2014 May |

Monthly Archives: May 2014

Risotto Cake with Roasted Vegetables


What a success this dish had been.  It not only looks good but tastes delicious.  Originally a Jane Baxter recipe, I’ve tweaked it quite a bit to make it a little easier and more to our taste.

It definitely needs some salad greenery alongside.  Either a small bed of mixed greens as a starter, or a generous side salad if serving it as a main meal.

The recipe is not difficult and actually it’s surprisingly quick.  Risotto however is always needy as you have to stay by its side and not slip out of the kitchen to send off emails or hang out washing.   (You can however go to the oven and turn over the roasting vegetables, and remove them from the oven whilst risotto ‘ladeling’).

As it all has to cool I actually left the finished risotto and vegetables for the day – covered –  then, early evening, I spent an easy 10 minutes ‘layering’ the cooked components, then baking it for 30 minutes.
The layering part was fun, and the end result is a ‘wow’ moment.

Easily serves 6 as a starter.  It also should have managed 6 as a main – with a generous rainbow-content salad alongside.  However as three of our foursome had ‘seconds’, only a small 5th portion was left – and no 6th !
Either be cruel and say ‘no seconds’ to your six guests, or aim to serve 4 and have yummy left-overs the next day.


Serves 4-5-6

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 generous tbsp olive or coconut oil (for cooking)
…plus some olive for coating the vegetables, oven-ready
pinch of saffron
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds
1-2 chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped (if you like chilli, 2 were very manageable)
200g chopped tomatoes, canned (or use the whole can and a little less broth)
450g arborio (risotto) rice
1.2 litre hot vegetable stock
1 aubergine, thinly sliced, but not shaved
3 courgettes, thinly sliced, ditto
1 bunch fresh basil, torn or sliced
250g mozzarella, sliced
200g roasted red peppers (some then need peeling but some don’t – up to you!)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cook the onion in the oil over a low heat until transparent.  Add the crushed garlic, fennel seed, saffron and finely chopped fresh chilli and stir for another few minutes before adding the rice and chopped tomatoes; coat the lot well over a medium heat.

Now add the stock gradually to the rice, as one does with risotto.  One ladle at a time.  Wait for each one to be absorbed before adding the next (the 20-25 mins goes quickly and you can indeed be checking on your roasted veg at the same time).
When most of the liquid is used up check the rice – cooked but still a little ‘al dente’.  Season with some sea salt – if needed – and fresh pepper, then add the basil leaves.
Let cool.
Meanwhile, toss the aubergine and courgette slices in some olive oil and bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes, until limp and a little coloured.  Place on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil left over.  These cool quickly.

Butter or oil a loaf tin well. I used a tin which took 2litres of poured water as I can find all these tin sizes a bit wayward at times; I trust ‘content’!)
Line the base with a strip of baking paper – or if you love ‘lining’, do the whole tin.

Layer your tin as follows:
Take 1/3 cooled rice mixture and press it into the bottom – easy and fun because it has become quite sticky and pliable.  Don’t be overly generous with your 1/3 as you’ll run out of rice for the final layer as I did the first time I made this.

Top this lay with ½ your roasted vegetables and mozzarella cheese, ie. a row of courgette slices then aubergines and red/yellow peppers and then mozzarella.

Repeat with another 1/3 rice and the remaining vegetables and mozzarella, then finish with the last 1/3 of rice.  That’s it.

Bake in a 150c degree oven (or 350F or gas mark 4) for 30 minutes until golden on the top.  Run a knife around the edge of the tin, place a serving dish on top and turn it over.  If it doesn’t flip, just turn back and run your knife around the edges of the tin again.
The risotto cake has come out beautifully every time although the last time I had to re-run the knife twice!

Serve hot or room temperature with salad.

Wild garlic soup

garlic-soup recipe

Now is the time for wild garlic soup.  Well, actually it’s a bit late as the flowers are in full bloom and the leaves’ nutrients are highest when blossoms are still tightly furled.
However the heady scent coming from today’s freshly collected leaves means nutrients and flavour abound, so I still made up this soup – an easy Mon recipe, using what I had in the fridge (no cruciferous please as these will ruin the delicate flavour).
I added just the usual vegetables you would use for a basic broth – celery, onion, carrot and a potato for thickening.  Easy.
And if you’re off potatoes, try adding another carrot.
This is such delicately fragrant soup – may even win over the staunchest of non-garlic eaters!


Serves about 6-8

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1large carrot, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
3 large handfuls of wild garlic leaves, torn
1 potato, roughly chopped
garlic flowers & some leaves for decorating
Enough vegetable broth/water to cover (about 1.5 litres, but add more after blitzing if too thick, and return to the stove)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper…if you must (I didn’t).


Gently sauté onion in the heated oil until translucent.  Add the water or vegetable broth (home-made or use about 1 heaped tbsp of Marigold broth powder to a litre of water), then add the vegetables and finally the leaves, leaving a few as decoration.

Let simmer until soft then blitz in the blender, taste in case you feel it needs a touch of pepper or sea salt – but this soup has such a delicate flavour, don’t be tempted to play around with too many extras.

Serve with wild garlic flowers or finely chopped garlic leaves.  A fab healthy soup – and what a colour!

Turmeric Juice

This may not look like the best juice – certainly not the best colour -however when I drank it I imagined a fab purple because it was indeed a juice with loads of blueberries (as well as some carrot, celery, cucumber, ginger, kale and a couple of apples). Purple until I put a teaspoon of a certain spice into it, and voila it turned to sludge. But did it taste fantastic or what! Who would’ve thought?

I’ve talked lots about cinnamon in past blogs but here’s another spice which is a firm favourite, with loads of amazing research carried out over years regarding its health benefits. Turmeric, that delicious orange powdered spice we eat in Indian curries.

Not only is it an essential curry component it does indeed support our health big-time. Known to help healthy joint function (and as I currently have tennis elbow it has landed in my daily juice), it also promotes the immune system and improves digestion. It’s a brilliant natural anti inflammatory.

And all of this is mainly due to the curcumin it contains.

This curcuminoid antioxidant is also responsible for turmeric’s yellow colour and potency (the colour in antioxidants is usually the reason for their effectiveness…think of blueberries or carrots, both so intense and both well-documented antioxidants).

What are these antioxidants anyway?

Oxidation by free radicals happens all the time in our bodies – through normal metabolic processes going on in our systems, like eating… or for that matter, breathing! Oxidation also happens through external effects – from pollution, chemicals in paints and carpets, toxins in foods – like pesticides – or growth hormones in meats, or smoking, stress… an endless list.

These free radicals damage our cells and organs and play a huge role in the ageing process; a major reason why the word antioxidant appears on everything at the moment, from processed foods to cosmetics.

Apparently the antioxidants in turmeric’s curcuminoids are 5 times stronger than vitamin E … and 3 times more powerful than grapeseed extract. These curcuminoids also support blood and liver function, one of the reasons turmeric has been considered the ‘skin food’ for thousands of years in India.

However, the more you cook it, the less power the curcuminoids will have, so if you do add it to a meal, sprinkle it in at the last minute.

This wonder spice can be found in most supermarkets however it’s best to buy spices from reputable organic sources. I buy mine from Steenbergs (online) but there are loads of other healthy websites; just have a google.

Some digestive systems don’t like potent spices, so either use small amounts or take it in capsule form if you want some joint support or immune health benefits. I use it on our poached eggs instead of salt – delicious – or add it to a juice! Just close your eyes when you drink it and imagine your favourite colour, because it really is delicious.