My First Risotto

Finally decided to try to cook risotto after months of watching my friend at work, S, bring in delicious looking risotto lunches. I’ve always been wary of the amount of stirring that i knew to be involved, but S convinced me that it being a one-pot dish, risotto should be relatively painless and can be very versatile (she puts beetroot in hers).

As this was a first attempt, I stuck to the basics: bacon, broad beans, peas, and a little yellow onion as the flavours of the risotto. It was extremely tasty, especially with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan on top, a bit of lime juice, and several grinds of black pepper. I think the lime juice is important because it cuts through the acidity, and with something like risotto where chances are it’s a lazy evening and you haven’t cooked anything else, you’ll want some sharper bursts of flavour as you munch your way through the one dish. Fresh lemon juice probably works too, but I think the sweetness of lime goes better with the bacon in particular.

butter makes this world go round

butter makes this world go round

An apology though – I’ve decided though to not post a recipe because I honestly can’t remember the exact quantities used! I think I might start just posting loose recipes rather than hard and fast ones with exact measurements and timings, especially for dishes where I haven’t reproduced it enough to make me confident about the recipe. I’d love for my blog to be a documentary of my food experiences and for it to inspire others to turn to cooking for pleasure too, and I think it can do that without necessarily being an instruction manual. Having said that, one of my colleagues R was kind to say today that he made my lemon sole and pasta dish and said it turned out a very good way of cooking the dish! So, a big thank you to you all who read and post feedback — I really appreciate all of your positive thoughts as it is lovely to be part of a community of good-willed food lovers out there.

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Pan Fried Chicken Wrapped in Bacon

I was craving buttery and savoury meat on Monday evening – as you do on Mondays, naturally – so I thought I’d try to make chicken wrapped in bacon, which I had seen on Junior Masterchef the night before. Sadly I don’t think my rendition looked as good as the young contestant’s, the comparison of which is very humbling and just goes to show that Cooking with a capital ‘C’ on live television is an entirely different ballgame. It probably isn’t as fun as cooking in your own kitchen though.

i’m beginning to think that when it comes to food, colour is everything

I find it tricky to cook chicken breast and not have it end up very dry in the pan. This time around, I added butter throughout the cooking process, and also some drops of hot water just to let the chicken steam in its juices. It turned out quite moist, so I was pleased, but I still feel in the dark as to how other people usually pan fry chicken breast; I almost feel that I cheated with the butter, water and the bacon fat that rendered. Thoughts?

For the penne I drizzled olive oil, a bit of fine sea salt, and an Italian herb mix from M who had picked up a variety of spice mixes from his trip to Italy and generously gave me various mixes to use at home. Honestly I wasn’t sure what the green bits were (oregano or thyme or basil, I presume?) but it was tasty and meant that I didn’t have to whip up a dressing or sauce to go with the pasta.

Pan Fried Chicken Wrapped in Bacon

Ingredients (for two portions)
120 grams of dried penne
2 chicken breasts
2 slices of smoked back bacon
butter, approx 1 tablespoon
olive oil
lemon juice
fine sea salt
coarsely ground black pepper
*optional: Italian herb mix, and salad to go with the dish

Method
1. Rub a little olive oil and lemon juice (no more than 1/2 teaspoon per breast) into the meat. Dash sea salt and black pepper over both sides.
2. Heat pot of water for pasta, bring to boil, then tip in penne. Penne usually takes 11-14 minutes to cook, slightly longer than spaghetti.
3. Heat to medium heat a frying pan or skillet.
4. Wrap each chicken breast in one streak of bacon, taking care to wrap as tightly as you can.
5. When pan is hot, add bacon-wrapped chicken.
6. Be patient with the chicken: let it brown on each side before you flip it over. Each side takes about 5-6 minutes depending on the thickness. About halfway through the cooking process, add butter. If the pan gets very dry and starts browning, add a few drops of hot water to the pan to deglaze the pan and to let the chicken steam a little.
7. At this point the penne is probably done, so drain the pasta and then add olive oil and sea salt to taste. Season with salad dressing or herb mix if you like.
8. When chicken breast is fully cooked through remove from pan and let it sit on plate. Serve with penne and salad.

I brought this to work the next day for lunch – sooo much better than canteen sandwiches!

Spaghetti with Bacon, Asparagus and Mushroom

Fact — whoever came up with the classic combination of bacon and asparagus was a gustatory genius. (Same goes for the individual who thought of roast lamb and mint sauce; why on earth that works so well, I don’t know!)

Well I’ve taken inspiration from that very clever individual to whip up a very quick spaghetti dish, Spaghetti with Bacon, Asparagus and Mushroom. Short of buying a packet of ready-made cream sauce, I tried making this using single cream instead of whisking a combination of eggs and cheese for the sauce. Lazy of me yes, but some days after work I just want quick and easy, you know what I mean?

Spaghetti with Bacon, Asparagus and Mushroom

This makes for an easy and relatively inexpensive meal, and funnily enough the most expensive item in this dish would be the asparagus even though asparagus is a plant that actually grows very quickly. Something I learned after going out to Medley Manor Farm here in Oxford over the summer (for strawberry picking!) and was talking with the guy manning the asparagus booth who said that asparagus, in optimal warm conditions, grows up to 20 cm a day! That’s almost 1 cm an hour! He said that they’ll harvest it in the morning, take a break, then come back at noon to hack the asparagus stems down again. For such a fertile plant, asparagus sure is expensive and is marketed as a luxury foodstuff, though I guess it might be in limited supply because it only grows during the summer (the rest of the year it is left to grow into a very woody, tall hedge).

Here is the ‘recipe’, though please take my measurements of the quantity of cream with a pinch of salt — haha literally, too.

Spaghetti with Bacon, Asparagus and Mushroom

Ingredients for two portions
– 200 grams dry spaghetti
– 100 grams bacon, diced
– 150 grams asparagus (I realise this isn’t very helful, but use more than a handful…!), sliced diagonally into 2 inch pieces
– 10-12 mushrooms, sliced
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 120 ml single cream
– salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1.5 Tbsps olive oil

Method
1. Boil a pot of salted water. Curl in spaghetti when water has come to a boil.
2. In the meantime, heat a frying pan on medium heat. When making this dish I didn’t add extra oil as a lot of oil will be rendered from the bacon! Add in diced bacon, cooking both sides evenly so that it is crispy.
3. When bacon is done, set aside on a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.
4. Using the leftover oil in the frying pan, stir fry garlic, mushrooms, and asparagus. Lower heat to low-medium heat. Add a little water to the pan and cover the pan with a lid to gently steam the mushrooms and asparagus (this will soften the veggies). Do this for half a minute.
5. When spaghetti is almost cooked (should take about 9 to 11 minutes), add your crispy bacon back to the pan, drain the spaghetti (try to retain some of the hot pasta water), and then slide spaghetti into the pan as well. Mix spaghetti with the rest of the ingredients.
6. Add in single cream, mixing in hot pasta water so that you create a nice sauce to coat all of the pasta.
7. Dash salt and crack freshly ground black pepper over the pasta.
8. Serve piping hot!

I realise this is my third pasta post but I do love my carbs. Give me savoury over sweet meals any day 😉