Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta


Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta (2)

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Chester it’s been a glorious day – the sun has been shining, the birds have been singing. On coming home from work today, I noticed that my strawberry seeds have finally started to sprout (I was starting to worry I had dud seeds!) and as I sit here typing this I can hear the merry sound of a bumblebee buzzing outside the window. Spring is definitely here!

I always (sadly) get a bit excited when asparagus comes into season – the price plummets and suddenly a new realm of recipes can be made.

I make this particular risotto – using various combinations of veg – probably once a fortnight in spring and summer. It’s a great, tasty way of packing whichever vegetables you choose into your menu. I used asparagus, peas and spinach but you could swap in whatever you like.

Some people might have the misconception that risotto is a heavy, winter dish. This is not true in this case. Simply swap the butter for olive oil and reduce the amount of parmesan you add, and suddenly the risotto is very light and fresh.

This will serve 4 and will take around 45 minutes to make.

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta (1)

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion

300g risotto rice

1 small glass white wine

500ml vegetable stock

100g asparagus tips

200g frozen peas

100g spinach

10g grated parmesan

80g feta

1. Chop the onion and add to a large casserole dish with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, then stir in the risotto rice. Pour in the white wine and stir.

2. When the wine has mostly been absorbed by the rice, start adding the stock bit by bit, stirring all the time. When you have added all of the stock, the rice should be just slightly al dente – taste it, if it’s too al dente, add some more stock.

3. Roughly chop the asparagus, then add it along with the peas and spinach to the risotto. Stir well until the spinach has wilted, then turn off the heat. Drizzle over the remaining olive oil, sprinkle over the parmesan and put a lid on. Leave it for a couple of minutes.

4. Chop the feta into bitesize pieces, then stir into the risotto. Done!

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Chicken Pittas with Spicy Rice


Chicken Pittas with Spicy Rice (1)

Due to a busy weekend and general laziness, this is actually the recipe I cooked on Friday night. However, I’m sure it works just as well on a Tuesday 🙂

When I asked hubby what he would like to eat on Friday, I was given this very specific request “Chicken Pittas with Spicy Rice please”. I have never made such a recipe before, however on delving further realised that this is what he eats whenever we visit a particular popular Portuguese chicken restaurant. I am sure you know the one I’m talking about.

I’d never tried the spicy rice at this restaurant before, and so tried to make it as close as possible to the description I was given by hubby. In the end, it wasn’t spicy in any way whatsoever (but it was delicious) – you could pimp it up with some chilli powder if you wanted to.

This is a great recipe to try when you want a healthier (and cheaper) version of this particular restaurant’s menu!

This will serve up to 4, and will take no more than 30 minutes to make.

Chicken Pittas with Spicy Rice (2)

Chicken Pittas with Spicy Rice

For the pittas:

4 pittas

1 tbsp olive oil

250g diced chicken breast

1 tbsp smoked paprika

100g halloumi

Lettuce, to serve

For the spicy rice:

500g cooked white rice

3 tbsps tomato puree

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp olive oil

3 spring onions

1 red pepper

1. For the spicy rice, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the sliced spring onions and chopped red peppers and soften for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato puree, cook for a further minute then add the rice and enough water to loosen it – 200ml should do. Stir in the smoked paprika and cook until heated through – around 7-9 minutes (stir often so that the bottom doesn’t catch).

2. For the chicken pittas, sprinkle the smoked paprika over the chicken along with some salt and pepper. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat, then add the olive oil. When hot, add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, until cooked through.

3. To serve, slice the pittas and stuff with chicken, finely sliced halloumi and salad. Serve with the rice on the side. Amazing!

Beef Penang Curry


Beef Penang Curry (2)

Fancy a smashing curry to warm the chilliest of cockles? This is the most warming, comforting Thai curry I have ever tasted, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as we did. It has the huge advantage of being ready in almost no time at all – using thin strips of good quality beef means that the curry doesn’t need slow cooking; in fact, this one is almost as fast as a stir fry!

The curry is essentially a mixture of all of my favourite spices, mixed together and mellowed with coconut milk. There is a little heat, but it is gentle rather than burning.

This would be best served with a veggie side dish – some spinach, simply wilted, would be perfect. It’s also important to make sure you have plenty of rice (Thai jasmine rice is best) to soak up the lovely, creamy sauce. Mmmm!

Try this if you’re a curry fan – I’m sure you’ll love it.

This takes 15 minutes to cook, and will serve 2-3.

Beef Penang Curry (1)

Beef Penang Curry

2 shallots

3 cloves garlic

1 red chilli

1 thumb sized piece of galangal

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

4 tbsps tomato puree

3 kaffir lime leaves

1 tsp paprika

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground tumeric

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tbsp ground nut oil

45og steak, sliced thinly

400ml coconut milk

1 lime

A few basil leaves

Thai jasmine rice, cooked, to serve

1. To make your curry paste, finely chop the shallots, garlic, chilli and galangal. Place into a bowl, and add the soy sauce, fish sauce, tomato puree, lime leaves, paprika, cumin, coriander, tumeric, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Mix well to combine.

2. Heat the groundnut oil in a large saucepan. When it is hot, add the steak and brown for 1-2 minutes. Add the curry paste and mix together. Heat for another 2 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Ladle into bowls and squeeze over lime juice and tear over a few leaves of basil. Believe it or not, it’s ready!

Beef Penang Curry (3)

Curried Rack of Lamb with Pilau Rice


This is a delicious twist on a Sunday roast and is the first in my series of Cheap Eats; simple, quick recipes where you can cook fresh, tasty food for up to four people, all for under £50 per week.

Rack of lamb is a lovely cut and always looks tasty. The fatty layer on top is perfect for rubbing in spices, and the lamb works beautifully well with the Indian spice mix.

I chose to serve this with pilau rice, and if you’ve never made your own then forget the sweet, multi-coloured stuff you’ll find in supermarkets – real pilau rice is fragrant, delicious and a dish in its own right.

Try it out – this looks so impressive!

This will serve 4 and take up to 40 minutes to make.

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Curried Rack of Lamb with Pilau Rice

For the spice rub:

4 cardamon pods

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp tumeric

1 tsp medium curry powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vegetable oil

For the pilau rice:

450g basmati rice

1 onion

15g butter

1 cinammon stick

4 cardamon pods

8 cloves

2 bay leaves

1 small pinch saffron

Additional:

1 rack of lamb (approx 500g)

200ml natural yoghurt

1/2 cucumber

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

2. To make the spice rub, crush the cardamon pods in a pestle and mortar and remove the seeds. Discard the outside shell and keep the seeds in the mortar. Crush them as much as you can, then tip in the rest of the spices. Stir, and add the oil. Stir to create a paste, then rub this into the fatty side of your rack of lamb. Place in a roasting dish in the oven. Cook for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of your lamb and how rare you like it (you can tell how well done it is by checking the sides, but remember the inside will always be rarer). Leave to rest for 5 minutes when it’s cooked.

3. To make your rice, chop the onion. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Gently soften over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the spices, bay leaves and saffron. Stir, then add the rice. Coat the rice in the butter, then tip in 650ml water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat, cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

4. Slice your cucumber and mix with the yoghurt and a pinch of salt in a bowl. You can serve this alongside your rack of lamb and rice. Enjoy!

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