Risotto, but not as we knew it

I’m here again… months after saying I would be here more often, so I’m making it my October resolution to post at least one item per month – I can manage that, even with a gazillion migraines!

Anyway… this one is food related.

beef and onion risotto
Beef and onion risotto


Those of you who have perused my mad weekly kitchen diary will know that I like to use up leftovers; it’s probably my favourite thing! When I do my meal plans to create a shopping list I do so with leftovers in mind, after all – if you can get two meals out of something it becomes significantly more economical, and might even give the cook a bit of a break.

So, it was quite a while ago now (but I snapped a pic in anticipation) that I had cooked brisket of beef on a Sunday. It used to be that brisket was a cheap cut but this appears no longer to be the case, hence my determination to get more than one meal out of the pretty small joint.

I had initially pot roasted the brisket long and low with red wine and seasoning, yielding a delicious melt in the mouth meal with gorgeous gravy that I served with Yorkshire puddings, lots of veg, and mash. Now, as mentioned previously, the joint wasn’t very big so the leftovers were a tad meagre. This is where the fun starts, I love to try and create another substantial meal for the two of us out of nothing so I got my thinking cap on that Sunday evening.

“I could do a risotto.” I mused, probably more rhetorical than directed at my husband.

“But it’ll be brown, risottos are supposed to be pale.” C volunteered.

“Who says?!” I retorted, taking that as the brightest green light to go ahead and experiment.

I probably waited until Tuesday as Mondays are very busy and I’m not fit for much by the time work is done. I got the carefully wrapped very small chunk of beef from the fridge along with the leftover gravy, and chopped up the beef before warming up and thinning out the gravy with a little from a stock cube. So, newly adapted ‘stock’ simmering in a saucepan I got on to the actual risotto. I decided this was going to be a beef and onion risotto so I sliced a couple of medium onions (in half and then lengthways which leaves more bite than half moon slices) and allowed myself to sauté them – in a little oil –  past translucent until they had a little colour, which I’ve never done with risotto onions because they’ve always been going into a pale risotto… 😉

Onions ready for additions I added the carnarolli rice and coated the grains in the oil, waiting for the teeny crack in the slightly translucent grain that tells me the rice is thirsty. A ladle and a half of liquid at a time was fed to the rice as I stirred mostly constantly, with only a few exceptions to prep crockery and tidy up. Towards the end of the cooking time I added a chopped tomato for a pops of vibrancy, then with the last ladle or of ‘stock’ I added the leftover brisket, and about forty minutes after starting I had what looked like a decent risotto, but of course the proof would be in the eating.

My beef (brisket) and onion risotto was delish, very moreish. The wine in the ‘stock’ gave a lovely bite, and the beef was meltingly soft.

If I can ever afford to buy brisket again I will definitely be creating this risotto with the leftovers!

Risotto, but not as we knew it

Mumbo ‘Gumbo’

I know there are  at least two different ‘rouxs’.

The first I have a lot to do with when making sauces such as bechamel, and can do it in my sleep. I use a small amount of oil or butter, depending on the dish, add a little flour and cook out for a few minutes before adding milk or whatever liquid is called for. There’s only a small amount of paste created by the fat and flour, but it sits happily being stirred in the pan for a few minutes until liquid is added.

The second, on the other hand – I have read about and watched being made on television but that’s it. Which roux? The roux for a gumbo – the chocolate brown progression from its paler beginnings. I’ve been granted a camera peek into the pot by a few Louisiana chefs, and I’ve read up, but the first time I had any physical dealings was for this particular recipe for Cajun chicken gumbo.

The alarm bells should have rung at the variation, and perhaps a non Louisianan(?) recipe writer. I’m not saying a person that doesn’t hail from, can’t recreate authentic dishes from other countries, after all – I pride myself on being able to do just that, and from various curves of the globe too, but this was a variation on a Creole dish. I initially decided to give it a go because I like the idea of Cajun flavours, omission of file powder (which I don’t have), and the chicken instead of seafood. It’s easier for me to get decent chicken than decent seafood.

So… I’ve now tried twice with this recipe, and it’s very nice – but the roux is a problem. I’ll mention that the first time I made the dish I had exactly the same problem with the roux but still wanted to try again.

