin

I made a large dice of about 1/4 of an orange fleshed pumpkin, and roasted this, with some unpeeled garlic cloves, and some crumbled dried chillies in some olive oil with sprigs of thyme. This took about 3/4 hour at 180 degrees. I stirred these in at the end of cooking the risotto, and served with taleggio. If you wanted you could halve the above pumpkin, and boil half. Adding it with some of the last stock, which will make the risotto orange, and help build up the flavour. Roast and add the rest as above.

Mushroom

I fried a selection of sliced mushrooms in butter and garlic, with a generous amount of thyme leaves. I stirred them in at the end of cooking the risotto, and stirred through some fresh chopped tarragon. To build up the flavour even more, you could use a mushroom stock, or add the soaking liquor from dried porcinis to the stock as you cook it.

The recipes are simple, as I said, but adding your favourite flavours like this is an easy way to make a risotto recipe your own.

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