Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Risotto ai Calamari - Risotto with Squid

When people hear risotto they right away think that it's something hard and problematic. Yes, you do need to be watching it a bit and have some patience, but it can't really go wrong unless you leave it and don't look to it for an hour. All you need is to add a bit of water/broth all the time and then taste it to see when the rice is done. If you don't like squid you can use the basic risotto recipe and combine it with mushrooms, sausages, chicken or what ever you fancy. Go ahead and try it...
350g fesh calamari or squid
olive oil
1 large challot
90 ml balsamic vinegar
2 tsp butter
Basic Risotto
500-600ml chicken stock
200g risotto rice
100ml white wine (dry)
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp grates parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Start by preparing 1-2 big challots. 1/2 a normal onion can be used instead but challots are recommended. Cut them lenghtwise first.
Chop finely the other way. Set aside for the moment.

Pad the calamari dry with a paper towel.

Stir-fry the calamari for a coulpe of minutes (2-3) in olive oil at high heat. Don't overcook or they will become hard and chewy. Remove from pan but don't clean the pan.

Lower the temperature and fry the challots till golden in the oil from the calamari.

Add balsamic vinegar. Let it reduce and thicken.

When the vinegar has reduced to half, add 2 tsp of butter. Let it melt while whisking.

Return the calamari to the sauce.

Add a bit of salt and put aside reserving liquids aswell.

Before anything else, start heating up 500ml of chicken stock. If you need more later, just add boiling water.
Here are the rest of the ingredients for the basic risotto

Heat 2 tbls. of olive oil in a large, flat pan with a thick base. Add the chopped challots and fry till golden.

Add the rice and fry it for a couple of minutes with the onions. Stir constantly. When they start smelling nutty you know they are ready.

Add the 100ml of white wine. The pan should sizzle.

When all the wine is absorbed, add the hot stock bit by bit, ladle by ladle.

Don't add to much. The rice shouldn't be swimming but rather be soggy. Add a ladleful and when that is almost absorbed, add another. You need to cook them anywhere between 20 minutes to 50, depending on the rice. Taste them to find out when they are done, and have patience.

When it's nearly done (taste it and see if the rice still has some bite/will stick to your teeth), add the liquids from the calamari.

Turn off heat and add 2 tbls of mascapone cheese, and 2 tbls of grated parmesan cheese. Stir it in.

Give it a good amount of freshly ground pepper, taste for salt.

Heat the calamari through and serve.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Gazpacho - refreshing vitamin boost

Gazpacho is probably Spain's most famous cold soup. And it's really easy to make. Here's how.

Ingredients: 1 large red pepper, 4 very ripe tomatoes, 1 small cucumber, 1 tiny onion, 1 clove of garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt to taste.

Clean and remove the pips and white part of the peppers, cut the rest of the veggies into smaller pieces, blend!

Add salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.

Leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill and let the flavours blend in together. Serve with a bit of chopped parsley and some croutons.

Chicken Tikka Masala

This was the first dish I posted on facebook (actually it was the second after having fried some chicken thighs). Originally it was meant as a challenge to see if anyone could improve on my version. It's one of my favourites and I'm always trying to improve it. So far this is the best version I think. But again, should you have any suggestions how to make it even better, leave a comment. Notice that you need to marinate in advance, so plan ahead before cooking it.
1/2 tbls Olive Oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Chili flakes
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
1 tblsp Ginger Garlic Paste (equal amounts of ginger and garlic)
Some ground coriander
1/4 cup (80ml.) of natural yoghurt
1/2 lime and some of its zest
2 chicken breasts
5-6 ripe tomatoes (or canned tomatoes): aprx 0.5l
50g cashew nuts
1 large onion
1 tbls of ginger/garlic paste
1 tbls of finely chopped jalapeƱos
2 tsp of ground coriander
2 tsp Garam Masala (toast and grind some cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, mace, bay leafs, if you want to make it yourself)
1 tsp ground cumin
Some whole cumin seeds
1 or 2 tsp salt
1 tsp of tumeric
Pinch of sugar
Cream (optional)
Fresh cilantro (not optional)
Mix the ingredients for the marinade.

Cut 2 chicken breasts into cubes and add to marinade.

Leave in marinade in the fridge overnight or at least 4 hours.

Now for the masala (sauce). Blend some tomatoes with a bit of cashew nuts. You want about 1/2 a litre of sauce. Canned tomatoes can easily be used and so can ready-made tomato sauce. However, fresh, very ripe and tasty tomatoes give a better result. If you only have hard, tasteless tomatoes used a good brand of canned tomatoes instead.

Chop a large onion finely and fry in olive oil till transparent.

Turn up heat and then add: ginger/garlic paste, jalapeƱos (didn't have them, so not in the pic), ground coriander, Garam Masala, ground cumin, some whole cumin seeds and 1 or 2 tsp salt (depends on your tastebuds).

Spices needs to get toasted a bit but careful not to burn them or the dish will turn bitter. Then add 1 tsp of tumeric which is more heat sensitive and should not get toasted.

Add your tomato sauce.

Cook well for at least 10 -15 min. Add pinch of sugar depending on the acid in your tomatos.

This step can be left out, but after the masala is cooled down you can blend it for extra smoothness. But as said, it's absolutely indifferent to the end result tastewise. And you'll have more washing up to do. A stick blender is another option.

Getting closer. Put the chicken on a quite hot grill. If there's a lot of excess marinade, first add that to the masala/sauce. Otherwise your chicken will boil and not grill.

When cooked and slightly browned they should look something like this.

Add them to the masala and cook for 5 minutes. Mainly for cooking the extra marinade, in case there was any.

Again another optional point. Add a bit of cream if you want extra-extra smoothness. Not the healthy option, but i said I would make the best version, not the healthiest.

Get a handful of fresh coriander/cilantro leafs and chop them up roughly.

Add to sauce... turn off heat...

And that's pretty much it. Just serve with rice and some naan bread.


As this is my first entry, I will start off with something easy. This is also my first test of the lay out and format. There might be changes along the way. Anyway, this simple pesto recipe is a real beginner level dish which goes back to my days as a student. Weekdays I would only use ketchup on my pasta but then I would go wild come the weekend. Give it a try.
40g pine nuts
45g basil leafs
50g parmesan
2 cloves of garlic
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

Start off by roasting the pine nuts on medium heat. Becareful to move them about so they don't burn. You just want to roast them lightly until they start giving off a pleasant smell. As soon as they are roasted, remove them from the pan and keep for later.

Wash and dry well the fresh basil leafs with a paper towel.
Chop the basil roughly. Over chopping will break the leafs and all the flavour will be on the cutting board and not in the pesto.

Crush and cut the garlic into smaller pieces.

And finally you need to cut the parmesan it into smaller pieces.

Add it all to a foodprocessor or a blender. Alternatively you can go old-chool on it and crush it all well in a motar. In this case add a bit of coarse salt to help the crushing along.
Drizzle in about the extra virgin olive oil and blitz it a few times until it has the consistency you like. Scrape down the sides a few times to make sure all gets well mixed.

Taste it for salt. Leave the pesto for and hour at least to let the flavours mix well. You can keep the pesto in the fridge for up to 5 days. Add a bit of extra oil on top which will help to preserve the pesto. But hey, why would you want to keep it for five days?

Add a couple of spoonfuls to some freshly cooked pasta of your choice. Toss it to coat the pasta well.

Here's the final result. Serve on a warm plate.