Fast forward to a recent late afternoon and after a busy day at work I put a small ham on to boil and prepped the onion, celery, peppers, spring onions, spices, and chicken until I had a pile of lidded containers and a heap of chicken on my red chopping board.

The recipe states, ‘brown chicken pieces – remove – fry onion – then celery – remove both – add oil and flour to start the roux’.

Now, whenever I have watched anything to do with Louisiana roux, it has always been made as a stand alone item, not as part of an ongoing dish. And at precisely this point is where the problems start. It worked out at around 2tbsp oil, plus residue in pan to 5tbsp flour. Both times of making this recipe, at this point, I started to struggle because the measly amount of paste wasn’t browning, it was just sticking more and more to my cast iron enamelled pan. I think I stirred, whisked, stirred again for over an hour yesterday trying to get that roux to turn, to no avail. Confused, bewildered, and frankly knackered I grabbed my phone with the non stirring hand and ventured on to YouTube where I found a very nice gentleman’s tutorial. Sure enough, he was ‘just making the roux’, and his ratio was a 1/1, a cup of oil to a cup of flour. In twenty minutes-ish he had cycled through the various shades needed for smothered pork, etouffee, ending up at the lovely dark roux for gumbo. He then said to decant into a container and cool, later to be used as part of a gumbo.

After listening to, and watching that tutorial I decided to just carry on with the roux as was – after all, the flour was definitely cooked – and aim to make a proper roux another day to be used in recipes. I was on my last legs and it was getting late.

After adding the spices then the liquid (stock) I had to sieve the result into another pan because the flour had cooked for that long I couldn’t whisk out the lumps, I added the browned chicken, onions and celery, and peppers then let it cook for a while, hoping it would reduce too. I added the merest sprinkle of chicken thickening granules to replace the flour that had dried.  Nearer the end I added chopped ham, parsley and at the very end the spring onions.

In the meantime I cooked rice for the middle of the bowl, but at that point I was sick of the sight of this meal so I didn’t eat much. It was good though, even if the roux was wrong, but I’m looking forward to making the roux properly and eating the difference.

Cajun chicken gumbo

I’m not sure if the recipe writer was getting their rouxs mixed up, because the order of use and the method are very similar to the way a French roux might be used in a dish with meat and a thick sauce. Or maybe they have a magic pan!

I will make this dish again because even made improperly the flavours are great, but I’ll have made the roux first… so the recipe will be tweaked to within an inch of its life! I’ll let you know how I get on!


Mumbo ‘Gumbo’

My mad weekly kitchen diary-ish

I’m sorry. I disappeared. There’s been quite a bit going on, and I’ve wanted to write this post since xmas, but I mislaid my images. Months later and hours of trawling through Twitter to find my original post with the images on here I am, finally! And not actually a diary, so there’s that too!

The dish I have been dying to post about is biscuits and sausage gravy.

I first came across this dish – well it was just biscuits and gravy – some years ago when I was visiting family in the States and it was ordered by my sister’s boyfriend at the time.

I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough to order it myself, because my British inner voice was yelling ‘He’s ordered a scone! And it’s got white sauce on!’ but I was interested. Fast forward a few years and the dish would pop into my head intermittently, so I decided that I wanted to make it around xmas time, which is when I try and create interesting breakfasts and brunches.

Here is where the problems started… It took a while, because most ‘recipes’ on the interwebs start with ‘open the can of biscuits’, which frankly is not a recipe, and I can’t buy biscuits in the UK. Not those biscuits anyway, and I don’t think our biscuits, for example Rich Tea or Custard Creams will do quite the same job.

I could have used a British scone recipe, but I wanted to be as near as possible to the biscuit recipe so I persevered.

Anyway, sometime last year I found a good and proper recipe for biscuits and sausage gravy so I made plans to have all of the ingredients I needed for the festive period. Luckily, I managed to get buttermilk which was the main hurdle, and as for the sausage, it wasn’t going to be American sausage but I live in Cumbria (used to be called Cumberland) so using our fabulous Cumberland sausage was a no brainer.

biscuits and gravy
Biscuits and Cumberland sausage gravy!

