torta di risotto bambini

torta di risotto bambini

for years i have been moulding risotto into various shapes, and serving slices of the resulting torta on buffets and summer party tables. i love to eat and serve risotto, and this allows us to enjoy it in a completely different, make-ahead kind of way.

these little rice babies are so adorable and perfect for a dinner party and especially for your vegetarian guests. if you know you’re having vegetarians over for dinner, make risotto a few nights before and do up some individuals. you can reheat them in just 20 minutes and serve a special dinner without any fuss.

feel free to experiment with vegetables too. rounds of roasted yellow and green courgettes or a fat slab of grilled eggplant would be divine in the bottom of the mould. and your risotto can change with the seasons as well.

torta di risotto bambini

torta di risotto bambini

1 pint little tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup white wine
6 cups water or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
2 cups grated parmegiano reggiano
aged balsamic vinegar
white truffle oil

preheat oven to 450f. toss the little tomatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. roast on a parchment lined tray for 15-20 minutes, or until starting to colour and shrivel. set aside.

heat the water or stock to simmering. in a large pan, heat the 1/2 cup olive oil with half of the butter over medium heat. add the onion and garlic and cook stirring for 4 minutes. increase heat to high and add the mushrooms and some salt and pepper, stirring and cooking until mushrooms have released their water and have begun to colour, about 6 minutes. add the rice and stir to coat with the oil and butter. after drinking half the wine, re-measure, and pour it in the pan (you know you do this!) bring to a boil and stir until the liquid is almost gone. start adding hot water or stock to the pan, a couple of ladle-fuls at a time, stirring and cooking in typical risotto-making fashion. i taste throughout the process and stop adding water when the ice has some bite, and the rice is still rather soupy. it will thicken and cook further as it stands. add the cheese and remaining 2 tbsp. of butter. add a few drizzles of balsamic and some truffle oil. stir a few more times and then allow it to cool until the risotto has become less saucy and firmer. taste again and season as needed adding salt, pepper, or more truffle oil or balsamic or cheese.

line 6-8 single-serve vessels with plastic wrap and leave an overhang. i use ramekins, or stoneware timbale molds, or indian dahl bowls, whatever i have on hand. arrange the little tomatoes in the bottom, then spoon over the rice, right to the top. fold over the plastic, then chill until firm. overnight is best.

when ready to serve, preheat oven to 400f and line a baking pan with parchment. turn out the tortas and remove the plastic wrap. bake for 20 minutes, or until the little bambinis are hot and the bottom are sizzling and turning golden brown. serve hot with a nice salad, or some tomato sauce on the side.

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steel-cut oats with ginger-roasted figs

steel cut oats with ginger roasted figs

i recently posted a photo of figs on instagram and someone commented that they were adorable. aren’t they though? figs are truly the cutest of fruits! with their perfect shape, smooth aubergine-hued skin and varying shades of pink/ruby/berry inside, they may be my favourite little fruit to eat and photograph. don’t even get me started on kumquats. kumquats deserve their own post entirely.

i’ve written before about how i’m really not much of a morning person or a breakfast person, but damn if this blog isn’t making me one. it’s a fun process to develop interesting breakfast recipes that don’t make me shudder at the thought of eating before 2pm.

steel cut oats, also called irish oatmeal or pinhead (har!) oats are so far removed from those gloppy pouches of instant oatmeal. they are both oatmeal the way a can of pop and an 1869 chateau lafite are both drinks.

so why not make the lafite of oatmeal? ok i’m ahead of myself, you can decide if these are that good, with their luscious, juicy roasted figs, honey, ginger, and the secret ingredient, balsamic. don’t be weirded out! a few drops mellow the sweetness of the figs and honey and make the resulting saucy juices really pop. a scatter of toasted pecans hemp seeds adds texture and a hit of protein.

so don’t be a pinhead (like me). eat some breakfast!

steel cut oats with ginger roasted figs

steel-cut oats with ginger-roasted figs

1 cup steel-cut oats
4 cups water
1 lb fresh figs, cut in half
4 tbsp. honey
2 slices candied ginger, slivered
3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup toasted pecans, chopped
2 tbsp. raw hemp seeds

prepare the steel cut oats. (this can be done the night before*). in a medium pot bring the water to the boil and add a pinch of salt. stir in the oats. bring back up to the boil, cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 1 hour.

preheat oven to 400f. in a small glass roasting pan, toss together the figs with the honey, balsamic, and ginger. cover tightly with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. remove foil and cool to warm.

spoon oats into a bowl, top with 1/4 of the figs and some of the lovely oozing juices. scatter pecans and help seeds on top.

*you probably already know you can use this method to prepare your oats the night before. i did not make this up. what you will likely find in the morning is a very greeny-blue substance on the surface of your oats. people have asked me,

“what the hell?”
“is this mould!?”
“i left the oats out all night, and they’ve gone bad!”
“am i going to die??”

yes, you are going to die, we all are. but not from the green stuff on overnight oatmeal. they haven’t gone bad and mould can’t grow that fast. it’s a result of a chemical reaction and completely harmless. scrape it off and move on.

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chickpea burgers with smoky red pepper spread

chickpea burger

sometimes, what you want is a burger. and burgers can be made from anything, really, so a burger made from chickpeas, is every bit a burger. meat does not hold a monopoly on burgers!

vegetarian burgers come in so many incarnations. this one is not a meat substitute. it’s made with chickpeas, flavoured with garlic and herbs, and is almost like a fritter, so it holds together when you cook it. it’s a bit wet, so use floured hands to shape them.

it’s smeared with a smoky feta and red pepper spread, and piled with greens and avocado on a handmade brioche bun. le yum.

if you have a flat-top or a non-stick pan, use it for this recipe, and you’ll be happy, not swearing.

you can make these up and fry them in advance, up to 2 days, then reheat on a sheet pan. yay! we love do-aheads…

chickpea burger

chickpea burgers with smoky red pepper spread

makes 4

1 14-oz can chickpeas, drained
salt and fresh pepper
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tbsp. cilantro leaves
2 tbsp, mint leaves
juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 green onions, roughly chopped
1 thai chili, roughly chopped
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
canola oil for frying

place the drained chickpeas, a dash of salt and a few grindings of pepper, the garlic, cilantro, mint, lemon zest and juice, green onions, and thai chili. blitz a few times to break up the chickpeas so that some are mashed but some chunks remain. add the egg and butter and pulse a few times to combine. turn out into a bowl. mix together the flour and baking powder and stir into chickpea mixture. chill completely.

divide into 4 portions (you can make them smaller and divide into 6 if you wish). use floured hands to form into balls, and flatten slightly. heat a flat-top griddle or non-stick pan to high. brush with canola oil. place burgers on hot griddle, reduce heat to medium-high and cook 3-4 minutes per side or until golden and firm.

serve on split, toasted buns with tomato slices, avocado, and smoky red pepper spread.

smoky red pepper spread

1 red pepper
1/2 cup feta cheese, broken up
1 tbsp. hot smoked paprika
squeeze of lemon juice
2 tbsp. plain, natural yogurt

char the pepper over a gas flame, on the grill, or under the broiler, until blackened and blistered on all sides. place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and cool completely. use a paper towel to rub off the skin. pop the pepper open and remove the seeds. don’t rinse the pepper! place in the bowl of a food processor with the feta and the paprika. process until smooth-ish. add the yogurt, 1 tbsp at a time, until mixture is spreadable. add lemon juice. scrape into a covered container and chill.

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