Butternut squash risotto

I didn’t used to like risotto in the past, and only started liking it when I started making my own. These days I have a couple of ones I keep going back to in my kitchen, a butternut squash one and a beetroot one (click here for recipe). They are also both good vegetarian recipes (apart from these risottos and a couple of other recipes I don’t cook much vegetarian), however make a great meal even for a carnivore like me.

serves 3-4
1 butternut squash
700 ml vegetable stock (I use water mixed with Bouillon powder)
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 celery stick
1 bay leaf
4-5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
250g Arborio risotto rice
4 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
200ml white wine (Sauvignon Blanc is good)
80g grated parmesan cheese

1. Heat oven to 180°C / 355°F. Cut, peel and deseed the squash. Place half of the prepared squash in an oven dish. Drizzle with half the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Place the other half of the squash in a pan together with the vegetable stock, bring to simmer.

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2. Finely chop the onion, and place in a pan with the remaining olive oil, and half the butter. Whilst the onion is frying for few minutes, finely chop the garlic and celery. Together with the herbs, add to the onions, and cook for couple of minutes.

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3. Add the rice, and stir together. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, then add the white wine. Simmer until the wine is reduced.

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4. Start adding the stock, one ladle at a time. Let the liquid absorb before adding more. Keep stirring the mixture.

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5. When there is only a little bit of stock left, mash until pureed, and add to the rice. If the rice isn’t yet cooked enough, you can also add the puree little by little.

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6. Add most of the roasted squash pieces, remaining butter and most of the cheese. Mix together, and let stand for couple of minutes. Season if required, and give another stir. Serve with the remaining roasted pieces and parmesan cheese.

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Lasagne

 

This Italian dish is usually a foolproof way to keep everyone happy: from children to adults, continent to continent, carnivore to a vegetarian, everyone usually loves their version of this food. I’ve made my own lasagna sheets for this dish, but you can absolutely use shop bought, dried ones too. This won’t change anything in the steps, apart from the fact that you can skip the pasta making step. If you are making you own pasta, I would start by making it first, as you can then leave it to dry while preparing the other things. For a vegetarian version, just replace the mince beef in the Bolognaise sauce with vegetables (peppers, mushrooms, courgette / zucchini etc).

Pasta
300g pasta flour, 00 grade
3 eggs

1.  Measure the pasta flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and pour the eggs in. Then, starting with a fork, break the eggs and little by little mix the eggs with the surrounding flour. Once the dough gets firmer, move onto kneading by hand.

2. Divide the dough into three pieces. Flatten the pieces with your hands, and roll through the pasta machine, on the biggest setting. Fold the dough over in half, and roll through the same setting again. Then reduce the setting to the next, and roll through. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved (I went all the way to setting no 3). Next, using a knife, cut into sheets. Then, leave to dry while you prepare the rest.