Now, I’m not the biggest sausage fan, but Cumberland sausage is delicious. I use it also for sausage rolls, and the stuffing for my turkey during festive period. Proper Cumberland sausage doesn’t come in links, but one length. It’s thicker than most sausages, although one can purchase ‘thin’ from certain butchers. The recipe is usually just pork meat and fat, seasoning, and maybe breadcrumbs but Cumberland sausage is quite dense so maybe not.

So… I followed the recipe for the biscuits as closely as possible, but I swapped out the vegetable shortening for lard as the hydrogenated fats in solid vegetable fat that I can buy here are worse than solid animal fat, and I used rock salt instead of kosher. Everything else was kept the same. I then flattened and cut, then threw them in the oven.

Next I started on the sausage gravy by removing the sausage meat from its skin then fried it off as per the directions, added the onion and cooked that before removing the solid stuff from the pan.

I added a little oil to the pan (I didn’t use butter as I didn’t need much) then put the sausage back in and added flour, stirring. It became very claggy as effectively what I was doing was starting a roux with added sausage. I cooked that off for a while before adding the seasoning and then the milk a little at a time. I didn’t measure the milk; I added it in stages until it was the right consistency by eye. I like my sauces thick. The aroma at this stage was amazing as Cumberland sausage always smells wonderful, but had just been elevated.

Now I must admit it was a bit of a slog for brunch because at that point in the festive period I am in ‘hardly any cooking’ mode, but it would be easy to prepare a most of it ahead, after all – I followed this recipe when there were only two of us so we had leftovers for days! And Days! And I froze some.

Can I just say, you probably shouldn’t biscuits and gravy every day, but it was absolutely a-mazing, and it will be a yearly thing for us from now on. I split the scones – sorry, biscuits – horizontally in half as per the recipe pic, and we spooned on the gravy that was still in the pan in which it was cooked in the middle of the table.

Brits… If you haven’t tried this you should!

My mad weekly kitchen diary-ish

My Mad Weekly Kitchen Diary

Okay… I’m not the biggest fan of macaroni cheese, because I’m not that keen on pasta, but occasionally I bite the bullet and make it because it fits with that week’s menu. I like to balance my week’s food as far as possible so that will include some sort of pasta.

Anyway… This was one of those days, and this day I also happened to be craving a dish my foster mum used to make which was white fish in cheese sauce, with potatoes and peas. This day, I had to use pasta though (booooo!), so I pushed my craving down and tried to come up with a pasta dish. The thought of fish and cheese sauce constantly tried to reach the surface, and ultimately gave me the idea of ‘Seafood macaroni cheese’!

I had basa fillets in the freezer along with prawns. I also had mussel meat in said freezer but didn’t think mussel meat would look very pretty.

I tend not to follow a recipe when I make a roux, I just use equal parts of butter or some such* and plain flour, then add my milk a little at a time until the sauce is the consistency I want. But as a guide, 1 heaped dessert spoon of flour/butter makes about 500ml (a pint ish) of sauce.

In this instance though, I poached the basa in milk, then used that milk to make the sauce before adding grated mature cheddar until the sauce was very cheesy. When the sauce was complete I added the defrosted cooked, peeled prawns and warmed them through before adding the basa and cooked macaroni. Once I’d piled it all into a baking dish I sprinkled panko breadcrumbs mixed with a little parmesan over the top and shoved it under the grill to brown. I didn’t want the seafood to overcook by baking.

The resulting Seafood mac and cheese was delicious, and it definitely upped my enjoyment rate!

Seafood macaroni cheese
Seafood macaroni cheese

*Sometimes I use sunflower oil instead of butter because I’m melting it anyway.

My Mad Weekly Kitchen Diary

A methi in my madness?

Some occurrences are just weird, and this rambling perhaps will highlight that, or may highlight that I’m seeing something in nothing…

My father died some years ago, at least nine years. You may think it’s odd that I don’t know down to the minute the time of his demise, but we were estranged, I hadn’t had contact with him for many years before I found out he’d died.

A kind friend of his gave me a few personal effects, cookery books and the like, for which I was very grateful as the few good memories I have of my father are food related, he was a fantastic cook, of many ethnic styles. Amongst the personal effects was an old exercise book in which he had written many recipes; there was even a recipe written in my probably twelve years old handwriting that he must have dictated as he tested and cooked a dish.

