I’ve always found risottos quite hard to make since they can easily turn out quite bland and soggy. The trick is to use a strong stock mixture and only add as much as you need to the rice, even if it means you end up with some left over.
In a saucepan, gently fry 1/2 onion, thinly sliced and 1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced, in a little oil until translucent. Add 3-4 fingers okra, sliced, 2-3 inches courgette, cubed and 2 mushrooms, cubed, and fry for a further 1-2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup short grain rice and 1/2 tsp thyme, stir to coat, then over 15-20 minutes add approximately 1 cup of strong vegetable stock (I used a generous teaspoon of stock powder), stirring frequently and only adding more stock when the rice has absorbed the water and the bottom of the pan is bubbling. The more you stir the risotto, the creamier it will get. When cooked the rice should be soft and slightly translucent, although retaining a little bite. Sprinkle over cracked pepper and a small handful of grated hard cheese such as Parmesan or Wensleydale.
Serves 1, easily scaled.
Total cooking time: 35 minutes; active time: 20-35 minutes (I did the washing up while the risotto was cooking, but if you’re less experienced you might need to keep more of an eye on things)
- Omit the cheese for vegan; parmesan-style cheeses are often not suitable for vegetarians, so make sure to check if you are serving vegetarians
- Any green vegetables can be substituted into this risotto. Very soft vegetables such as peas or spinach should be added five minutes from the cooking time. Stinging nettles can also be added to a risotto – once they’re cooked down they lose their sting – but wear rubber gloves to protect your hands while collecting, rinsing and preparing them.
- For a richer flavour, add a little soy sauce or miso paste during the cooking process
- Long grain rice can be used to make a risotto, but it will be less creamy and more sticky so it’s best to use short grain if you can afford it.
I’m eating this as I type – for something I just threw together it turned out surprisingly well!
Cover 1/4 cup couscous with 1/2 cup boiling water, add a pinch of salt or stock powder, cover and set aside for 10 minutes. Finely dice 1/2 apple, 1-2 inches of plantain and 1-2 inches of courgette, and shred a handful of spinach. Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the vegetables, 1 tbsp sweet pickle or chutney, a pinch of sage, a pinch of thyme and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle over a small handful of grated cheese.
- Omit the cheese for vegan
- I haven’t tried this but it should go well with thinly sliced cooked ham or pork
- Mixed herbs can be used instead of the sage and thyme if you don’t have them to hand
- Spinach should be substitutable with other robust salad leaves.
Cover a large handful of pasta in boiling water, add a little salt, and cook on a roiling boil until the pasta is al dente. Meanwhile, fry 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced, 2 mushrooms, thinly sliced, 3-4 okra, thinly sliced and a handful of green beans, thinly sliced, in a little oil until beginning to brown, then set aside. Drain the pasta and add to the vegetables; rinse out the saucepan used for the pasta and return to the heat. Melt 2 tbsp (25g) butter then add 2 tbsp plain flour and stir until a thick, bubbly paste is formed. Cook for a minute on a medium heat, then add 2/3 cup milk in small increments, making sure the sauce has thickened enough to leave the sides before adding more milk. Stir in the pasta, vegetables, and a large handful of baby spinach, then season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat once the spinach has wilted.
Serves 1 generously
- For a cheese sauce, add a handful of grated cheese to the sauce with the pasta and vegetables.
- For vegan, substitute the butter for dairy free margarine and the milk for slightly less of a non dairy alternative such as soya or hemp. Don’t use coconut milk – it doesn’t work well for a white sauce.
- Other green vegetables such as peas, courgette, broad beans etc. will work well. Chard or pak choi can be used instead of the spinach, although it’s best to separate the leaves and stems and cook the stems with the rest of the vegetables.