This week’s first menu was tried and tested, successfully, at my recent ‘virtual’ dinner party. My sister lives further afield so it has not been possible to meet up in the flesh, instead we have been using Zoom, for chats and a couple of family quizzes. I thought it was time to spice up our chats, and so I suggested a virtual dinner party in which we would both cook exactly the same dinner and enjoy it together. The dinner menu had to be easy to synchronise between our households so I decided on a risotto which is cooked in the oven. Before we met up, we each prepped our dishes to the stage before adding the rice. Our dinner party started with a couple of cocktails together, both my sister and I opted for espresso martinis, then, synchronising our clocks we added the stock to the risotto and placed it in the oven. Meanwhile we opened a bottle of wine to accompany our antipasti of cold meats, and forty-five minutes later risotto was served promptly in both households with a green salad.
There is something about sharing food that always makes being with friends and family better. Even though we were miles away from each other, Zoom managed to connect our kitchens with all their clatter and atmosphere, so much so that we almost forgot about our dessert, already made earlier in the day – a lemon posset with some raspberries. It was a lovely evening, our families can always speak for hours but this Zoom call exceeded all expectations – simply because there was food! If you haven’t already tried the concept of a virtual dinner party with your far afield friends and family, I urge you to try it, it’s a novelty which I am sure you will repeat again and again!
Anyway, onto this week’s menus…those of you who are vegetarian will be thrilled to hear that the risotto is perfect for you – a mushroom risotto with a touch of Madeira wine! The second menu is lamb chops with a pomegranate molasses marinade, a dish which has the taste of a Greek summer escape – just what we need right now, when escaping abroad is not an easy option! Finally I’m sharing the recipes for the lemon posset and of course, the espresso martini!
Oven Baked Mushroom Risotto and a Green Salad with Sherry Vinegar Vinaigrette (Serves 3-4)
Oven baked risotto is more common these days, but when I found this recipe about 18 years ago in a Delia Smith cookbook, it was a revelation – it is such an easy and hands free dish. There is of course, still a time and a place for conventional risotto; I must admit that I find stove top risotto a rather relaxing, therapeutic exercise, but when you are in a hurry or simply want to enjoy the company of your family and friends instead of concentrating on the stove, this recipe is a blessing. It is also very tasty! Just two rules when cooking this dish – follow the cook times precisely and serve immediately. The portions of this recipe are quite small, so if you are very hungry I would double the recipe to make two dishes. I like to serve the risotto with a salad dressed with a sherry vinegar vinaigrette as it compliments the flavour perfectly. The Maderia wine is an important element to this recipe, although you won’t use the whole bottle, once opened it can be stored in the fridge for many months without deteriorating; I always have a bottle in my fridge as a small glug can lift the flavour of many sauces!
10g dried porcini
225g flat, dark gilled mushrooms(or Portobello mushrooms)
60 g unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
175g Carnaroli risotto rice
150ml Dry Maderia
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated; plus about 50g shaved into flakes with a potato peeler
Sea salt and black pepper
(You will need an oven proof dish with 1.5litre capacity – approx. 23cm with a 5cm depth)
- Begin by soaking the porcini in a bowl with 570ml boiling water, leave to soften for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile chop the fresh mushrooms into about 1cm cubes, no smaller as they will shrink with cooking.
- Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onion, gently cook to soften for about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, stir well. Leave the pan to one side whilst you deal with the soaked porcini.
- After the porcini have soaked for 30 minutes, place a sieve, lined with a double layer of kitchen roll, over a bowl, and strain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid – squeeze the mushrooms out in the kitchen roll.
- Chop the porcini finely and add to the pan with the mushrooms and onions. Gently sweat for about 20 minutes, so that the juices are released.
- Meanwhile place a baking dish in a preheated oven, 150’c, to warm.
- Add the rice and stir it around to get a good coating of butter, then add the Maderia and the strained soaking liquid. Add a teaspoon of salt, some black pepper, and bring to simmering point.
- Transfer the risotto mix from the pan to the warmed dish, stir and place in the oven. Set the timer and give it exactly 20 minutes
- After 20 minutes, gently stir in the parmesan. Return to the oven for exactly 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Serve immediately with the shavings of parmesan sprinkled over and a green salad.
Sherry Vinegar Vinaigrette
Make up a salad as desired and dress with this vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon honey
Sea salt and black pepper
- Whisk all the ingredients together.
Pomegranate and Honey Glazed Chops with a Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki served with Rice (Serves 4)
This recipe is from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘Pure, Simple Cooking’, it is one of those cookbooks which I find myself going back to again and again, it has lots of really simple yet stunning recipes. This recipe has the flavours of Greece, it is a perfect summer dish, and if the UK weather permits, even better al fresco! I like to serve it with white long grain rice. Make sure you allow time to marinate the chops, anything from 1-24 hours – but the longer the tastier!..
8 thick lamb chops (chump chops)
Sea salt and black pepper
2½ tablespoons pomegranate molasses
8 tablespoons olive oil
1½ tablespoons honey
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Radish and Cucumber Tzatziki
200g radishes, finely sliced
½ cucumber, cut into small cubes
300g plain Greek-style yogurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons mint, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Large bunch of coriander, leaves picked
3 tablespoons of fresh pomegranate seeds
- Mix the marinade ingredients together, coat the chops generously and leave to marinate, refrigerated, for 1 to 24 hours.
- To make the Tzatziki simply mix the radishes, cucumber, yogurt and garlic together, then stir through the mint leaves and olive oil.
- Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan, cook the chops for about 3 minutes on each side, do not have the heat up too high otherwise you will burn the honey and pomegranate mixture.
- Serve the chops on a bed of the coriander leaves, dressed with a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and the tzatziki on the side, sprinkle over pomegranate seeds. Serve with rice.
Lemon Posset with Raspberries (Serves 4-6)
There are lots of slightly different variations of this simple, summer dessert; over the years I have tried a few and this is my favourite…
600ml double cream
150g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
4 tablespoons of lemon juice (from above lemons)
Raspberries to serve
- Combine the cream, sugar and lemon zest in a small pan over a low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved, when bubbles start to appear around the edges of the mixture continue to cook without stirring for 2 minutes – Do Not let the mixture come to a rolling boil!
- Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, then strain through a sieve into a jug.
- Pour into small dishes or glasses to serve. This is a rich dessert, so I would keep the portions on the small side.
- Cover each dish with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours until set.
- Serve with raspberries.
Espresso Martini (Serves 2)
Another of my favourite cocktails! If you haven’t got a cocktail shaker use a lidded jam jar. To create a creamy head on the cocktail make sure that the espresso is hot. This recipe will give you two servings – to share or not to share…?!
75ml coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua or Tia Maria)
75ml hot espresso(see above)
6 coffee beans (optional)
- Chill 2 Martini glasses.
- Put the vodka, coffee liqueur and freshly brewed espresso into a cocktail shaker (or a lidded jam jar), with a handful of ice.
- Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into the glasses. Top each with 3 coffee beans, if you like.