Homemade Scampi

I never had scampi growing up so I never actually knew what it was. I think I ordered it in a pub once and didn’t like the flavour or texture at all as it felt really processed and not like real fish – and this put me off having it for a long time.

I think I saw in a magazine that scampi is actually supposed to just be prawns which is when I started to do my own healthier version in breadcrumbs and cooked in the oven rather than battered and deep fried. Obviously this tastes nothing like what you expect scampi to be like and is ultimately breaded prawns but I love having a portion of these with some homemade wedges and peas on a Friday night!

Ingredients – serves two

  • 175g raw king prawns
  • 1-2 handfuls of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 handfuls of breadcrumbs (I used gluten free bread crusts and made crumbs in the food processor)
  • Peas and homemade chips/wedges to serve

Method

Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls.

 

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Dredge the prawns in the flour, then coat in eggs and finally toss in the breadcrumbs. You can do this a few at a time.

Lay the prawns out on a baking tray, and cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celsius for 3 minutes. Turn the prawns over and cook for a further three minutes.

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Serve immediately with a good squeeze of lemon, preferably with some homemade wedges and peas!

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* I pan fried some squid and served with half of the prawns for a seafood mix here, with stir fried cabbage and kale and homemade chips.

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Chicken & Leek Rosti

This is an adapted version of a recipe given to me by my mum when I went to Uni. Her version was mainly chicken, leek and tarragon but I’m not a huge fan of tarragon. I also love mushrooms with chicken so I like to add those in! As I try and stick to a gluten free diet a potato rosti topping to a pie filling is a great alternative and I love the texture it creates. I would really recommend trying the rosti on your favourite pie filling even if you don’t try my chicken recipe! The filling here is super quick to make though which is great for a weeknight.

I used pre cooked chicken  – this is a perfect way to use up the leftovers. You could use uncooked chicken though, it would just need to be fried off with the vegetables early on in the recipe. I also make too much filling so I can freeze batch for another day – technically it would serve 6 if all served in one go (and it would need more topping).

Ingredients – serves 2/3 twice if freezing half a batch

  • large knob of butter
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 2 leeks, sliced in rings
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, in chunks
  • good splash of white wine
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 250ml creme fraiche
  • meat from the equivalent of 6 roasted chicken thighs, shredded into chunks
  • small bunch of chives finely chopped

Topping:

  • 2 large potatoes
  • 50g butter

Method

Start by getting the potatoes on to boil. Cut them in half but keep the skins on. Boil in salted water for 8-10 minutes. You don’t want them overly soft so dont let them cook too long.

Sweat the onions and leeks in butter (if you add a tiny but of oil as well it will stop the butter getting too hot and burning). Add the mushrooms as it starts to soften and cook until the mushrooms have released their water and start to brown.

Add the wine and let it cook off for 30 seconds. Stir in the creme fraiche and stock (only add all of the stock if necessary – add more or less depending on how saucy you want it).

Add the chicken and chives, and season with salt and pepper. Allow to heat through and for the sauce to thicken slightly.

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The potatoes should be ready to be strained by now. Put on some rubber gloves and use a cheese grater to grate them. You will end up with the potato skin being pushed out and left over which means you shouldn’t waste any potato flesh.

Pour the chicken filling into an oven dish. Distribute the potato evenly over the top. Melt the butter in a saucepan and drizzle over the top of the potato then season with salt and pepper.

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Put in a pre heated oven at 180 degrees celsius for half an hour or until the potato starts to brown and crisp at the edges.

Serve with green vegetables and enjoy!

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Salt Baked Lamb Shank

I picked up two lamb shanks that were reduced at the butchers counter of my supermarket and popped them in the freezer for a weekend meal. I have always slow cooked lamb shanks in a casserole dish until they fall apart and planned on doing the same thing here. I then remembered I had a cutout from a Good Food magazine showing how to make a salt crust to bake the lamb inside and whilst it looked more tricky than a regular casserole I thought I would give it a go. I was a bit concerned about how salty the meat would be, especially after I made the mistake of picking at a bit of caramelised juice that had leaked out onto the tray when I took them out the oven and found it tasted like pure salt crystals…but actually the taste was divine. The lamb has a lot more texture than when it is braised, mainly due to the fact it is steamed in its own juice rather than soaking in a bath of liquid, so it holds its shape a lot more. That it not to say the meat is not juicy, it really is, and the flavour is really deep and rich. I was worried about the lack of sauce which you normally expect with a slow cooked meat so at the last minute I panicked and made an onion gravy. It turned out very nicely but in future I would probably plan ahead and use proper lamb stock to tie the flavour together. It is always super exciting to get the blow torch out too – a lot more of a wow factor than just a casserole dish being presented on the table! You can find the original recipe on the Good Food website here.

