I'm in Cornwall, in the middle of nowhere again. The weather's not that pleasant, but it's nice to be here. LOVELY to have my pets around too...the kitten has grown even more - proper sausage cat now. Cleo his mother appears to be becoming more relaxed all the time, though she's still hissing and spitting at the dogs. Rocky is friendly and beautiful as always, though he's beginning to show signs that he's not the baby dog any more - big shame, he was a fantastic puppy. The new Labrador (Cassie) is beautiful and such a sweet little creature. She's quite shy, but full of love once she gets over that. Full of beans, too. Kiri always was, but I'd forgotten what it was like to have what amounts to a puppy around. There's still the possibility she might have puppies - she escaped with the Jack Russell from up the road on several occasions while in season. I think we're all hoping she might be pregnant...would be SO much fun. Won't know for a few weeks yet.
The blackberries are all ripening, but if the weather continues this wet they'll rot on the branches. I took the dogs walking on Polly Joke and the dunes behind it earlier, and dawdled along eating them. Cassie loves them, too - she was picking them herself! Apparently she's already eaten all of the ones in the garden. I'd like to get out and pick some, but they aren't quite ready down here and I suspect they'll just rot on the branches in Cambridge even if I COULD find time to go out for them in the next couple of weeks.
I've been prepping for my big barbecue tomorrow all day today. I've made The Best Brownies Ever (something arrived at with much taste testing and long suffering work colleagues...), two heat levels of a new caramelised onion tomato relish I'm experimenting with, the rosemary cracker bread from the Smitten Kitchen blog (I have a growing obsession with food blogs...) AND I made mushroom risotto for tea. I'm going to post the risotto recipe, because it the only one that's mostly mine that I've had a chance to taste yet! I love risotto. Simple to make. Comforting to eat. Endlessly variable. Contains rice. I like rice. My recipe has a few nods towards authenticity, but I wouldn't want to serve it to an Italian. They will know better. It's just a nice thing to eat on a weekday evening.
250g Arborio/Carnaroli risotto rice
Half a cup of dried mushrooms (porcini would be great)
1 glass of white wine
One large red onion, finely diced.
2 sticks celery, finely diced
Butter and olive oil, for frying.
500g dark gilled mushrooms - the better the mushrooms, the better the dish - chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Good vegetable stock - homemade, or a good brand. You can use hot water if required, it would be better than cheap stock, which mostly seems to taste of salt in my experience. If you're less finicky about where your meat comes from than I am, good chicken stock would also work. Make sure it's hot - keep it in a pan on the side, or only mix what you need for each addition with water from the kettle.
Black pepper - you shouldn't need salt because of the cheese
A good handful of grated parmesan. About 2 cubic inches of a block, at a rough guess.
Soak the dried mushrooms in enough boiling water to cover before you start all of your chopping. Gently fry the onion and celery in olive oil until soft but not coloured - this will take a full 10 minutes, so you can chop the mushrooms while it cooks. When the veg is soft, add the a dessertspoonful of butter and allow it to melt, then add the rice and stir to coat. Fry for a few minutes until all the grains are well coated and the pan has heated up again. Add the wine and stir until the rice has sucked it up. Remove the dried mushrooms from the water and squeeze them out. Add the mushroom water to the pan and stir again until the rice has taken it up. Start adding the stock around a ladleful at a time, stirring between additions and only adding the next ladleful when the previous one has been taken up. The stirring massages the starch out of the rice, giving you a creamy sauce. Meanwhile, fry the mushrooms in another dessertspoonful of butter and a slug of oil (oil for heat; butter for flavour!). Allow their juices to run out and then evaporate off, concentrating the flavour. When the dark liquid in the frying pan has more or less gone, sprinkle in the garlic, stir, and turn the heat off. Keep adding stock to the rice until it's around 3 times the volume it was when you started - taste a grain of rice. It should be al dente, with a tiny bit of crunch to the middle. If it's too hard, add more stock and keep on cooking... When you reckon it's done, add about two thirds of the grated parmesan and stir. The sauce that looked a bit watery will magically become silky and slightly gelatinous. Add some good grinds of black pepper. Chop up the now reconstituted dried mushrooms from earlier and stir them in. Stir through the fresh garlic mushrooms and warm through. Serve on warm plates, with more parmesan and black pepper to throw over, the rest of the bottle of wine and a green salad on the side. Ace.