Chicken and mushroom risotto (yes, the sloppy one)

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Yes indeed. After mentioning it in earlier posts, I thought it was time to wheel out the very reason this blog began. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you The Original Sloppy Risotto.

This was the first dish I decided I really could call my own. I didn’t use a recipe, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but somehow, it came out pretty darn good. Since then, this has been a favourite of mine and flatmate Lizzie’s, and we’ve established a rather effective routine: I cook, she washes up. Works for me.

Everyone bangs on about how hard it is to get risotto right, but I’ve never had a problem. I don’t for one minute think this is down to any kind of culinary brilliance on my own part, so I’ve come to the conclusion it’s one of those over-hyped rumours, and that, in fact, any student with a saucepan and a spoon can whip up.

So give it a go. This is risotto my way, and it’s scrummy, healthy and man, is it easy.

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto – Serves 1

Ingredients
75g risotto rice
75g mushrooms, sliced
1 chicken breast, cut into strips
300mls chicken stock
1/2 onion, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, crushed
A sprinkle of mixed herbs (or oregano, if you have some)
Salt and pepper
Peas (optional)

Method

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1. As always, start by prepping your ingredients. Make up your stock with boiling water and half a stock cube, clean your mushrooms with a damp piece of kitchen roll, and chop what needs chopping.

2. Fry your chicken in a medium saucepan until cooked through, for about 4 minutes. Then chuck in the onion, mushroom and garlic, and fry for a further 3 minutes. You can add a handful of peas here, if you’re using them.

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3. Tip your risotto rice into the pan, and then add a LITTLE of the stock. Keep stirring as it it soaked up. Keep up this routine, adding a little stock, waiting until it’s almost all gone, and then adding some more, stirring all the while.Of course, you can leave it long enough to lay the table, just keep an eye on it.

4. When you’ve added the last of your stock, season well with a pinch of salt and lots of pepper, and your herbs. When there is no longer any liquid swilling on the bottom of the pan, your risotto is done. It should be sticky and moist, but not runny. Sloppy. That’s the one.

5. Serve with some nice green salad, and enjoy!

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Top tips for students

*Always heat your plates before you serve food onto them. This keeps your food hot while you eat. Just pop them in a very low oven or grill for a couple of minutes before serving.

*Don’t slice mushrooms too thinly – they shrink down a lot when cooked, so if you want some substance to your meal, cut them chunky.

*Use the non-sharp edge of your knife when scraping food off your chopping board – using the sharp side will blunt the knife

 

So there’s your risotto. You can use this recipe and build on it – that’s the risotto’s beauty, how versitile it is. If you’re a veggie, leave out the chicken and pack it with veggies. If you can afford the luxury, chorizo in your risotto will give the rice a beautiful tangy flavour. Play around – that’s the fun of cooking!

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Spicy mediterranean chicken

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Chicken: the wannabe-chef student’s fave. Why? Because when you realise you aren’t going to catch salmonella and die everytime you cook it, it becomes the most simple, versatile and reasonably-priced way to get some protein into your diet. Which is important – just because meat’s expensive, doesn’t mean you won’t suffer from leaving it out your diet. Just look for offers on meat and buy in bulk to save some pennies.

When I started uni, I was terrified of the stuff. Flatmates would wave raw chicken in my face (yes, really) because they knew I hated the stuff. I would squirm and wriggle whenever I had to touch it, and then proceed to fry it to a crisp to make sure it was cooked.

Needless to say, I’ve come a long way.

With the discovery of how to cook chicken (could it be easier? Just make sure it isn’t pink!) came this: one of my favourite simple, cheap meals that can easily be made for one or ten, depending on your needs. Adapted from a fabulous recipe by Mary Berry, give this one a go.

Spicy Mediterranean Chicken – Serves 3

Ingredients
3 chicken breasts
1 large onion, chopped
70g pancetta or ham
A handful of mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 small red chilli, finely chopped OR 1 1/2tsp dried chilli powder
200g rice
450ml chicken stock
A little paprika
2tbsps thyme (preferably fresh but dried will do)

Method

1. Get all your ingredients ready. This saves time and makes sure you won’t miss anything out!

2. Sprinkle a little salt, pepper and paprika on the raw chicken breasts. Heat a splash of olive oil in a big frying pan and brown the chicken for a few minutes on each side until it starts to go golden. It doesn’t matter if it’s not cooked all the way through – just blitz the outsides, known as ‘sealing’ the meat. Then, pop it on a plate to one side.