The Exercise Book
The Exercise Book

So… In the years since I’ve had the book I’ve read it from cover to cover, and looked at each piece of paper he tore from magazines and stowed amongst the pages. One of my hobbies is reading cookery books (then not following the recipe), and as such I’ve read my father’s book many times. In fact, I look at it so often I keep it on top of a pile of books on the coffee table shelf.

The pile of books!
The pile of books!

So here’s the weird bit… two Sundays ago I was building a new TV unit in a bid to stop the kitten from strangling herself amongst the wires that the old open TV unit did nothing to hide, but on my own it was difficult to keep the unit straight, so I had the brainwave to prop some of the unit on books. I was kneeling by the coffee table so I was able to grab from my pile of mahoosive cookery books to create a level. The exercise book, being the smallest was not needed so I pulled it from the top of the pile and placed it on the table top. I then used the three cookery books on the pile to bolster the unit whilst I put in the locking cams.

I happily worked away for some time building the unit, then just happened to glance at the last book that would usually be the bottom of the pile, and noticed a lone piece of paper on top of said book with my father’s handwriting on. I reached for the paper and scanned it, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up…

The lone piece of paper!
The lone piece of paper!

You see, my favourite Indian curry is ‘Methi’, which is a rich dark sauce made with fenugreek leaves. It’s difficult to get in a takeaway; it’s not that usual in Indian restaurants, so of late I’ve been trying to recreate it myself from a solitary recipe I found online, again recipes are few and far between.

My father's recipe, previously unseen!
My father’s recipe, previously unseen!

I can honestly say I have never seen that recipe of my dad’s before, and my love of Methi based curry was nothing to do with my dad, so I didn’t realise he had ever made it, and in all of the times I pored over that book I didn’t see that slip of paper, I would go as far as to say it wasn’t there, and it wasn’t sitting on that book either. It’s like it was put there so I would notice!




A methi in my madness?

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’, successes and disasters in the kitchen.

If ever I talk about a dish that you want more info on, let me know and I’ll do my best to elaborate!

So… after an enforced break because I had to do the year end paperwork for the business I’m just pulling some meals I cooked from the last few weeks, hopefully the more interesting ones!

Larger image below
Larger image below


Any day

I have always wanted to make my own paella. I’ve been to Spain a lot, but only eaten proper paella once at a party. It’s difficult to order at a restaurant because you have to order in advance, and it’s for more than one person, but husb never fancied it. I dream of that one time I ate it as I love rice dishes! Anyway… I haven’t got a proper paella pan but I decided to ignore that point and use my super duper pan with ears (two teeny curved handles) instead.

I don’t know what I was searching for this day, whether I was looking at pans, or searching for a recipe, but I came across a paella pan site that had a really interesting recipe with very good instructions so I made plans to make it.

Firstly I blackened my own red peppers under the grill; then put them in a plastic food bag to steam for a while then peeled the charred skin off with my fingers when I could handle it. Some people rinse the pepper under the tap, but that must wash away a lot of flavour.

The recipe is long, so I won’t go into all of the detail because you can see it above, but I’ll mention any important stuff, first of which is… at the time I didn’t have paella rice… so I used carnarolli (risotto) rice.

I also paid particular attention to the ‘sofrito’ which, in all my years of hunting down paella recipes, has been missing, and I think is the key. I used thigh meat, which has much more flavour, and I resisted the urge to stir the paella when instructed not to when creating the ‘socarrat’ (not a rodent that plays football, it’s a crust that forms on the bottom), it felt like a long time, and I didn’t use foil because my pan has a lid.

The finished result was excellent, and I credit the detailed recipe instructions. I’m dying to cook the recipe again, and now I have paella rice too!



C wanted a pie on a Friday, and I like to do a curry on a Friday, so I thought I would make a lamb keema pie, a proper pie with a top and a bottom in a bid to accommodate the two thoughts. I made the keema using my special spice mix, and made sure I split the oil at each stage then when ready I cooled it; then filled the lined pie dish, adding a lid when it was full. When it was time I just shoved it in the oven for about forty minutes. I served it which Bombay mashed potatoes, and mushroom pea curry.

The pie was very tasty, but it was too dense, it was absolutely packed full of the keema, I needed to make more of a gravy, next time he can just have his English pie!


