Tag Archive for Rice

Dessert buffet

When I am cooking for my husband, I know what he likes/doesn’t like and I can adjust my cooking to that. But at dinner parties it is often difficult to cater for all the different preferences, also I usually don’t know all the preferences of all the people that are invited. Being quite a picky eater myself, I know how difficult it can be at dinner parties when your host made something delicious, but containing an ingredient you don’t like, to either say you don’t like it, or eating it anyway and lying about it… both hurtful for the host. That is why I always try to make something in such a way that people can avoid the things they don’t like, for example by serving the sauces on the side, not cutting ingredients too small and using a base ingredient/dish that most people like, but also by serving food buffet style, even when eating with a small group. Usually when people don’t like the one dish, they do like the other dishes.

This dessert is a good example of serving food buffet style:
– Riz au lait (French rice pudding)
– Strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar
– Spicy apple compote
– Custard
– Toffee sauce (careful, this is addicting stuff!)
– Fleur de sel (combined with the toffee sauce this makes salted caramel, something people either love or hate)

When you cook for more people you can expand this buffet with other fruits, for example poached pears or peaches with vanilla, blueberry sauce or fresh raspberries, but bowls with different kinds of chocolate chips and nuts would also be very delicious.

Riz au lait (4 persons)
From ‘Raymond Blanc – Echt Frans Koken’

850 ml milk (full fat milk is the tastiest for this dish)
50 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
75 g pudding rice (use risotto or sushi rice when you cannot get hold of pudding rice; this does change the amount of liquid you need and the cooking time!)
Optional: sugar to caramelize the top

Heat the milk, sugar and vanilla to a simmer in a medium-large pan. Add the rice and bring back to a simmer. Stir every 5 minutes and at the end of the cooking time even more often, since the mixture is prone to bubbling up quite high and prone to sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan. Cook 30 minutes in total, and meanwhile heat the oven to 150C.
Scoop the rice pudding in a shallow oven dish (about 24 cm diameter) and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately or prepare 1-2 hours in advance to serve the pudding warm/at room temperature.
Optional: preheat the grill. Sprinkle the cooked and baked rice pudding with sugar. Place under the grill for 1 minute, or until the sugar is caramelized.

Strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar

250 g strawberries, halved or quartered if very large
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
optional: sugar

Mix the strawberries with the balsamic vinegar. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes, but not more than 2 hours, otherwise the berries will get too mushy. If you think it is too sour/harsh (also depends on the type of balsamic vinegar you use), add a little sugar to balance it out.

Spicy apple compote

2 apples
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
2 cloves
1 very small piece of mace

Quarter, peel, core and cube the apples. Place in a saucepan with the spices and a splash of water. Cook with a lid until the apples are soft, this takes 5-15 minutes depending on the variety of apple. When the compote is very wet, you can cook it a bit longer with the lid off. Fish out the cloves and mace (or warn your guests), serve warm or on room temperature.

Slightly adapted from ‘James Martin – Dessert’

3 egg yolks
25 g sugar
100 ml milk
100 ml cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place the milk, cream and vanilla extract in a sauce pan. Bring to the boil.
Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and sugar together.
Once the milk and cream are boiling, pour a little on the eggs and mix well, then pour back into the pan.
Return to the heat and whisk continually until the mixture thickens. Do not boil (this will curdle the custard)!
When it coats the back of a wooden spoon, the foam on top disappears while whisking and you feel that the mixture has thickened, remove the custard from the heat immediately and pour into a bowl or serving jug. Stir occasionally or place some cling film on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm, on room temperature, or cold.

Toffee sauce
Slightly adapted from ‘James Martin – Dessert’

100 g brown sugar (light or dark)
100 g butter
200 ml double cream

Melt the butter and sugar together in a small pan. Add the cream and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Pour in a serving jug. Serve immediately, leave to cool or make in advance and reheat in the microwave. Sometimes the sauce splits, for example when you use Dutch whipping cream with a fat percentage 30 or 35% (the highest you can get here) instead of real double cream with a fat percentage of 48%, but don’t worry: you can use a stick blender to re-emulsify the sauce.