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Bolognaise sauce
1 celery stick
1-2 carrots
1 medium onion
2-3 garlic cloves
handful of fresh basil leaves
handful of fresh parsley
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp tomato purée
dried oregano
dried herbs de provence
olive oil
salt
black pepper
~~~~~
250g mince beef
salt
black pepper
paprika powder
ground allspice

1. In a blender, finely chop onion, garlic, carrot, celery and fresh herbs,  and a splash of  olive oil. Pour in a pan, and fry until soft.

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2. Blend the chopped tomatoes and tomato purée, and add to the pan. Add dried herbs and season with salt and pepper. Depending on the thickness of the sauce you may want to add a little bit of water.

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3. Fry the mince beef in a separate pan, and mix together with the tomato sauce.

Béchamel sauce
25g butter
3/4 dl flour
7-8 dl milk
2 dl cheese, grated (mature cheddar is good, or you can use half cheddar / half mozzarella) + some on top
salt
black pepper

1. Melt the butter in a pan, then mix the flour with the butter.

2. 1 dl at a time, start mixing the milk in, stirring. If you can’t get rid of lumps, whisk may be useful. When you have mixed all the milk in, if you still have lumps you can run the sauce through a sieve, pushing the lumps through. Pour the mixture back in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring. Season with salt and pepper.

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3. Mix the cheese into the sauce and stir until it’s melted.

Lasagne

1. Butter your owen dish. Layer the ingredients, starting with pasta sheets. Put a little bit of the Béchamel sauce over the bottom layer of pasta, then cover with the Bolognaise sauce. Then, Béchamel sauce again.

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2. Put another layer of pasta, Bolognaise sauce and Béchamel sauce. Cover with a layer of pasta and Béchamel, and sprinkle cheese on top. Always have the pasta and Béchamel  sauce as the last layer. Bake 180°C / 360°F (fan) for about 45-50 minutes.

Meatballs and tomato sauce

I’m a kind of cook who usually just throws ingredients together, without exact measures (unless required by the recipe). I’ve sometimes made my recipes by just checking which ingredients certain food requires, and just come up with a perfect result through trial and error. Sometimes I swap ingredients depending on what I have in my cupboard or fridge. This is why writing this blog may be a challenge at times, however one I embrace and enjoy at the same time. Below you can find a recipe for my meatballs and tomato sauce.

Meatballs
500g mince beef (you can also replace half by mince pork)
3 eggs
1 dl breadcrumbs
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp allspice
2 tbsp fresh parsley
olive oil
butter
~~~~~
2 tbsp grainy Dijon mustard or
1 chilli

1. Finely chop onion and garlic, and fry in olive oil. Let cool.

2. Add all ingredients together, and either mix in a blender (for finer texture) or by hand. If mixture is too hard/dense, you can add some water (or cream), or if it’s too soft add more breadcrumbs. Sometimes, I add a finely chopped chilli for a bit of a kick. This time, for the balls in the picture I added grainy Dijon mustard instead.

3. Shape into even size balls, and fry in butter in a frying pan.

Tomato sauce

This is my basic tomato sauce I use for everything, from bolognaise to pizza. I don’t usually use cream with tomato sauce, but I wanted to try how it would work this time, and it worked well.

1 celery stick
1-2 carrots
1 medium onion
2-3 garlic cloves
handful of fresh basil leaves
handful of fresh parsley
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp tomato purée
dried oregano
dried herbs de provence
olive oil
salt
black pepper
(splash of cream – optional)

1. In a blender, finely chop onion, garlic, carrot, celery and fresh herbs,  and fry in olive oil in  pan.

2. Blend the chopped tomatoes, and add to the pan. Add dried herbs and tomato purée, and season with salt and pepper.

3. Put back in the blender, to make extra smooth texture, otherwise it’ll be somewhat coarse.

4. If using cream, add a splash.

Beetroot risotto

This dish is one of my husband’s all time favourite dishes. I actually never used to like risotto, until I started making my own.

500g fresh, raw beetroots, peeled, trimmed and cut into wedges
splash of olive oil
knob of butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
250g risotto rice (I use Arborio)
150ml dry white wine (I use Sauvignon Blanc)
700ml hot vegetable stock (for this I mix Bouillon powder with water)
handful of grated parmesan cheese
dill
crème fraiche

1. Heat oven to 160°C (fan).

2. Put chopped beetroot in an oven proof dish. Sprinkle with olive oil, season and cook for about an hour, until soft.

3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan, and cook the onion and garlic for about 3-5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the rice and white wine, and let bubble on medium heat until the wine has disappeared (about 3 minutes).

4. Little by little, add the vegetable stock, stirring in between, letting most of it be absorbed before adding more liquid. This whole stage should take around 20 minutes. Once the rice is desired texture, move on to the next stage.

5. Remove the cooked beetroot from the oven and take about a 1/4 aside, to blend into a puree. Chop the remaining 3/4 into small cubes. Then add the pureed and chopped pieces to the risotto.

6. Stir in some parmesan cheese and chopped dill. To serve, add a dollop of crème fraiche on top, and sprinkle some more parmesan cheese and dill.