20 min Asparagus & Pesto Risotto


This was my first attempt at making risotto without assistance from my wonderful rice cooker.  The recipe was one from Jamie Oliver‘s 20min meal iPhone app where the directions are so easy it’s ridiculous at how beautiful it tastes.  If you love risotto like I do, then try this one out! yuuuummmmm…..

RECIPE AND DIRECTIONS FROM JAMIE OLIVER’S 20 MINUTE MEALS iPHONE APPLICATION

Asparagus and Pesto Risotto (2 servings)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium bunch – Asparagus
  • 2 heaped tsp – Pesto (home-made is best)
  • 1 sm – red onion
  • 1 stick – celery
  • 2 knobs – Butter
  • 150g – Arborio rice (Japanese rice also works well)
  • 400 ml – Vegetable stock
  • 25g – Parmesan Cheese
  • 100ml – white wine (use a nice one)
  • splash – olive oil
  • pinch – sea salt (I didn’t use any)
  • black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat your oven to the lowest setting & place your plates in the oven to warm
  2. Place a large saucepan on a low to medium heat.  Peel the onion & trim the celery stick then finely chop them
  3. Add 1 knob of butter to the hot pan with onion, celery, a splash of olive oil, and a splash of water.  Cook over a low heat for around 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until soft.  Meanwhile…
  4. Bring the stock to the boil in a medium saucepan, then turn the heat down to low.
  5. Snap the woody bases off the asparagus and add them to the saucepan of stock.  Slice the remaining tender stalks up to the tip then leave the tip whole.  Put to one side.
  6. Finely grate the Parmesan.
  7. Once your vegetables are very soft (but not browned) add the rice to the pan.
  8. Stir & fry the rice for a minute until translucent, then add the wine and keep stirring until all the wine has absorbed by the rice.
  9. Turn the heat under the rice up to medium then add a ladle full of hot stock, avoiding the asparagus stalks – these are there to add flavour but not to be eaten!
  10. Stir constantly and continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, waiting for the rice to soak it all up before adding the next ladle full.  Continue until you’ve used tow-thirds of the stock.
  11. Once two-thirds of your stock has been added, stir the sliced asparagus and tips to the rice.
  12. Keep adding the stock until the rice if just cooked and the risotto has a nice oozy consistency.  If you run out of stock, use boiling water.
  13. Take the pan of risotto off the heat and stir in your teaspoon of pesto and half the parmesan.  Cut your lemon in half then squeeze in a little juice.
  14. Taste the risotto and season with salt and pepper (if you need it).  Cover the pan with a lid.
  15. Divide the risotto between the two warmed plates.  Sprinkle over the remaining parmesan and top each with a dollop of pesto. DONE!

Blueberry, Blackberry & Soured Cream Cake with Cheese Cake Frosting


Distracted from the books again, but this time in the shape of an amazing cake recipe from the BBC GoodFood website.  This recipe is full of all the right things, but far from healthy, although I do trick myself into thinking a cake like this is good for you… it does contain fruit after all.  Anyway, what’s life without a little indulgence ehe?

This recipe is super easy and looks really pretty too, but most of all it tastes…well…find out for yourself, I swear you WILL love it 😛 oooo and the cream cheese and soured cream frosting with those beautiful little berries as they pop in your mouth….mmmmmhmm….

I wish I had made this cake in the morning to capture an image in the best of the day light, but artificial just had to do as I was definitely not going to let this little beauty tease me until morning.

You can find the recipe here.  The only adjustment I made was reducing the sugar  from 175g to 100g and used half blueberries, half blackberries. The tanginess of the blackberries really balanced out the sweetness of the frosting making it very moreish.

♡ Chilli Chocolate Slices ♡


White chocolate is marketed by confectioners a...

Image via Wikipedia

Chocolate is my vice, especially on days like these when you have to study.  I will do anything to put me into a mindset to open a 700 page textbook.  Luckily I don’t have to look too far.  A bar of 75% chocolate is all it takes for me.

My morning net search took me to my new favourite food blog ‘My Darling lemon Thyme’ where I found a scrumptious looking chilli chocolate slice recipe.  I can’t wait to try out more of her mouth watering recipes.  Take a look, I’m sure you will all agree.

Like any recipe I want to try out without pre-planning, there are always ingredients you never have.   In this case, I had already finished off the last of my blueberries over breaky so I used some dried fruit, and I have also never bought tapioca flour before so I used 1 1/2 tablespoons of corn flour.  There seems to always be substitutions on hand so the baking commenced and the results were just as I had expected, utterly satisfying.  Now where is that textbook of mine?

