Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Dinner for the workforce

Today we've been putting up the new shed. Not so difficult, however dismantling the two other sheds it replaces and taking them to the tip was less fun. Karl was really quite taken with the whole 'Shedopolis' look of three(!) sheds in the garden, but that was never going to fly, was it sweetheart? Now that it's all up and painted with wood preserver stain thingy, it looks great. Chris enjoyed helping his Dad with some of the painting, althought 'muggins' here volunteered to climb around behind the shed to do the back wall, which is probably less than a foot from the neighbours' fence. Still, at least it's exercise. James just sat, in his Bumbo, under a parasol, watching us and chewing on a selection of toys. Never mind a dog's life...

Because we'd been hard at work in the hot sun, we had dinner tonight in the garden. I made a risotto, something we all love but that we haven't had for quite a while. I really enjoy making risotto, a mindless half an hour spent stirring means some much-needed down time. Today I listened to good old Radio 4 while I was cooking dinner, but I always have the radio on or some music playing.

I prefer to use carnaroli rice for risotto, which has larger grains than the other two kinds I've tried (vialone nano and the most widely available type, arborio). I can't find it locally, so it's another of those things that I have to stock up with when I'm away from home, or chat up visitors into bringing some for me. The stock should be homemade, but chicken stock is so easy to make that it shouldn't be a problem. My freezer is normally full of the stuff since we have roast chicken so often. It's not the same, but the Knorr liquid stuff called 'Touch of Taste' will do if you really can't face it. I should probably point out that James eats this because it's made with homemade (and therefore salt-free) stock, but if you use a prepared stock it won't be suitable for babies. Put the stock in a saucepan and keep it hot, but not boiling, at the back of the stove while you cook.

Bacon & Pea Risotto

25g butter and a drizzle of olive oil
1 onion, diced
200g risotto rice
glass white wine
800ml hot chicken stock
170g chopped bacon or lardons
100g frozen peas
fresh parsley, finely chopped
20g fresh parmesan, grated

Melt 15g of butter with a drizzle of olive oil in a deep, heavy frying pan. Soften the onion, then tip in the rice, stirring to coat all the grains with the fat. Pour in the wine and cook for a minute or so to evaporate the alcohol. Then, still stirring all then time, add a ladleful of chicken stock at a time and allow it to be absorbed by the rice each time before adding the next. After you've put in 2-3 ladlefuls, add the bacon and continue cooking in the same way. When only one ladleful of stock remains, and the rice is almost cooked through (test as you go, scooping out a grain of rice with a fork), stir in the frozen peas and the last of the stock. When this is absorbed add the parsley, parmesan and the last 10g of butter, cut into pieces. Give it all a good stir, then take the pan off the heat, cover it and leave it for a couple of minutes while you finish off any last minute bits.

Serve with a green salad and another glass of wine for the grown-ups (or at least the over-18s!).

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