Sunday, September 30, 2012

Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto

In clearing out all my cookbooks and recipes, I stumbled across one using sage!  I don't often cook with sage, but I literally own a whole bunch of it.  Last year I bought a tiny sage plant and it has thrived, add that to the fact that I had all the ingredients and it seemed a good idea to have risotto for dinner.

OK, maybe I didn't have all the listed ingredients, but I had enough to substitute and make a delicious dinner!  In fact, I was listening to Jamie Oliver on a radio interview the other day - he was talking about his new cookbook, Jamie's 15 Minute Meals, which sounds like a book every household needs.  One thing he said though, sounded like he was talking about me.  When asked if everyone could benefit from using his new cookbook, Jamie said that first time, or inexperienced cooks would probably do better since they will follow the recipe exactly, where more experienced cooks will change and rejig a recipe.  Uh oh, he was talking about me!

Here is a glimpse of how I change and rejig a recipe:

Hand picked herbs, mainly sage, but also thyme and oregano.  My problem with cooking is I tend to throw things in and not measure them - so nothing can be repeated exactly. So you would think documenting my cooking would stop this practice.  But it doesn't, because I never added these herbs into this recipe.  I cut them up and put them on the butternut squash before putting that in the oven.  It wasn't until I saw this picture I remembered!

This recipe calls for the squash to be
cut into 2cm dice (I guess that would be about one inch).  But I don't do this because I absolutely hate cutting butternut squash!  It is too hard and takes the fun out of cooking.  So I always just bake the squash before using. It will change the texture of the finished product, but it always tastes good.  Just drizzle a bit of olive oil over the cut sides, throw some herbs on and bake at about 150 C  (300 F).  I tend to wait for about an hour, or as close to an hour as possible.  The squash will be mushy though, so it might be better to try it and see what texture works for you.                                                                                                      Before baking

After letting the squash cool, I just take a spoon and scoop it out.  Like I said, it will be mushy and this tended to disappear into the rice, making the risotto a bit orange, but I thought it was good!  This squash was double the size of what I needed so I used half for the risotto and half for soup.

                                                                                                       After baking

Assembling the ingredients

A traditional ingredient in risotto is wine, but I didn't have any white wine and felt that this did not have to hold me back!  I found white wine substitutes on the internet (what would we do without that?).  Turns out you can use a number of things instead of wine:
  • apple juice
  • chicken broth
  • apple cider
  • white grape juice
  • ginger ale
  • water

I used apple juice. 

Butternut Squash & Sage Risotto

Serves 4

400g butternut squash cut into 2cm dice     (just under a pound of squash cut into 1 inch dice)
2 tbsp olive oil
100g tenderstem broccoli                            (3 1/2 ounces)  ( I used peas since I didn't have broccoli)
       Half these lengthwise
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp sage leaves, chopped (about 12 leaves)
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
300g Arborio rice                                      ( 1 1/4 cups)
125 ml white wine                                     ( 1/3 cup)
1 litre hot vegetable stock                          ( 4 cups)
60 g soft cheese                                          ( 1/2 cup)   I used Philadelphia extra light cream cheese

This is they way the original recipe is worded:

1.  Preheat oven to 200C, fan 180C, gas 6 or 400F.  Tip the squash into a roasting tin. Add 1tbsp oil and mix well.  Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, then add the broccoli and cook for a further 20 minutes. 

Or my way:

1.  Cut squash in half, drizzle with 1 tbsp oil and chopped herbs (I used sage, thyme and oregano).  Place in a roasting tin and bake at about 150C or 300F.  I did mine for an hour and that was possibly too long.

2.  While the squash is baking, heat the remaining 1tbsp in a large frying pan and cook the onion for 5 minutes, until soft but not colored.  Add the garlic, sage and chili flakes. Cook for a further 1 minute then stir in the rice.

3.  Pour over the wine or wine substitute and simmer until it is absorbed.  Gradually add the vegetable stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring until it is all absorbed and the rice is tender.  This should take about 25 minutes.and the roasted vegetables, I scooped out the cooked squash and added a handful of frozen peas since the peas needed to cook.  If you follow use the roasted squash and broccoli, you would add this with the cream cheese.

This was the last "ladleful" which was bigger than normal because I got a bit impatient.  However, it did cook down and ended up alright!