Ingredients – serves 2

  • 500g plain flour
  • 150g fine sea salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 lamb shanks (French trimmed but see in method below if not)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • drizzle of olive oil

Optional gravy and veg:

  • one red onion, finely sliced
  • splash of red wine
  • a tablespoon of some kind of jelly (redcurrant/apple etc)
  • 500ml chicken stock (preferably lamb though if you have it)
  • 2 tablespoons of plain flour
  • cornflour if needed
  • mashed potatoes (peeled maris piper potatoes, knob of salted butter, splash of milk, seasoning, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley and chives)
  • green vegetable (I used kale)

Method – takes about 5 hours from start to finish but only about 30 mins of hands on action!

Start by preparing the crust: mix the flour, salt and egg in a bowl with a wooden spoon and add water until it comes together in a heavy dry mixture. Knead for 5 minutes until it is smooth the fridge in a ball for an hour.

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Cut the dough in half and use a rolling pin to roll out until about 0.5cm thick. Place two garlic cloves in the middle and lay a shank on top. Use a pastry brush with some milk to dampen the edges of the dough, then wrap up the shank tightly. I didn’t have my shanks trimmed as it recommended in the recipe so I covered them up completely with the crust to hide all of the meat. As the meat shrinks away from the bone when it cooks it had a french trimmed appearance at the end so I would’t worry about it if you can’t. Put the parcels in a roasting tin lined with baking paper and cook in the oven for 3 and a half hours at 140 degrees (fan oven).

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Remove the tray from the oven and leave to rest for half an hour.

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During this time you could make a gravy and some vegetables. I made a gravy by first frying off the onions in the roasting tin that the lamb had been cooking in.

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Add the wine and let the alcohol cook off. Use the liquid to get any burnt or sticky bits off the pan. Add the jelly (I had some homemade apple spiced jelly from Christmas) and plenty of seasoning. Stir in the flour until soaked into the onions and let is cook for a minute. Add the stock and bring to a simmer for 5-10 minutes until it has thickened and it nice and glossy. Use cornflour to thicken if it is too runny. I like my gravy nice and thick so it coats everything I pour it on! Meanwhile I boiled the potatoes for ten minutes, then mash them with butter, milk, seasoning and fresh herbs. In the last two minutes I pan fried kale with seasoning and a squeeze of lemon.

When all the sides are prepared, cut open the lamb packages with a bread knife. On a baking tray drizzle the shanks with a little olive oil, then use a blow torch to sear the outside of the meat and give it an nice caramelised texture. Serve up with your choice of sides.

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Vegetable Puff Pastry Slice

With half a pack of puff pastry left from the pie we had earlier in the week this was the perfect lunch to use up lots of leftover veg in the fridge too. It could easily have some streaky bacon or some kind of sliced meat if a fully vegetarian version isn’t to your taste, but as a general rule I would say just use up anything you have in your fridge and top with plenty of cheese! Below are the ingredients I used but adapt as necessary. This would make a tasty dinner with a nice green salad on a weeknight too.

Ingredients (could technically serve 4 but its so tasty aim for 2 with seconds!)

  • 250g puff pastry
  • two tablespoons of tomato puree
  • one leek cut into round slices
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms cut into large chunks
  • 200g cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 125g mozzarella cut/torn into small chunks
  • handful of flat leaf parsley chopped finely

Method

Roll out the pastry to about half the thickness of a pound coin, then score the outside with a knife (not all the way through) to allow the crust to puff up and create an outline for the filling to go up to. It is a good idea to move the pastry to a sheet of baking paper at this point.

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Spread the base (inside the scored lines) with the tomato puree. I like to use the back of a spoon to do this evenly and gently.

Gently fry the leeks in a knob of butter and a drizzle of oil for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms and continue to fry until both are softened and starting to brown.

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Spread the cooked vegetables evenly over the pastry. Dot the halved tomatoes cut side up all over. Place the mozzarella in the gaps, sprinkle the parsley and season well.