Three course diner: ravioli, risotto and floating islands

A delicious three course diner cooked for guests consisting of:
Ravioli filled with ricotta, pine nuts and parmesan in browned butter
Risotto with mascarpone and parmesan; grilled green asparagus and parma ham; lollo biondo and cherry tomatoes with balsamic dressing
Floating islands
All for 4-6 persons

Ravioli filled with ricotta, pine nuts and parmesan in browned butter
You can find my ravioli recipe over here.
For the filling roast 25 grams of pine nuts, mix with 200 gram ricotta, a few tablespoons of grated parmesan and a grinding of black pepper. You will probably have a bit left (it is always difficult to estimate the amount of filling that goes into ravioli) but it is delicious the next day combined with some courgette. Shape the ravioli any way you like, I made small squares. Cook them in boiling water, then toss in a hot frying pan with butter, to toast them slightly. I served them very simple on a plate with a drizzle of the butter. If you want to make this dish in advance, place the formed ravioli on a plate and cover with cling film. Set aside at a cool place until ready to cook.

Risotto with mascarpone and parmesan
You can read about making risotto here, here and here. Make risotto with 300 g arborio and 1 liter stock (homemade vegetable or chicken stock is best, but you can also use store bought stock of good quality (which I did this time)). Finish the risotto with a few tablespoons of mascarpone, a generous amount of grated parmesan and a grinding of pepper. Taste to check the seasoning, add salt and/or pepper if necessary. Serve with the grilled green asparagus and parma ham on the side. If you want to prepare this dish in advanced, cook it until the finishing step; when ready to serve heat the risotto on low heat and finish.

Grilled green asparagus and parma ham
Cut a few cm from the bottom of the asparagus (fresh and/or thin ones only need a small bit of the storkremoved, be with larger and/or older ones a bit more generous with what you cut off). Peel the asparagus; some people suggest that this is not necessary with green asparagus, but I find that they need to be very small and thin to not need peeling… no one likes to have a mouth full of fiberous stringy bits. Boil them for a few minutes, then grill for a minute in a very hot pan. This gives the asparagus a nice, sweet and slightly charry finish. Meanwhile fold the ham into rosettes (use any raw ham you like/have available, I used parma). Place the asparagus on the plate next to the risotto, garnish with the ham rosettes and a few shavings of parmesan cheese (use a potato peeler for this). If you want to prepare this dish in advance, peel the asparagus and store them in cold water. You can also already make the ham rosettes and parmesan shavings.

Lollo biondo and cherry tomatoes with balsamic dressing
Very simple. Wash the lettuce, tear in pieces, halve the cherry tomatoes (you can do these things in advance). When ready for serving, mix the lettuce and tomatoes, sprinkle with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt. Mix well and serve immediately.

Floating islands
I had some trouble with this recipe, because the instructions were not perfect and the ratio of ingredients is slightly off. The amount of custard is perfect for a rich dessert for 4-6 persons, but you have a lot more meringue than necessary. There is also a lot of caramel, I think you could do with halve a recipe. Also, it is important to not have the milk boiling when you poach the meringues, this will give a big mess and it also makes the meringues disgusting. And make sure you don’t place to much meringues in the pan, the recipe suggest that 6 large dollops will fit, but I think 4 medium dollops is really the maximum. Luckily, in the end it all turned out very well and everyone thought the dessert was delicious, so it is certainly worth it to prepare. But keep in mind, it is really rich, so don’t serve it if you already had a large and/or heavy appetizer and main course.

Slightly adapted from Raymond Blanc – Echt Frans koken
For the poaching liqor
1 liter full fat milk
250 ml cream
2 vanilla pods (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)

For the meringue
8 egg whites
275 g sugar

For the custard
8 egg yolks
75 g sugar
the milk in which the meringue was poached