Information and image taken directly from My Darling Lemon Thyme’s blog;

chocolate, chilli and blueberry slice
This recipe is gluten-free and can easily be dairy-free by using margarine in place of butter and by making sure you use a good quality dark chocolate that’s dairy-free. I used trade aid dark chocolate. As I’ve mentioned before, get to know your chillies. I used 1 whole long chilli, but you may want to go for less or more depending on how hot you chillies are and how hot you want the end result. If you eat wheat, substitute the rice and tapioca flours for 3/4 cup plain flour or spelt flour.  Makes about 20 slices

  • 200 g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 125 g butter/ margarine
  • 1/2 cup muscovado sugar (or use soft brown sugar)
  • 1 long red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen/ fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup almond meal/ ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour (white rice flour is fine)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat your oven to 15o degrees/ 275-300 f. Grease yourself a slice pan about 20 x 20 cm. Line the base and sides with baking paper and make sure about 2cm of paper extends up and over the edges of the pan.
Melt chocolate, butter, sugar and chilli together in a small saucepan over low heat. Pour into a large bowl and set aside for 10 mins to cool slightly. Gently stir in flours, almond meal and eggs until combined. Fold through blueberries. Pour mixture into prepared pan and smooth off the top with the back of your spoon/ spatula.
Bake 35-45 mins or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Leave to cool in the pan before cutting into small squares, dusting with cocoa powder and devouring! Or if you have some serious restraint, hold off eating till tomorrow.
NB If using fresh berries I’d say they would take about 30-35 mins. If using Frozen like I did, allow a little longer – mine took 45 mins to cook.
Heavily adapted from a little women’s day cookbook called “Family favourites – easy biscuits and slices”.

Madhur Jaffrey my new Hero!!


What better way to end a day full of application filling and a well needed session of swimming than to make a curry!  For a long time I have followed only very basic curry recipes, thinking they were ok, but wondered why they didn’t taste the same as the ones you’re served in Indian restaurants.

I’d heard a few good reviews about Madhur Jaffrey’s curry’s before but never had the opportunity or ingredients to make any of her dishes.  A trip to the local library returned good results and I found her essential reference book on Indian cookery, ‘Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cookery’. It was this book that has changed my mind about cooking or being able to achieve, in my opinion and skills, the unachievable.  Hmmm…perhaps that statement was a little hyperbolic, but I just want to explain how good this following recipe is.   Unfortunately my image doesn’t show it any justice, but the taste is a different story!

Mixed Vegetables in a Mustard and Cumin Sauce

Ingredients: Serves 6

  1. 450g potatoes, boiled and cooled
  2. Vegetable oil for shallow frying
  3. 1 medium sized cauliflower, broken into fairly chunky florets
  4. 7.5com (3inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
  5. 4 T plus 600 ml (1 pint) water
  6. 1 t black mustard seeds
  7. 1 t cumin seads
  8. 1/4 t kalonji
  9. 1/4 t fennel seeds
  10. 1/2 t ground turmeric
  11. 1 t ground cumin
  12. 2 tsp ground coriander
  13. 1 t cayenne pepper
  14. 1 1/2 t salt
  15. 1/2 t garam masala
  16. 450ml finely chopped tomatoes
  17. 2 medium sized carrots (I forgot to put them in the basket) cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
  18. 150g peas (I used edamame)

Directions:

Cut the potatoes into thick ‘chips’.  Put the oil in a wok or frying pan and set over a medium-high heat.   When very hot, put in the potatoes and fry them until they are golden-red.   Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with kitchen paper. put the cauliflower into the same oil and fry until golden-red.  Remove with a slotted a slotted spoon and put on a plate lined with kitchen paper.   Turn heat off and reserve the oil.

Put the ginger and garlic into the container of an electric blender or food processor along with 4 T of water and blend until you have a smooth paste, pushing down with a spatula when necessary.

Put 4 tablespoons of the oil used for frying into a large, preferably non-stick,frying-pan and setover a medium-high heat.  When very hot, put in the mustard seeds and cumin seeds – put in the kalonji and, 2 seconds later, the fennel seeds.   Give one quick stir and put in the paste from the blender. Stir and fry for 2 minutes.

Put in the turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, and cayenne.  Stir once or twice and put in the salt and tomatoes.  Stir and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are soft.

Add 600ml (1 pint) of water and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn to low and simmer for about 7 minutes.   Put in the carrots, cover again and simmer for a further 3 minutes.  Now put in the gharam masala, peas, fried potatoes and cauliflower.   Mix gently and bring to a simmer. Cover and continue to simmer on a low heat for 6-7 minutes, stirring gently now and then.

