Stir crazy

I’ve never had much time for risotto. It takes patience and I don’t have it. I’ve tried to practise mindfulness but it’s no good; I’ll always be thinking about something else. Before you mistake me for some type A person (and anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m definitely not in this camp), the reason I’m not very good at relaxing is because I’m quite easily distracted.

Risotto has its uses though. For a start, it’s pretty good comfort food and we’re certainly in need of that at the moment. Just as we sloped back to work after a long Easter weekend, Theresa May (who, in some circles, is nicknamed Tresemmé) called a general election. Some called it a snap election; I’d liken it to Mayday. My first reaction can’t be repeated in polite company so I’ll leave the politics there but you get my drift. To paraphrase Whitney, it is right (wing), but it’s not OK.

So back to risotto. It’s actually pretty easy to make but does require a fair bit of stirring which, I discovered, is rather soothing – meditative, almost. I’m not promising that risotto will make you feel any better about Britain’s future but it might help a little. This recipe is also a good way to use spring greens and in-season asparagus and peas – and getting your vitamins will give you more strength to fight the system, right?

One last thing: what exactly is a ‘clean’ Brexit anyway? If it’s anything like clean eating, I’m sure that most of us will agree that it’s a load of bull…

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Easy peas-y risotto

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

300g risotto rice

200g frozen or fresh peas

2 shallots, diced

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 litre of vegetable stock

1 tbsp olive oil

300g frozen or fresh spinach leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

A few leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped (optional)

Freshly ground pepper

 

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan, then add the shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Using a sieve, rinse and drain the rice, then add to the pan. Mix well, coating each grain in oil – add a little extra if necessary.  Add a ladleful of the hot stock to the rice and stir well. Bring to a simmer as the liquid is absorbed by the rice.  Continue adding more stock, a ladleful at a time, letting the rice absorb it gradually; do this for about 15-20 minutes, until the rice is soft. Add the peas and stir through. After 2 minutes, add the spinach, lemon juice and black pepper until the spinach is just wilting.

Stir through the mint leaves (if using) and serve with steamed asparagus, green vegetables or on its own.

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You say potato…

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Poor old potatoes. The starchy spheres are often cast aside, especially now that the likes of courgetti and cauliflower rice are favoured over good old-fashioned carbs. I still enjoy a spud once in a while because sometimes only chips, mash or roast potatoes can fix a bad day, a broken heart and many maladies in between. In Heartburn (if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?), the late, great Nora Ephron writes about potatoes and love.

“I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”

Amen, Nora. I don’t think I’ll ever fall out of love with potatoes either.

This is a zesty take on classic roast potatoes and adding the spring greens makes it a lovely lunch for lighter, brighter and (hopefully) warmer days. Also, it’s asparagus season so any excuse to eat ’em… The ras el hanout, which is available in lots of international supermarkets and shops, works a treat but use a little cumin and cinnamon powder if you can’t get hold of it. Likewise, if you can’t find pomegranate molasses, just leave it out of the dressing.

This makes the perfect amount for two people but obviously you can change the quantities if you need to – potatoes are cheap, after all. I used Maris Pipers (my mum won’t use any other variety for her roasties) but any kind will do.

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Zesty potatoes with spring greens and creamy tahini sauce

Serves 2

3-4 large potatoes

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

1 teaspoon ras el hanout

5-6 sundried tomatoes, sliced

3 tablespoons black olives

 

Green vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus and cabbage

For the dressing

2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

Salt and pepper (to season)

 

Method

Rinse and scrub the potatoes (leave the skin on for extra crispness) and cut into even-sized pieces – you’ll usually get 3-4 from a large potato and 2-3 from a smaller one. Place the potatoes in a pan, cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, and parboil for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C (gas mark xx). Drain the potatoes and then return to the pan, cover with a lid, and give the potatoes a good old shake – this helps make them really crispy.

In an ovenproof dish, mix the lemon juice, ras el hanout and olive oil and add the potatoes to the pan making sure that they are coated in the mixture. While the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing: simply place the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well. After 20-25 minutes, remove the potatoes from the oven and stir through the sundried tomatoes and olives. Return the dish to the oven and roast for a further 5 minutes. Now, stir fry or steam the green vegetables for about 5 minutes and in a dry pan, toast the pine nuts for 2-3 minutes – any longer and they will burn.

When everything is ready, sprinkle the pine nuts and chopped mint onto the potatoes and drizzle the tahini dressing over the vegetables.