For the caramel
3 tbsp water
150 g sugar

Flavour the milk. Pour the milk and cream into a large pan of 30 cm diameter and 7 cm deep and bring to simmering. Slice the vanilla pods lengthwise and scrape the seeds out of them. Add both the seeds and the pods into the milk (you can rinse the pods after simmering and place them in a jar of sugar to create vanilla sugar; or blend them to a paste and use as extract). Or add the real vanilla extract. Leave to simmer 5 minutes.
Make the meringue. Whip the egg whites to slightly foamy, then gradually pour in the sugar while mixing. Keep mixing about 10 minutes (with an electrical hand mixer) until the mixture is shiny and has firm peaks.
Poach the foam. Use a large spoon to scoop 4 medium dollops of the meringue into the lightly simmering milk. Poach 5 minutes, then turn over very carefully (I used a slotted spoon) and poach for another 5 minutes. The milk should be barely simmering, not boiling!!! When ready, use the slotted spoon to place the poached meringues onto a baking tray. Use the remaining meringue for another 4 dollops, or for making dried meringues (dollop on a lined baking tray and bake in an 130C oven until firm).
Making the custard. Sieve the milk and cream used for poaching into a pan. Bring to a simmer. Mix the egg yolks and the sugar in a large bowl. Pour the simmering milk on top of the egg yolk mixture, while mixing. Pour back into the pan. Heat 4-5 minutes on low-medium heat until the custard thickens. Keep mixing the whole time. The custard is ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Pour back into the bowl and keep mixing for a while to cool the custard slightly (otherwise it could still split). Leave to cool further, place in the fridge if you like really cold custard.
Making the caramel. Pour the water and sugar into a pan. Place on medium heat until it forms a syrup and then turns to caramel. Don’t stir, and don’t let the caramel get to dark, it will cook slightly further when you take the pan of the heat.
Presentation. Pour the custard in individual serving bowls or in a large bowl. Carefully place the poached meringues (with help of a slotted spoon) on top of the custard. The poached meringues are the islands that float on a sea of custard. Drizzle the meringues with the still hot caramel.
You can make both the poached meringue islands and the custard in advance (up to a day). But making and drizzling the caramel is a last minute job.

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

It may seem a little crazy to add this much garlic to a dish, but actually it works very well. Because it is stewed for quite some time the taste of the garlic becomes deliciously sweet and mild, it also helps to tenderize the chicken, so you end up with the most tasty succulent chicken, and it also makes the sauce even more tasty than it already was. But beware, if you don’t like garlic, don’t make this, as it is still a very garliccy dish.
The original recipe suggest to serve this with both mashed potatoes and bread, but I think that is complete overkill. It already is quite a rich dish, so two carbs is definitely too much. Keep the mash for a dish with lighter sides, and only serve with bread. Or do as I do and serve with some rice, which also works perfectly to soak up the sauce and garlic. The original recipe also suggests to add some small shallots, but I think those make the sauce too sweet. I prefer to serve a fresh salad on the side.

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic (serves 4)
Adapted from the Hairy Bikers

1.35 kg oven-ready fresh chicken
1/2 lemon
2 bay leafs
few sprigs of thyme
25 g butter
1 tbsp sunflower oil
40 garlic cloves (from 2-3 bulbs), unpeeled
150 ml white wine
250 ml chicken stock (made with 1 stock cube)
100 ml (double) cream or crème fraîche
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Remove any string from the chicken and place the lemon, a sprig of thyme and 1 bay leaf inside the cavity. Generously season the chicken inside and out with plenty of flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Melt the butter with the oil in a large flameproof casserole. Brown the chicken over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes on each side.
Add the whole garlic cloves and shallots to the casserole, nestling around the chicken. Pour over the white wine and chicken stock. Add the other bay leaf and sprigs of thyme. Cover the casserole with a tight-fitting lid and bring the liquid to a simmer on the hob, then transfer to the oven for 1 1/4 hours, or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the garlic is completely softened. Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover with a piece of foil. Transfer the garlic to another plate and squeeze the garlic out of its skin into a bowl. Return the casserole to the hob, when the sauce is very thin cook it on high heat for a few minutes to reduce the liquid, then stir in the cream (or crème fraîche). Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring. Cook for three minutes. Season to taste and pour into a jug.
Carve the chicken into chunky pieces and serve with the sauce and garlic. Eat with rice or bread and a fresh salad.