While I Was Away


It has been a little over a month now since returning to Scotland.  Here is what I have cooked/ate whilst I have been AWOL from Bendi Benri.

Feeling a lot more settled in now I am ready to embark on my new life as a student AGAIN and get back into creating more yum.

Enjoy!

First up, home-coming welcome dinner, beautifully and deliciously prepared by my wonderful mother.  It is very clear to me now that my mum is the source for my desire to cook.  She effortlessly manages to put on amazing wholesome spreads.  What a mum.

Nutty Chocolate Brownies (heaven in your mouth) & Scones with Home made Jam

Victoria Sponge

prawn & avocado cocktail

Home Made Steak Pie

Home Made traditional Scottish Oatcakes

What I forgot to capture was the Ultimate Chocolate cake smothered in Ganache! I am gaining pounds just thinking about it! I swear that cake was to die for! Here’s a link to the recipe.

A flying visit home then back to Edinburgh to meet Izumi and Sofie, friends we met in Japan.  They had never tasted Haggis before, so Andy and I decided to take them to Urban Angel to give it a try.  I love the concept of this Restaurant, stylish and delicious, “using the best local, organic, free-range and fairly traded produce available.”

To follow I visited a three-day foodies festival, filled with freebies of scrumptious organically prepared fresh food from all over the country.  Some healthy and some just down right naughty!  I was in my element.

Salmon and potato pie!

Tiger Prawn Paella

Feeling inspired from my weekend boozing and munching, I bought a nice big bunch of fresh beetroot and put together a yummy beetroot cake smothered in cream cheese icing.  Here’s the recipe I used.  Yep, I AM growing by the day! Twice the size I was a month ago. Oops!

No time to break just yet.  The Edinburgh festival brought my folks and brother up to Edinburgh.  The weekend consisted mainly of indulgence and laughter. Good times!

Below we eat at Amore Dogs another very trendy restaurant serving Italian scrum.

tuna nicoise salad on the side of a grilled sea bass on a bed of baked tomatoes.

Goats Cheese & Sun dried tomato Risotto

Wow what a month.  Loved every minute!

I really miss Japan and crave a lot of the food we ate whilst we lived there, especially Soba noodles, so I treated us to a yummy crispy tofu soba dish.   Satisfying beyond expectation! Go me!

Ingredients; serves 2 if you really have to share.

2 portions of soba noodles

150g Tofu (drained and cut into cubes)

1 small red onion (sliced into half moons)

1 stick of celery

around 12 sugar snap peas (halved)

2 cloves garlic

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

1 T light soy sauce

1 tsp pure honey

1 T chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon chilli (from the jar or fresh)

2 T olive oil

2 tsp vegetable powdered bullion

2 T corn flour

Directions:

1.  prepare all ingredients

2. evenly coat the tofu in the corn flour

3.  heat up the olive oil in a wok or frying pan then add the tofu.  When coloured a reddish brown remove from the pan and place on some absorbing kitchen paper

4. In the same pan add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent

5. add the all of the other ingredients except the soba and basil and lemon then stir through on a medium heat.

6. In the mean time boil the soba until just tender then rinse quickly under cold water to avoid over cooking.

stir through the noodles, tofu, basil and lemon juice to the vegetable mixture then serve in warm bowls.

To finish, here is yesterdays lunch…

Chilli Squash Soup accompanied with rice crackers topped with cheddar cheese (hello my long-lost naughty friend) and cranberry sauce. yummmm…..

Ingredients; serves 4-6

I small butternut squash

4 sticks of celery

1 yellow onion

3 cloves of garlic

50g low fat soft cheese

2 tsp vegetable bullion

Directions:

1.  Saute the onion and garlic until translucent

2.  In the mean time bring a med/large pot of water (2 litre) the boil

3. cut the squash into cubes then allow to boil until tender

4.  when the squash is ready add all other ingredients except the cream cheese, then mix through

5. Turn off the heat then use a hand held blender to pulse the mixture until smooth(ish) stir though the cream cheese then serve in warm bowls

Stuffing my Face with Deliciousness


Some deliciousness from my last few days in beautiful Japan!!

After a wonderful 3 years it’s time to go home.  The clock was working faster than usual so I was determined to enjoy as many yum times as I could!

Below was a set lunch in a beautiful old Japanese style house/restaurant.  Kimchi dressed chicken (drowned in mayo) on a bed of salad accompanied with a kabocha salad, miso soup, fresh steamed rice and some tsukemono followed by a refreshing and revitalising yet slightly naughty ice coffee.

Regardless of the mayo overload the sugar and cream, the meal was a memorable one.  Time spent with wonderful friends always justifies the excess calorie intake.

