Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Cooking and contemplation - Lemon Chicken Risotto
Normally, weekday meals (on the days where I have to put a shift in elsewhere that is!) are speedy, not overly involved affairs which allow me to do other things whilst some amazing cooking process is taking place. Monday, however, was different. At the weekend I had planned what I wanted to cook that week because I wanted to use up some sad looking leftovers in the fridge, the meat that resembled icebergs languishing at the bottom of the freezer and to get to the very far nooks and crannies of the cupboards to eke out those packets and tins which had become forgotten. All of it needed using. But Monday afternoon I got a cold, one of those ones that feels like it's filled your head with soggy cotton wool and where your shoulders and chest begin to ache. Any other time and I would have uttered the phrase "Chippy for tea" as Phill walked through the door, but I had a plan, and weirdly despite having a cold I really wanted to make, and eat, this dish - Tamasin Day Lewis' Lemon Chicken Risotto, from her book 'Supper for a Song'.
Regular readers of this blog will know I am a big fan of Tamasin Day Lewis and every one of her cookbooks that I own (and I think it's all of them, actually) have sustained some sort of cooking punishment - splattered pages, dog eared corners, slightly bashed looking... you get the drift. This, in my mind, has to be the sign of a good cookbook, if not a clumsy chef. This book in particular I have cooked quite a few recipes from, particularly as I like the premise of being thrifty but eating well. And with the news that I heard yesterday that the average food bill is expected to go up by an average of 15% by next June, it's something worth thinking about. This mum does not want to go to Iceland - I still want to be able to give Lola and Finn a meal without resorting to food that might be cheap but full of junk.
Anyway, whilst I move my soapbox out of the way, let me tell you despite being riddled with a cold, this risotto was quite a pleasure to make. Once the initial preparation was done, the act of stirring and sloshing the odd ladle of chicken stock onto the rapidly expanding grains of risotto was actually quite soothing. I could even do it sitting down. What's more, the end was result was really tasty and comforting; I swear it made me feel just a little bit better.
In terms of Lola and Finn, well, Finn is Finn and very hard to please. Miraculously, when I told him he wouldn't be allowed to play his 4x4 driving game after the meal if he didn't eat some of it. He ate about six mouthfuls and gave me raised eyebrows. This is very high praise from the boy who isn't interested unless it involves sausages, or cake. Lola, foodie adventurer, liked the creaminess. Good girl.
Lemon Chicken Risotto, adapted from Tamasin Day Lewis' 'Supper for a Song'.
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad and one other
Ingredients, plus my adaptions, in red:
1 tbsp olive oil
2oz unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped (I used 3 because they seemed small and we like the flavour)
1 celery stalk, de-strung and finely chopped (or whizzed to a state of oblivion in a mini chopper if you're me because of Phill's celery hatred)
10oz risotto rice (I used Arborio)
1 3/4 pints vegetable or chicken stock (I used chicken)
6 sage leaves, rolled up and shredded (I confess - at this point I used a tsp of dried thyme as I had no sage and felt that chicken, lemon and thyme had to be good)
1 small sprig of rosemary needles, chopped
finely grated zest and juice of one (organic) lemon
1 (organic) large egg yolk
4 tbsp of freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve,
4tbsp double cream
sea salt and black pepper
6oz cooked chicken (I used the meat from three chicken legs - so a little bit extra chicken than specified)
Parsley for sprinkling (my addition)
Using a heavy bottomed saucepan or pot, melt half of the butter and olive oil together.
Add the shallots and celery to the pan and cook gently for a few minutes until the mixture is softened.
Tip in the risotto rice and stir to coat for a couple of minutes.
Heat the stock whilst you are cooking out the celery and shallot and coating the rice, so it is simmering in time to add the first ladle or so of chicken stock. I found initially that I had to put a ladle and a half of chicken stock in first to give the rice something to absorb. Stir the mixture until the stock is absorbed.
Once the stock has almost been absorbed, add another ladle to the pot and continue this process of ladling and stirring until virtually all the stock is used, probably about 20 ish minutes. Halfway through the cooking time, add the herbs and the lemon zest.
In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, the Parmesan and the cream, then scrunch over some black pepper. Mix well with a fork.
When the rice is cooked but still with some bite to it, take the pan off the heat and add the egg mixture, cooked chicken and remaining butter. Add the last of the stock to the risotto.
Cover the pan and leave the risotto to rest off the heat. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary, adding more lemon juice if necessary.
Give the mixture a last stir and serve immediately topped with grated Parmesan and a little chopped parsley if you like.