Coq au Vin

Coq au vin (literally rooster with wine) is one of the most famous dishes of France. And with all traditional and popular dishes, there are many recipes available, good and bad, fast and extensive. This is my version, which I love to cook and eat on cold winter nights. I like to serve my coq au vin with rice, this is not very traditional, but works perfect to absorb all the delicious juices. You can also serve it with bread, which is more traditional. Other less traditional things that I do are: using only legs or thighs, not marinating the chicken, not binding the sauce and adding all the accompaniments (shallots, bacon, mushrooms) already at the beginning of the stewing time.

Some people like to remove the skin from the chicken, but I just leave it on as it protects the meat and gives extra flavour. If you don’t like skin, remove it before browning the chicken and fry it in a small pan with a little coconut oil. With a sprinkling of salt this is a delicious appetizer. Or remove it after cooking and give it to someone who does like skin. I think throwing it away is a waste.

Depending on the wine you use the chicken will be more deep red or more purple, but it should be a decent wine and be quite robust for a good result. Burgundy is the traditional choice, but a Shiraz, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon is also nice.

Coq au Vin

Coq au vin (2 generous servings)

2 chicken legs or 4 chicken thighs (with bone)
200 g bacon, in lardons
200 g small shallots, peeled but left whole
150 g small mushrooms, whole (or quarter larger muhsrooms)
1 bay leave, few sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
1/2 bottle of wine

Heat a Dutch oven or other heavy based pan with lid suitable for stewing.
Fry the bacon until the fat is rendered out and the bacon is brown and crisp. Take out of the pan and set aside.
Make sure the pan is nice and hot again and add the chicken. Brown on all sides. Add the shallots and mushrooms and fry for a few more minutes. Add the bacon back in, together with the bay leave, thyme and some pepper (no salt, the bacon is salty). Add the wine, cover the pan and stew for about 1 hour. Chicken thighs are smaller so will be ready earlier, legs will take a little longer. Check for seasoning and serve immediately.
Alternatively you can leave out the mushrooms at the beginning and fry them in a separate pan just before serving.

Brown rice gratin

I like rice, so I eat a lot of rice dishes. But sometimes I want something different than the standard stir-fry, curry and nasi type dishes. And this gratin is certainly different. It is a fusion dish, cooked ham, peas and baby corn are ingredients that are found often in the nasi you get at Chinese take-aways, but combining it with mozzarella and fresh green herbs is something very unusual… but very delicious! Where most rice dishes are either quite dry (stir-fry/nasi) or quite wet (curry), this is gooey. Gooey like a lovely pasta dish, but without the pasta. I did think it lacked some texture, all the ingredients are quite soft, so a handful of crisp cashew nuts would be a perfect addition. The original recipe doesn’t have cooked ham in it, since it came out of a vegetarian cookbook. I think it is a nice addition, but you can certainly leave it out and add a bit more mozzarella instead to make it a vegetarian dish.

I will certainly make this again. It has everything I look for in an everyday dish: affordable ingredients that are easy to obtain, easy and no-fuss cooking, not much dishes to wash afterwards, the exact amount of ingredients don’t matter that much, by using different vegetables and herbs you have a completely different dish, possible to cook (partly) in advance, healthy and easy to pimp up for special occasions.

A note on brown rice: I tried it before and didn’t like it at all. Being used to eating only basmati, I found the supermarket brown rice gummy and lacking in taste. But when I bought a bag from an organic store, I was converted. It does take quite a bit longer to cook (30-45 minutes), but it is certainly worth it. It is very substantial, has nice chewy (in a good way) grains and has a slight nutty, rich flavour perfect for dishes in which the rice needs to stand out/in which the delicate flavour of basmati would disappear.

Brown Rice Gratin

Brown rice gratin (2 generous servings)
Adapted from Vegetarisch Koken – Verrukkelijk en gezond

150 g brown rice
1 stock cube (I used vegetable)
1 onion, cubed
splash of olive oil
125 g green peas (frozen is fine, but leave them to defrost first)
1 can baby corn (I sliced the corn lengthway in halves)
100 g cooked ham, cubed
200 g mozzarella, half cubed and half sliced
1 tbsp chopped fresh green herbs (parsley, chives, etc)
handful of cashew nuts

