Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Chicken & Tarragon Risotto (Frugal food in disguise)

Risotto may not fill your imagination with excitement and thrills, but suppertime is sometimes more about
something reliable, easy and not bank breaking. You can save your fancy foams and sous-vided zebra for payday. This recipe is definitely not boring, but it is simple, and is a staple 'a couple of days after the roast chicken on Sunday' recipe in my house. Being a texture maniac I love the fresh crunch of aniseed from the shaved fennel on the top, along with the feathery fronds on top of the soft creamy rice. You can omit any crunchy bits for special people like the Boyfriend who doesn't like surprises.

I tend to only cook this after having roasted a chicken, so I use stock I have made from the carcass and the left-over meat stripped after we can't eat any more. It's always a good idea to buy a bigger chicken than you need, simply because you then have nice cold roast chook for recipes like this. Or to dip straight into the mayo jar, illuminated by the glow of the fridge, door wide open. I definitely don't do that.

Quantities can vary to suit you. but allow approx 75g risotto rice per person and as much chicken as you need to use up. This is for 2. You will need approximately a litre of chicken stock. Reserve a third of a fennel bulb and finely chop the rest, saving the green fronds on top. Gently fry this in a saucepan in a splash of olive oil, and when softened add a finely chopped clove of garlic. Fry for another 2 minutes then add the rice. Stir well for a minute, coating the rice in the oil, then add a glass of white wine. Let it cook, stirring most of the time until absorbed, then add hot stock, ladle by ladle, waiting each time for it to be absorbed, until the rice is almost tender but with a teeny bit of bite. Not crunch, bite. Take your time, don't let it bubble away angrily, this is a caaaaalm dish. Half way through add a large tbsp of tarragon (I don't use it often so find dried works perfectly well). Season and add the chicken in shreddy bits. You only need to warm it though. Stir in a handful of grated Parmesan and serve with the reserved fennel shaved with a peeler on top with the chopped fronds sprinkled over.

You might be a bit tipsy by the time you eat this, as the temptation to down a bottle of wine while doing all that stirring can be overwhelming, either way it's a lovely light risotto, and you feel be nice and wholesome in the knowledge that you got the absolute most out of Sunday's chicken.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Home-made Pita Bread (almost too much excitement)*

Who doesn't love a bit of dip and pita bread? Whether it's hummus straight from the tub at 12.30am after a
Something a bit biblical about a basket of bread!
trip to the pub, or dipped into some lovely beetrooty-yoghurty puree (will post once my hands have returned to their normal colour), faithful pita bread has been an important and useful part of my feeding regime for many years. But I have always bought it. Never thought to make it. Which is weird as I normally like to have a go at most things, chapatis, yes, focaccia, yes, pizza, yes, all sorts of exciting bready things, but never pita. This was a very silly mistake as it turns out it's so simple even a moron could make it. I did a bit of internet based research and found recipes varying from super complicated (mix ingredients, leave to prove for 3.5 days, punch air out and prove again for 38 minutes precisely) etc etc, and also found some much simpler ones, and this recipe is an amalgamation of the sensible suggestions. I first made these for an Easter Feast on Easter Sunday to go with a lamb shwawarma thing I made, just because I wanted to tell everyone it was kebabs for lunch.

Makes 10-ish. In a large mixing bowl add 1 tsp of quick action yeast to 235ml warm water and mix. Leave to dissolve for 5 minutes then. Measure out 350g plain flour, then  reserving a small handful for later, add the flour to the bowl, along with a pinch of salt and a small glug of olive oil. Roll up your sleeves and get mixing, it will make quite a sticky dough but once you've kneeded it for a good five minutes it should become nice and elastic and smooth. If too sticky add more flour, if it keeps breaking up, a tiny bit of water should fix it. I do it all in the bowl otherwise flour goes EVERYWHERE. I'm messy with flour. Take out the dough and plop a little olive oil in the bowl, put the dough back in and move it around so it is coated with a thin layer of olive oil all over. Leave somewhere warm for an hour to prove, and put a clean tea towel over the bowl. When you are ready to cook, get the oven to 230c and get a baking sheet nice and hot in there. To make the pita simply break off bits of dough about the size of a large walnut and on a floured surface and roll into a disc about 1/2 a cm thick. Do as many as you can fit on the baking sheet, lay them on the sheet and bake for about 3 minutes on each side. You don't have to turn them  but it does give them a nice bit of colour. *Watch with amazement as they puff up like little bready pillows and squeal with delight as your hard work pays off. Try not to cry as they deflate an hour later when your friends arrive for lunch. As they are cooking, roll out more so you're ready to cook the next batch. 

You don't even have to cook all the dough as it keeps in clingfilm in the fridge for a week. So you can say to your mates 'Oh don't worry about going to the shops, I'll just whip up a batch of pitta mwahahaha (that's your smug laugh)'.