Next up are photos from my very first experience of a Japanese tea ceremony.  I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to enjoy such a cultural experience.

One thing about the ceremony, which surprised me the most, was the attention to the detail of every movement you make during the ceremony and the many meanings behind every process from the tools used, the decor which surrounds you, the clothes you should wear right down to the words you should speak.

Our ceremony was a more relaxed one.  Hosted by Irino sensei, who has practised the art of the tea ceremony for over 30 years.  She explained her every move in such finesse. Also, her modesty in her abilities only added to the charm of the experience.

First served was a light meal which consisted of somen noodles and miso soup, onigri, grilled ebi, tsukemono and an egg wrapped processed fish (I have forgotten the Japanese name)

It is believed that eating a small meal such as this before drinking the tea layers the stomach from the harsh properties in the tea and also aids in absorbing its powerful qualities.

Shortly after the meal, we were then ushered to a waiting area whilst Irino Sensei prepared the next part of  the ceremony.

Below the ceremony is in process.  Irino Sensei skipped many parts of the tea ceremony  as it can take up to 5 or 6 hours to fully complete every step.  I wont describe every detail, but if you are interest please take a look here.  This website gives you a great insight into the traditional art form of the Japanese tea ceremony.

We enjoyed a thin macha in beautiful chawan (green tea cups).  Thin macha is apparently better drunk during the summer, due to its light texture and taste.

Wonderful 🙂

And now for the last lunch.  I couldn’t leave without spending one last afternoon in my favourite café.   The lunch there never fails to please.  From all the stresses of packing this café is my perfect place to relax.  We didn’t have a car or bike, so we walked for 45mins in the 36 degree humid heat to get there.   It was worth every minute and every cup of sweat which poured from us.

Satisfied!

What followed was a sad farewell and a 53 hour Journey back to Scotland.  Many long waits for busses, flights, connecting flights, delayed planes, planes missed, plastic plane food and numerous teas and cakes later, we are finally home.  Here is how we celebrated,

Goats Cheeeeeeeeeese 🙂 Ohisashiburi!

Yummy succulent and melt in the mouth Scottish salmon…mmm…

Kappa Cafe + My New Camera


It was a sad day last saturday when I boxed up Benri (my side kick in the Kitchen, my rice cooker).

I shipped her home with most of my dishes, books, clothes and about a kg of the best green tea in Japan.

I have been lost without her.  I haven’t been motivated to cook and when I do, my dishes seem to miss something.    Only 3 months until I see her and we can share wonderful cooking times together again.

Safe journey little one 🙂

The rainy season is here in full force and the sun is struggling to shine in my direction.  After the departure of Benri a new baby arrived.  One in the form of a DSLR.  I have been dying to take her out and show her some beautiful sights and create great memories with her.  Sadly, it has rained every day, cloudy and grey.

What I did do is take her to my favourite Cafe.   Here are some memories we made there.

Purple Birthday Cake Update


Ok, so here is the update on the beautiful eggplant cake I found.

Well, I followed this recipe, however I forgot to add the 1/2 cup honey…doh!  Not really getting off to a great start here.

At first the blueberry purée was the most wonderful colour then I added the grated eggplant.   At that point the colour began to lose its vibrance.    I was still insistent on continuing, so added the wet stuff to the dry stuff.   I really should have trusted my painting knowledge on that of course when you add white to a dark blue it WILL become a light grey blue.   And yep, that’s exactly what happened.   Again I was still determined to finish what I started and make the most of this grey mess, so I hopped on my bike covered in flour and my face splashed with blueberry juice then cycled to the nearest supermarket to pick up some red food colour.

Yep, I was more concerned about it looking better than it tastes and gave in to the unnatural colourings.

I proceeded to doctor up the batter and voilà, the colour changed from grey to a dark eggplant purple.  Lovely 🙂  At that time I wasn’t aware of the lack of sugar in my cake and transferred the batter to the rice cooker.   Switched to 50mins then got stuck into the dishes.  I had a wee taste of the batter and it tasted really bitter from the eggplant skin!!  It wasn’t sweet AT ALL!! ahhhhh!

So here it is, the cake is now out of the oven (not looking very purple), smelling like vegetables!  I probably should take that as a sign that it’s going to taste like that too, but I’m still not giving in!

What I have done right is the frosting. It’s out of this world.  Soooo easy to make and tastes super naughty in a great way.   I’m hoping the frosting will save me.  What do you think?

Hmmm I’m not so sure.  I’ll wait till the morning and see how it looks and smells.   I think I’m hoping for a miracle to happen over night.  Who knows?

I’ll let you know how it goes.  Wish me luck!

♥ Suzie