Basic Risotto

A strange hybrid of Jamie Oliver and Mark Bittman, this risotto came about courtesy of a random dried mushroom purchase in Paris last Spring.  I may have promised mr416expat I’d make him a mushroom risotto…and now this winter I have made good on my promise.  This risotto recipe came about through watching an episode of Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals online and through flipping through Mark Bittman’s app ‘How to Cook Everything’.  I like to think I took a little bit from both recipes.  The wine and stock suggestion from Jamie and the mushroom business from Mark Bittman.  I fully acknowledge this is not a hard core risotto fan’s risotto.  This is my go-to-work night-need food asap risotto.  See for yourself:

Many good things start with melted butter

Onions...could be chopped more finely, but it was a weeknight and I was in a rush

Rice not yet glossy, keep cooking

The cheat - not a bouillon cube, but close enough

On sale for 5GBP - a very easy drink..I mean helpful wine for risotto

Cooking down, adding water, cooking down repeat

Add much cheese..note, my risotto probably could've stood to have cooked down further, but I was hungry

Basic Risotto – adapted from Jamie Oliver and Mark Bittman recipes

3 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
300 g Arborio (risotto) rice
1/2 c white wine
1 bouillon cube – this is my cheat – regular recipes call for stock (approximately 1L)
1L boiling water
1/2 c grated parmesan

Put on your kettle and boil some water.  You’ll need the boiling water later.  In a high sided, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped onion and stir, cooking until onion is softening.  Add the rice to the butter and onion mixture and stir occasionally until it is glossy (2-4 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the white wine.  I usually add about a glass full.  Stir as the wine cooks off.  Add the bouillon cube.  Add boiling water 1/2 c at a time.  Stir the risotto.  When the water is nearly evaporated, add another 1/2 c (or so).  Watch the temperature, you may fluctuate between medium and medium-high heat (especially if your stove top is prone to wild fluctuations like mine).  Continue adding water until you taste the rice and it is tender.  Add the parmesan, check your seasoning, and serve immediately.

What happened to the mushrooms you ask?  Well, Mrs416expat isn’t a great lover of mushrooms, so I rehydrated them, used a bit of the leftover liquid in the stock, and added the mushrooms at the end.  Mr416expat didn’t seem to mind.


A weekend in Kent

Last weekend we hired a car (a GBP22/day, 3-cylinder Peugeot 107) and rocketed off to the Kent countryside.  Kent is a county that borders London to the north, and the English Channel to the south.  We stayed at the 1406-built Elvey Farm, which has about 10 rooms and an on-site gourmet restaurant.  Because January isn’t prime time prices were discounted to GBP100 per night over 2 nights.

Kent all about the countryside, and Elvey Farm is right in the middle of Kent (some might add in the middle of nowhere).  But there is a decent enough pub 15 minutes walk away, as well as a 2-hour loop walk that has a rendezvous with another country pub.  The county was at a time known for producing hops (a key ingredient in beermaking) and is known as the Garden of England (though, to be honest, I think every region tries to lay a claim to this).  Still, if you’re looking for real deal English countryside within easy reach of London, this is it.

ImageSo, here’s our room – as you can see, huge!  One queen sized bed; two twin beds in the back room; a single bed to the right; and a big bathroom dead ahead.  Coming from our 400sqft London flat this was quite a surprise.


As you can see, entry into the room was another matter.Image

English countryside!


This was the view from Pluckley (the town with the pub) back down into Elvey Farm.  The first building in the centre of the show is the farmhouse and adjacent barn.


So no one wants to go on vacation in January – in spite of flowers blooming, somehow its too cold to enjoy the great outdoors.  These look like snowdrops, which Canadians are used to seeing in April.ImageImage

These pictures are from our longer 2 hour walk on the second day, along the Greensand way.ImageImage

I was good and didn’t chase any sheep.Image

Apple buds!Image

It was just a 2 hour walk, but along these muddy paths it turned out to be a real workout.  Hunter boots seem a lot less silly when you’re slogging through mud like this.


If moss can grow on it, it will.


This is a ruined church, built 1506, destroyed 1943 by a Nazi bomb.  Rather than tear it down, the ruins have been left intact.


Back on track!  Solid ground was a relief after the inch-deep mud.Image

This tree made me think of the Sam Roberts tree from We Were Born In A Flame.Image

English countryside!  Hunter boots!  Waterproof jacket, and a smile!  This is how we do it.

Chicken Fingers That Taste Like Chicken

Always in search of a quick last minute dinner, this week I turned to one of the more helpful apps on my iPhone, “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.  You may know Mark Bittman from his work in the New York Times.  He’s written a nifty little app that has an easily searchable database of recipes, the ingredients for which, you likely have in your kitchen.  I have recently taken to searching the app on my way home, grabbing any last minute ingredients (you may or may not count chicken as a ‘need to have in the freezer’ ingredient), and making dinner at home.  This last night was a slightly odd mix of risotto and the above mentioned chicken fingers.  Why chicken fingers?  Because Waitrose had chicken priced down from 4GBP to 2.69GBP.  That my friends, means we’re having chicken for dinner, regardless of how it pairs with risotto (surprisingly well).

Breadcrumb mixture, ready to be combined

Ready for the oven

Ready for dinner

Roasted Chicken Cutlets (or Chicken Fingers) – adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything App

2 tbsp olive oil
1 c bread crumbs
2 tsp oregano
1/4 c grated parmesan
400g chicken cutlets (or chicken breasts cut into strips)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400F.  Combine the oil, bread crumbs, oregano, and parmesan.  Stir until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip the chicken cutlets, first into the egg white, then into the bread crumb mixture.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a silpat baking mat).  Repeat until all your chicken pieces are breaded.  Press any leftover crumbs onto the tops of your chicken.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.