One day

Last week at some point I made Cumberland sausage toad in the hole. Now… don’t believe everything you read about toad in the hole, there’s not bread or fried eggs involved. Toad in the hole is sausages in batter!

Most people will buy bog standard sausages for this dish, but we believe it deserves award winning Cumberland sausage, so that’s what we used. If you’re unfamiliar with authentic Cumberland sausage, it doesn’t come in links, it’s just one long sausage that the butcher will weigh, cut, and then coil so we don’t need a really long bag and a lorry to get it home!

Anyway… I used a 5, 5, 8 ratio to make the batter. This was new to me and mixes metric and imperial. So (I think) it was 5 eggs, 500g flour and 8floz milk. She mixed metric and imperial so it would be easy to remember, but I can’t remember if the 8 is milk or flour, so that worked, didn’t it! Anyway… I made the batter beforehand, and added a little grain mustard for a bit of zing. Nearer the time I cut the sausage into large pieces, put them in a baking dish with a little sunflower oil, and roasted them for about fifteen minutes until the top of the sausages were starting to brown and the dish was very hot. I then whipped it out of the oven and poured in the batter as quickly as possible before shoving it back in the oven. It took about half an hour to cook, and was well risen and golden when I pulled it out.

I served the toad in the hole with vegetables and onion gravy. The batter was quite heavy, next time I’ll replace some of the milk in the batter with water, if I follow the 5,5,8 again.

Chicken, choizo, & roasted red pepper paella, lamb keema pie, Cumberland sausage toad in the hole.
Chicken, chorizo, & roasted red pepper paella, lamb keema pie, Cumberland sausage toad in the hole.


My mad weekly kitchen diary

My mad weekly kitchen diary

Just a weekly bit of fun whereby I can natter about any culinary ‘inventions’, successes and disasters in the kitchen.

If ever I talk about a dish that you want more info on, let me know and I’ll do my best to elaborate!

Larger image below
Larger image below


Pork is always a good deal so guess what we had… Slow roast pork and crackling. It’s always a crowd (of two) pleaser and relatively low maintenance. Instead of blasting the joint as I used to do for about 30 minutes to try and start the crackling, I just put it in on low, about 150 degrees centigrade with a view to dealing with the crackling later.

To go with the pork I made roast potatoes (proper ones) in the usual way, peel, par boil, rough ‘em up, sprinkle with a little semolina, season and roast until crunchy on the outside, fluffy inside. There is almost nothing better.

Next I made celery gratin, talked about previously here, but instead of my favourite leeks, I used onions. Lastly I steamed carrots, and baked two cored eating apples. I much prefer the apples that way rather than buying Bramley’s cooking apples and adding a ton of sugar.

When the pork was cooked I whipped off the un-crackled top and shoved it under a medium grill, taking care not to let it burn. It’s not an exact science but I chopped bits off as they crisped up, it took about ten minutes. Much less stressful than trying to crackle it on the joint!

I made a cheats gravy, thickening the meat juices with instant chicken granules because I had a lot going on!

Somehow I managed to get everything out once, had a great meal, forgot to take a pic, and we had leftovers… more later!


I wanted easy, because, you know… Monday, so I found a recipe online for Mediterranean roast potatoes. The ingredients were roasted together, there wasn’t too much prep, so it was ideal. I planned to serve the veg with fish, and with that in mind C came home with frozen salmon fillets. I’ve never really had success cooking frozen fish to serve as is; it always ends up with the white film which makes it look really unattractive. So this time I followed the instructions to the LETTER. I was off to a losing start though, because one fillet was mahoosive and the two I had were teeny. Anyway, I followed the instructions, cooking them from frozen in tin foil with a little lemon and oil, and by the time the middle was warm, the edges were milky, which is not what I wanted, but they tasted fine. The veg worked well and was great for Monday ease. I’ll definitely be doing that again.


Okay… I’d been craving mashed potatoes like you wouldn’t believe, so this was the day that craving would be satiated. And what better way to do it than sausage, mash, and onion gravy. I started early by caramelising sliced onions. I cooked them on low, for hours, whilst working. Nearer the time I took the onions from the pan and gently fried the sausages until brown. I then removed them to a baking dish to finish off in the oven. In the pan I’d cooked the sausages in I added the onions and a couple of dessert spoons of plain flour, stirring that for a while before adding water and a stock cube, I used beef. I just let that simmer until the gravy was thick and the onions were melting.