4.  Season with freshly ground black pepper. Stir through the cream cheese and enjoy!
Nutritional information:
This meal contains 2 of your 5 a day.
Weightwatchers Propoints  approximately 10pp per serving
When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste. ~Laiko Bahrs

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Identifying a Pattern

Yesterday was the last day of my being off work due to stress of Mom's illness.  As a result, I felt even more pressure to accomplish something/anything. And I feel that I failed completely.  Ok, maybe I did something constructive:  I alphabetized my spices!  This took much longer than I expected.  And I did realize I am quite a lazy menu planner.  Not with everyday cooking, but with holiday meals.  And this was made so obvious by the 3 jars of Allspice I owned.  Their sell by dates were - November 11, 2009, December 8, 2010 and October 12, 2011.....From that pattern, it looks like I would be on target to purchase yet another jar pretty soon!  And I know exactly why!

Every New Year's Day I cook a large ham for a family dinner.  Living in Scotland, we really do not have access to large hams on a regular basis, at least not any I can find.  You only see these at grocery stores for Easter and the Christmas holiday season.  The traditional meal for New Year's Day in Scotland is Steak Pie, so I really don't get why hams also come out at this time.  But I am not going to argue, I just enjoy them when they are around.  Someone I knew made the most delicious spiced sauce to go with ham and this is the reason I own so many jars of Allspice and Ground Cloves.  (this is another recipe I will share, once I locate it!) 

October 25, 2012  Here is the link to the recipe:  Peach Ham Sauce

Holiday cooking is pressure packed and, now that I am aware, I must list all the ingredients I need for this meal and fail to take account of what I already own.  So every year I take a few teaspoons out of new jars and then they are neglected and forgotten the rest of the year.

Sadly, I think I run my whole life on full speed ahead and that is why we have so much unnecessary stuff in this house.  So I truly believe that after completion of this kitchen project, the rest of the house is going to be "under attack"!

“Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go.”

Erma Bombeck quotes (U.S. humorist, 1927-1996)


Monday, September 3, 2012

Doors Open Day

We took a well deserved break from the kitchen today and got to enjoy one of my favorite days of the year - Doors Open Day!  It is one day, or weekend, a year where many places not normally open to the public open their doors.  Unfortunately, there were 2 other really fun sounding events in the area this weekend.  When it rains, it pours! 

There was an Army day at Culzean, I can't find the link to it or what it was really called.  But some photos I have seen of the event had exhibitions of soldiers in a variety of uniforms and historical settings.  We thought this would be fun to take Corbyn to.  Here is the link to Culzean Castle itself.  It is always a fun place to visit, even when nothing is going on there!  Culzean Castle

Then there was also the Live @ Troon weekend.  This might have sounded too grown up for Corbyn, but a friend of our's is involved in the planning of it and informed us of the kiddie activities they were going to do.  So another choice.....

How does this happen?   Of all the weekends when there is nothing to do, and here are 3 really fun events, both for adults and kiddies, all at once?  Multiply this by the very limited time we see Corbyn on a Sunday and divide by the time I spend at the hospital visiting Mom and it is easy to understand the dilemma we were presented with.

So, halfway to Culzean, I made Alan turn around and go back to Doors Open Day.  He was not impressed and neither was Corbyn for awhile. But once we got to Belleisle and saw the tents with the big owls, and stand of used toys for sale, a bouncy castle and the wonderful Victorian conservatory that this whole event was about, I hope all was forgiven. 

When I first moved to this area, Belleisle was a fantastic venue for weddings, going out to dinner, just hanging out at the pub, visiting animals, walking along the walled garden and into the conservatory.  Through the years, all of this has ceased to exist as the local council allowed the place to fall into ruin.  But things are looking up for the building itself:

And another group has taken over the renovation and restoration of the conservatory....

The conservatory had trees growing out of it and all the glass broken the last time I saw it, so we did not know what to expect.  Here is what the outside looks like now-

I didn't have the chance to take any inside pictures because Corbyn did not like being in here.

 Corbyn did like the inside of the bouncy castle though!
We also visited Holy Trinity Church, where some of the people there gave Corbyn Doors Open Day balloons!
Our last stop was the University of West Scotland. This is the university our son attended, but he missed the new building!  We had to wait longer than expected before the tour started, so we sat in this cafe and tried to keep Corbyn from taking all the cabinets apart.  This picture is Corbyn looking for rainbows through the sky lights!  He said there weren't any, but at least he sat still for a while!  It was a really sunny day - what grandparents will do for even a minute's peace!
We only had Corbyn from 11 to 2:30 when he had to be picked up by his Dad.  I think we managed to squeeze in a whole day in those few hours.

"Do you know why children are so full of energy? Because they suck it out of their grandparents"

Author: Gene Perret