Cook the rice in water with the stock cube according to the instructions on the package. I use twice the volume of the rice as the amount of water, put everything in a pan with lid, bring it to the boil and leave it for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked.
Meanwhile, prepare all the other ingredients. Fry the onion in the olive oil until soft and translucent. Preferably use a big pan that can go in the oven, this keeps the washing up as low as possible. Turn of the heat and throw all the other ingredients in, except the slices of mozzarella. Season with pepper, salt is not necessary because of the stock cube, the salty cheese and salty ham.
When the rice is cooked, add this to the pan and mix well with the other ingredients, then flatten the top. Place the sliced of mozzarella on top for a nice cheesy crust and place the whole thing in a preheated oven at 180C. Cook for about 10 minutes to heat everything trough, then use the grill to turn the top golden. Serve immediately.

Poached seatrout with carrots, rice and hollandaise sauce

A very simple dish with clean and light flavours. Don’t be scared by the techniques of poaching and making a hollandaise, it seems difficult, but actually it is quite easy. Just give it a try!

Poached seatrout with carrots, rice and hollandaise sauce

Poached seatrout with carrots, rice and hollandaise sauce (serves 2)
From Raymond Blanc – The Great British Food Revival
and from the BBC recipe archive

For the poached seatrout
1/4 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 celery stalk, washed and thinly sliced
1/4 medium leek, washed and thinly sliced
2 lemon slices
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, bay leave)
1 tsp sea salt
5 peppercorns
100 ml white wine
1 seatrout, cleaned

For the hollandaise sauce
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 egg yolks
125g butter
1 tbsp chopped green herbs
lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste

To serve
Cooked carrots
Cooked rice

For the poaching stock, add all of the ingredients (except the fish) to a large saucepan with 750ml water. The fish will have to fit in later on, so choose a pan that is wide enough. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the hollandaise sauce. Put the vinegar in a small pan with the peppercorns and bay leaf. Reduce the vinegar over a high heat until there is only 1 tbsp left. Strain the peppercorns and the bay leaf from this reduction.Put the egg yolks in a bowl with the vinegar reduction. Gently melt the butter so that the butter solids fall to the bottom of the saucepan. While whisking, pour in the butter. The sauce will start to thicken. Don’t add the butter solids! If the sauce is too thick, add a little hot water.Season to taste with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice, and add the chopped green herbs.
Slide the trout into the simmering stock (leaving the vegetables in). Bring the pan back to a gentle simmer and cook the fish for about 10 minutes, depending on the size of the fish.
Serve the fish filleted together with the hollandaise sauce, the carrots and rice.

Note: The poaching stock is just a simple vegetable stock, and after you have poached the fish in it, it will have a fish flavour as well. So don’t throw it away, it is a great soup, either like this or with some added ingredients to jazz it up a bit.

Rice and fish

Rice and fish is a dish of my childhood memories. On my birthday, I was allowed to choose diner. And for many years, rice and fish was it, even though we ate it already regularly. Nowadays I make it myself as an easy, fast and satisfying diner. Recently I discovered that this recipe actually spans 3 generations, my parents learned to make it from my grandmother.

The dish consists of cooked rice, softened onions, lots of curry powder and smoked mackerel. I think that it is actually based on the Anglo-Indian dish kedgeree, which contains cooked rice, smoked haddock, curry powder, cooked eggs and sometimes cream and parsley. Kedgeree was originally eaten for breakfast, but it makes a delicious lunch/diner as well. Although my parents never did it, I like the idea of serving a cooked egg with the rice and fish to make the dish a bit more substantial. And for a bit more vitamins I serve it with a green salad.

Curry powder is a highly varying mixture of spices, the blend usually contains coriander, turmeric (hence the yellowish colour!), cumin, fenugreek and red pepper, but ginger, garlic, asafoetida, fennel seed, caraway, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, cardamon and black pepper may also be added. It is a western invention and has little to do with the authentic spices of Asian curry dishes. Still, a good curry blend has many applications like rice dishes as this one, to sprinkle on fried egg, make curry chicken and curry soup. I commonly have two different curries in my spice cabinet, djawah and Surinam/Hindoestan. No standard supermarket curries, because those are bland and distasteful. Curry djawah is the most common “special” curry in the Netherlands, is quite mild and originates from Indonesia (Java). Surinam curry is more spicy. But there are many, many more variants, check your local toko/Asian supermarket for a mixture you like. As with all (ground) spices it will loose its flavour over time, so if your jar of curry powder is years old, throw it away and buy a new one. Because of the loss of flavour it is best to buy only small amounts of spices when you don’t use them often.