You all know how do make mash, I happen to use a ricer, and my favourite way of cooking the potatoes is baking them first, then ricing the middles, but I didn’t have time today so I boiled and riced, then added seasoning, milk, and my favourite dairy free spread.

The plump brown sausages paired with the creamy mash, and topped with onion gravy are a match made in heaven. And because we’re grown ups I sautéed savoy cabbage to accompany my craving quasher.


… Our guest was due, and I had leftover pork. Inspired by rice noodles I thought I would test my pad thai-ish on WedJ. I know he will eat almost anything but he’s a good test subject, and gives feedback. Now… I love Chinese roast pork, and although I couldn’t properly replicate it as I was using leftover pork, I thought I would attempt to give it that vibe, so early on in the day I sliced the pork and tossed it in five spice powder and let it sit in the fridge.

I prepped what I could beforehand, including omelette which I just make with egg and light soy, and the liquor for the stir-fry. I think I’ve said this before but the combination of soy, garlic, chilli, fish sauce, and tamarind would make an old shoe taste good! I also defrosted a few cooked and peeled prawns, bashed a handful of peanuts, sliced spring onions, fresh mint and coriander, and also savoy cabbage which I needed to use up.

At dinner time I started by soaking the rice noodles in boiling water. I needed to soak the noodles for 7 minutes, that’s how quick the dish cooks! Next I heated my pan, added a little oil, and then dumped in the spring onions and cabbage, then the pork and the liquor. I stir fried that for a few moments before adding the omelette and the prawns. When the noodles were just soft enough strained them into a colander, then chucked them in with the rest, stirring well. At the end I added the coriander and peanuts, but left the mint because husband doesn’t like it. I served the noodles then sprinkled sesame seeds on all, and mint on mine and WedJ’s meal to be stirred through before eating.

Now… back to the pork. I don’t know what happened… but a combination of the five spice and the liquor really gave more than a ‘Chinese roast pork’ vibe, it was a real feeling. My husband commented as he ate, and I’d not told him I wanted to give that effect. Success!!!


… I’ve been messing about with ground turkey, and to that end I decided to make turkey burgers to see if they could come anywhere near a beef burger. The turkey we get from our supermarket is quite course ground, which I like, and I started with that but improvised with the rest. With the turkey in the mixing bowl I noted it seemed wetter than ground beef so I whizzed up white bread until I had breadcrumbs and added that along with an egg. I stuck with good old salt and pepper for the seasoning, but I did add a good sprinkling of chilli flakes, because why wouldn’t you! I took a little of the mixture and fried it off so I could test the seasoning and it was bang on, which was lucky, so I moulded the mixture patties and stuck them in the fridge till needed.

At dinner time I gently fried the burgers, then finished them off in the oven, adding cheddar cheese for the last few minutes. I served the burgers in flat side toasted sesame seed bun with lettuce, onion, and a little mayo. I added ketchup whilst eating, and served the burger with oven fries.

So… as an experiment, I definitely wouldn’t miss the beef, the burger was delicious! Husband enjoyed it, said it ‘was different’ from beef. Well… yeah! 😉


… I used my magic spice mix and dried methi leaves to make a methi (fenugreek) chicken and potato curry. I usually like to make a separate Bombay aloo but my head was really bad. I used some principles that I’ve been practicing, such as cooking sliced onions until soft then whizzing them up with chilli, garlic, ginger, and a little oil. That mixture is then cooked out until the oil splits away. The spices are added and the process is repeated, at that point I add the chicken, potatoes, methi leaves, salt, and water to cover; then let it simmer away before adding green peppers. The onions being whizzed makes a lovely gravy, and the whole thing is lifted at the end with fresh coriander.

I served the curry with boiled basmati rice to which I added grated raw carrot just before I strained said rice. I love this find, the carrot brings new texture and flavour!


… Leftovers! Curry!

Sausage, mash, & Onion Gravy, Pad Thai-ish, turkey burger, methi chicken curry & carrot basmati rice
Sausage, mash, & Onion Gravy, Pad Thai-ish, turkey burger, methi chicken curry & carrot basmati rice
My mad weekly kitchen diary