3. In the same pan, fry the onion, pancetta, mushrooms, chilli and 1/2tsp paprika for a few minutes on a high heat.

4. Add the rice, stock and bring to the boil. Return the chicken to the pan and then pop a lid on. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the rice is soft and the chicken is cooked through.

5. Stir in the thyme and it’s ready to serve! To make it look extra nice, keep back a bit of the thyme and sprinkle ontop of each plate.

And that’s it! Spicy med chicken, ready to serve up and wow your flatmates.

Top student tips
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If you’re like I was and don’t like cooking chicken, this is a great way to start – you don’t have to touch the yukky raw chicken, and it’s really easy to test a whole chicken breast. Just cut a small cut into each breast and make sure it isn’t pink. You’ll be fine, I promise!

* Veggies can still enjoy this one-pot meal with a kick by swapping chicken for tofu, a soya product that still packs plenty of protein and absorbs flavours really well. I’m no veggie, and I’m still a sucker for tofu!

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Chocolate, orange and raspberry cake

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Deep breath. Here we go.

Welcome to my blog!

This is where I aim to help out fellow students around the world. A big ask, right? Well, I may not be able to find a cure for the common cold, or engineer space shuttles for space exploration but one thing I can do is give budding young cooks some ideas, some inspiration, and maybe five minutes of amusing procrastination from their essays.

If you want to find out more about me, head to the ‘about me’ tab (does what is says on the tin, huh..?) If you can’t be bothered, all you need to know is this: Lydia Rose, 19, English student, food-lover, budding cook, creator of the Legendary Chicken-y Mushroom Sloppy Risotto (more on that later).

My love of cooking started when Mom would let me help with fairy cakes. She’d make them, and I’d be left to slop on some icing, shovel on some sugar gems and, of course, lick the bowl. I think most people get into cooking through baking. Because, let’s face it, everyone loves cake.

So, from messy little goodies like these, I learnt as much as I could from folding to frangipane. And I still have a heck of a lot to learn.

Today I thought I’d share one of my messy, throw-the-recipe-out-the-window creations. This is my choc, orange and raspberry sponge cake, and it’s super easy. Anyone who’s made a victoria sponge before will find nothing new here, and those who haven’t could still do it blindfolded. Think of it as a cheat’s recipe – the simplest sponge you could make, with a little added wow.

Ingredients

For the choccy layers
140g self-raising flour, sifted
35g cocoa powder, sifted
175g butter (at room temp)
175g caster sugar
1 1/2tsp baking powder
3 eggs, beaten

For the orange layer
85g self-raising flour
85g butter
85g caster sugar
3/4tsp baking powder
1 egg
3tbsps orange juice
Natural orange food colouring*

*It’s important to pick a natural one – it’s made from good stuff like seeds rather than nasty e-numbers

For filling and decorating
50g butter
100g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
A good dollop of raspberry jam
A couple of raspberries and satsuma segments

Method

1. Preheat the oven to gas 4/ 180 degrees, and grease and line the bases of three round cake tins

2. Throw all the ingredients listed for the choccy layers in a mixing bowl (hope you’ve remembered to sieve the flour and beat the eggs first!) Whisk with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes, or by hand with a wooden spoon for 4 minutes, until the mixture is completely combined and a medium brown in colour. Divide between two of the tins.

3. Repeat the process in a clean bowl with the ingredients for the orange layer. Pour this into the remaining prepared tin.

4. Bake on a reasonably high shelf for 25 minutes, until risen and just about firm to the touch. When it’s done, leave it to cool for 5 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

5. In the meantime, prepare your buttercream. Beat the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl – it should be reasonably stiff but still soft enough to spread. Place one of the chocolate layers on a plate, and spread half of the butter icing on top using a palette knife.

6. Place the orange layer carefully on top of this, and spread with the raspberry jam.

7. Place the final choccy layer on top, and spread the remaining chocolate buttercream on top. To create the lattice of lines, run the back of a fork through the icing in one direction across the entire cake. Then repeat this action across the cake, this time leaving one fork’s space for every set of lines you scrape. Top with fresh raspberries and satsuma segments, and serve with a very smug smile.

Top tips for students

* Don’t keep opening the oven door when you’re baking – the hot air will get out and your cake will sink. Instead, check once when the time is up, and if it’s not quite cooked yet, leave for three minutes before checking again.

* You can swap butter for margerine in the buttercream, but DO use real butter for the cakes themselves. You won’t get the same yummy taste and texture without it.

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