Smoked mackerel is a bit of a confusing term, because there are two variants that are not always used in the correct way. Real smoked mackerel is smoked cold (before smoking the fish is brined), steamed mackerel is smoked hot. I usually use steamed mackerel fillets, because fillets are much easier to clean than a whole mackerel, and the steamed variant is easily available.

Rice and fish

Rice and fish (2 persons)
175 g basmati rice (or other long grain rice)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp curry powder (or to taste)
2 steamed mackerel fillets
2 eggs
Accompaniment: green salad

Cook the rice via the absorption method. I always use the same mug to measure the amount of rice and water. Pour the rice in a cooking pan, then add 1,5 times the volume of rice in water. Season generously with salt (when you cook rice in unsalted water you will never be able to season your dish nicely, because the rice is tasteless). Bring to the boil and cook with a lid on top until all the water is absorbed, then leave the pan with lid of the fire for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the oil until soft and translucent. Cook the eggs according to your own method/taste, peel and quarter them. And prepare the mackerel: take of the skin, flake the fish and remove the bones. When the rice is ready, add the curry powder to the onion, fry for 1 minute to release the flavour and smell. Add the rice and mix well, check the seasoning. Add the fish, spoon through carefully and cook for another minute to heat the fish. Serve with the cooked egg and salad.

Paella with chorizo and chicken

Paella is a versatile dish, easy to prepare in many different variations. Especially on colder nights I love this warming and filling dish, it is real comfort food! I served it with some cucumber sticks for extra vegetables and to counterbalance the spice in the rice.

Because of the chorizo, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and cumin this dish has a warm, deep and spicy flavour. The smoked paprika gives it a hint of smokiness, it is really worth looking for because it can enhance the flavour of not only this paella, but of many dishes. In Groningen you can get it at the herb stand on the market, but if you cannot find it anywhere use ordinary paprika instead… take care to use a nice one from a toko or something, because the stuff you get at the supermarket just tastes like bitter dust.

Paella with Chicken and Chorizo

Paella with chorizo and chicken (2 servings)

150 gram paella or risotto rice (I used arborio)
100 gram chorizo, diced (I used the already cooked variety, because cooking chorizo is not available around here)
2 chicken thighs
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red paprika (or yellow or orange), diced
olive oil
1 tin tomatoes
1 stock cube
2 bay leaves
2-3 tsp smoky paprika powder (depending on the strength/your preferences)
1/2 tsp cumin
cayenne pepper to taste
salt and pepper

Heat some olive oil in a heavy, big pan. Sauté the onion until soft and translucent, then add the chorizo, garlic and paprika. After frying a bit, add the rice, paprika powder, cumin and cayenne. This should be fried until the rice is coated with oil/chorizo fat and the spices are fragrant. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, stock cube and chicken, and cook in a lidded pan on low heat until the rice and chicken are cooked. Stir regularly and add some extra water when the mixture is looking too dry. When cooked, set the rice aside and take out the chicken. Heat some oil in a frying pan until quite hot, put the chicken in here skin side down (this will splatter!). Cook until it has a nice, crispy skin. Season the rice with salt, pepper and cayenne if necessary.
This dish can be made in advance, then leave the chicken in the rice and fry it only when serving, reheat the rice on low heat with a bit of extra water.

Courgette, ham and bechamel sauce gratin

Everyone who has/had courgette plants in their gardens knows that with nice summery weather these plants turn into overdrive. A courgette a day per plant is not uncommon. Although our two courgette plants did not yield us this much courgettes, other ways to use courgette except grilling an putting it through rice and pasta dishes are always nice to know.

