Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Smoked Garlic Risotto with King Scallops and Prosecco

I was inspired to create this combination of flavours after Niamh at Eat Like a Girl posted a competition on her blog recently. The aim: to find a dish that matches perfectly the fresh fruitiness of Prosecco - Bisol Jeio Prosecco, to be precise. Well, that got me thinking, as in my experience Prosecco has been served more as an aperitif than as an accompaniment to a meal. But I loved the idea of having a glass of chilled, sparkling Prosecco to sip along with a sumptuous treat of a supper dish - and once this seed of thought was planted, I could not get the idea of a rich, creamy risotto out of my mind, delicate in flavour and accompanied by a trio of the freshest king scallops, simply panfried. Why not go a step further and use the Prosecco in the cooking too? Ah yes, that seals the deal. To me, this is a match made in foodie heaven. I wonder if Niamh agrees . . .

Smoked Garlic Risotto with King Scallops and Prosecco
Serves 2

1 onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves smoked garlic, finely chopped
1 mug of Arborio risotto rice
1 glass Prosecco
1 litre of warm vegetable or fish stock
chopped chives
juice of half a lemon
salt & pepper
6 king scallops (roes removed), seasoned on each side with salt & pepper

1. Heat some olive oil in a heavy-based pan and gently saute the onion and celery for a couple of minutes. Add the smoked garlic and fry for a minute or two until the flavours are aromatic, but take care not to let the garlic colour.
2. Add the rice to the pan and stir to mix the flavours thoroughly. Pour over a glass of Prosecco and enjoy the sizzle for a minute until all the wine is absorbed.
3. Add the warm stock a ladleful at a time, waiting until each has absorbed into the rice before adding the next. (The rice should end up just past al dente stage, but not so soft that it turns into a mush.)
4. When enough stock has been absorbed into the rice, add a generous knob of butter to the pan, a good squeeze of lemon juice, some chopped chives, and season to taste. Stir together to make the risotto gloriously shiny.
5. Meanwhile, cook the scallops. Heat some olive oil and a knob of butter in a frying pan, making sure the pan is good and hot before adding the seasoned scallops. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes on either side, depending on the size of the scallop, until they are golden brown. Set aside to rest while putting the finishing touches to the risotto.
6. Serve the golden scallops perched on top of a bowl of the shimmering risotto, along with a glass of chilled Prosecco, of course.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Hearty Tuscan Bean Soup

I found myself pottering around my kitchen on Saturday afternoon, feeling slightly fuzzy round the edges after one too many glasses of wine the night before, but blissfully happy in the knowledge that I had no plans, nowhere to be, and that it was just horrible enough outside to justify my staying indoors all day.

So instead of reaching for the frozen pizza - as I am wont to do on such occasions - I began flicking through a few of the blogs I like to follow, and I came upon this month's No Croutons Required competition, hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes. In the spirit of our recession-hit times, the theme this time is frugality, and the aim is to create a vegetarian soup (or salad) using only storecupboard ingredients, plus whatever you can find in the fridge. That got me thinking - hey, I've got a tin of tomatoes in the cupboard, and a tin of butter beans, plus there's all that veg from our weekly organic box that needs using up ...

And so, with an added dash of inspiration after watching Nigel Slater's new programme the other day, I set about creating my competition entry. A kind of autumnal, warming bean soup with hints of our holiday in Italy earlier this year, I'm calling it my Hearty Tuscan Bean Soup. It's truly one of the most delicious things I've eaten in a long time - far better than that frozen pizza I'd had my eyes on...

Hearty Tuscan Bean Soup
Serves 4

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stick celery, 1 carrot and 1 red pepper, all coarsely chopped
tin butter beans, drained and rinsed
tin chopped tomatoes
500ml vegetable stock
squeeze of tomato puree
the heel of a chunk of parmesan or pecorino, if desired/available (thanks to NS for this idea!)
pinch oregano
a few sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Saute the onion and garlic in some olive oil for a few minutes, until soft but not brown. Add the chopped veg and continue to saute, covered, for a further 5 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes, stock and tomato puree, stir well and bring to a simmer. Throw in the end of a chunk of parmesan or pecorino, if you happen to have one hiding in the back of the fridge.
3. Add the herbs and seasoning, along with the butter beans, and simmer a few more minutes until the flavours have melded together and the cheese is meltingly soft but not broken up.
4. Remove the cheese from the pot, check the seasoning, and serve the soup with some rustic Italian bread and maybe a drizzle of olive oil.