This recipe was given to me by one of my neighbours. The courgette is cut into batons, grilled until brown and rolled into slices of ham together with some sautéed onions. Bechamel sauce is poured over and the top is grilled in the oven. The combination may seem a bit weird, but when you taste it, you will make it again. The firm courgette contrasts very nicely with the creamy bechamel sauce, and the ham gives a nice savoury touch. By gratinating the dish it becomes a whole, and the bechamel gets a nice crust. Very nice to serve with some plain cooked rice. You don’t need much rice because the dish is very filling, but the rice works well with the bechamel sauce.

Courgette, ham and bechamel sauce gratin

Courgette, ham and bechamel sauce gratin (2 portions)
1 courgette
1 onion
some oil
salt and pepper
a few sprigs of thyme
150 gram cooked ham (in thin slices)
25 gram butter
25 gram flour
300 ml milk
Optional: some green herbs (parsley, chives) to put through the bechamel

Slice the courgette into batons and the onion into rings. Grill the courgette until brown and sauté the onions in some oil and with some salt, pepper and the thyme until soft. Preheat the oven at 200C.
Make a bechamel sauce. Melt the butter, add the flour, stir until mixed well and there are no lumps (this is called a roux). Fry this on low heat for 2-3 minutes to cook the flour. Take care not to brown the roux, bechamel is a white sauce! Then pour in the milk bit by bit, stirring well and adding the next bit only when the previous is taken up completely. When you add too much milk too fast, the sauce will get lumpy. I like to do this with a wooden spoon, but many people prefer a whisk. When all the milk is added, cook the sauce for another 2-3 minutes to let it bind completely. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg (and green herbs when using).
Make the onion-courgette-ham rolls. Spoon some onion on a slice of ham, place some courgette batons on top and roll the ham around. Place in an ovenproof dish and finish all the rolls. Then pour over the bechamel sauce. Put the dish in the oven and bake until the top forms a nice crust. Take care, bechamel is one of those things that can go from pale to burned in a very short period of time! Serve hot.

Breakfast Risotto

I think risotto is a bit tricky. I like the wet, gloopy texture and the warm, rich flavour, but I am never sure what to put in there. Often the recipes that I find are a bit overdone, distracting you from the actual jumminess of the rice and the stock that has gone in there; or they need side-dishes, while I think that you’re busy enough with cooking the risotto. The two variants on my blog, chicken risotto and salmon risotto, are actually the two kinds of risotto that I make.

Until I found this recipe…. It is called breakfast risotto, because you can eat it in the morning and has bacon and egg, but it works perfectly for diner as well. I learned that leek works perfectly in risotto, it emphasizes the sweetness and almost disappears in the risotto. The bacon gives it a nice savoury crunch. And the egg adds even more creaminess than risotto already has of itself, and gives it just that little extra so that the risotto is a complete meal. And they are all ingredients that I like a lot and that are quite cheap.

Even though it is quite some work, I will definitely make this again. It is just so delicious, I think this is my new favourite risotto….

Breakfast risotto

Bacon, Egg and Leek Risotto (4 large servings)
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1.5 L good chicken stock (plus a bit extra to loosen it up a bit more if necessary, you never know with risotto)
125 g bacon, in lardons (cubes/strips)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, washed and sliced thinly
3 tbsp butter, plus more to fry eggs
1 onion, finely chopped
350 g arborio, carnaroli, or another short-grained Italian rice
1 glass white wine
1 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and black pepper
4 eggs

Heat stock over low heat. Heat a large pan or skillet. Fry the bacon until it renders its fat and is crisp. Remove and set aside. Then cook the leeks in the bacon fat until soft. Set aside as well.

Cook onion in butter until translucent and soft. Add rice and sauté until slightly toasted. Add wine and cook until it is absorbed by the rice. Add a few ladles of hot stock into the rice mixture and simmer until it absorbs, stirring frequently. Add remaining stock spoon for spoon, allowing the stock to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently (it tends to stick when it gets drier) until rice is cooked, about 25 to 30 minutes. It should be creamy and loose. When ladled onto a plate, it should spill into a creamy puddle, not heap in a mound. When cooked, stir in the cheese, bacon and leeks. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into serving bowls.

Then, bake the eggs, season with salt (optional: pepper) and transfer to the risotto. Garnish each with an extra bit of grated parmesan and eat immediately.