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Use the baking paper to pick up the pastry and place the whole thing on a flat baking tray and cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees (fan oven) for 20 minutes.

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Slice into four, and enjoy!

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Chicken and Chorizo Pie

After the ramen I made at the weekend I wanted to use up the chicken meat I had shredded after making the stock, and about 250ml of the broth/stock I had left over. I cam across this recipe on the Good Food website which made for a sumptious weeknight meal that I would have normally saved for a weekend due to the time I think it takes to make a good pie. As always I made a few changes to the original recipe – mainly the swap of cream for creme fraiche to make it lighter and using the recooked chicken I had in the fridge. If you don’t have the luxury of the chicken and stock leftover that I had of course you could follow the original recipe linked above to prepare from scratch.

Ingredients – serves 4 (or two greedy people having seconds!)

  • one white onion, finely diced
  • two garlic cloves, minced/grated
  • half a chorizo ring (about 120g), in round slices then halved
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour (I used gluten free)
  • 300ml chicken stock (homemade if possible for better flavour)
  • 100ml creme fraiche
  • chicken meat from 20 wings (about 500g), shredded
  • large handful of parsley, chopped
  • 250g puff pastry
  • splash of milk for brushing (or egg wash if you prefer)

Method – takes about 45 minutes (if chicken is already cooked)

Sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil in a frying pan for 5-7 minutes until soft. Add the chorizo and fry for a few minutes until it starts to crisp and release its own oil. Stir in the flour, allow to cook for 30 seconds and then stir in the chicken stock.

Stir and let the stock heat through and thicken with the flour. Add the creme fraiche and allow to heat through, stirring slowly. Add the chicken and cook for a minute or so until warmed through. Decide if the consistency is thick enough – if not use cornflour to thicken. Stir through the parsley and a grind of black pepper. The chorizo and stock should mean salt isn’t needed but check for seasoning and add if needed.

Pour the filling into a pie dish that it will pretty much fill. You don’t want too much space between the filling and the pastry.

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Roll the pastry out until about half a centimetre thick. Brush the edge of the dish with milk and place the pastry over the top, finishing with our choice of edging. I like to use the end of a fork to press down the edges and then use a knife to trim. Make some fun decorations with the trimming and use milk to stick them on the top! Brush the pie all over with milk or egg wash and use the tip of a knife to put two small air holes in the top of the pastry. Put the pie in a pre heated oven (180 degrees fan) on a baking tray (in case of spillages!) for half an hour until the pastry is golden and crisp.

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Serve with some green veg and enjoy!

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Pork Ramen

This was my first attempt at a Ramen – I love a good noodle broth when I eat out in Asian restaurants so I was keen to give it a go myself. I was inspired (and followed quite closely) the recipe from Good Food which can be found here. My adapted recipe with simple instructions is below.

I was really pleased with the flavour of the broth and it was well worth the time it took to cook off the chicken properly before simmering in the water. The original recipe said it would serve 4 but due to me using less pork my recipe served two of us perfectly. I the used the chicken from the stock to make a pie later in the week, also using up the remainder of the tasty chicken broth so it actually did us two meals which is always a bonus!

I used pork belly because a) I couldn’t get a piece of pork shoulder and b) it was cheap. It actually turned out really well – I removed the rind before cooking and pulled away any fat after it was cooked and I was slicing it to serve up. The other major change I made was to use rice noodles rather than the characteristic wheat noodles of a ramen just to make it gluten free. I actually prefer rice noodles anyway but either will work fine. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but don’t be put off – the recipe itself is actually really straightforward and super tasty!

Ingredients

Stock

  • 20 chicken wings (about 800g)
  • 1 -2 carrots, quartered
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 20g chunk of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 3 litres water
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 400-500g joint of pork belly (halved if using two pans)

Main dish

  • 60g tinned bamboo shoots
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • large handful of kale (or other greens)
  • rice noodles
  • 2 spring onions

Pickle

  • 2 shallots finely diced
  • half a red chilli, finely diced
  • 75 ml rice wine vinegar, plus a tablespoon for the bamboo shoots

Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake

Method

Put the chicken, carrots, onions and ginger into a roasting tin and cook at 180 degrees (fan oven) for half an hour. Transfer to a large saucepan (I split it over two medium ones then combined it later after sieving). Pour in the water and add the mushrooms and pork to the pan(s). Bring to the boil, then simmer for 2.5 hours. Remove the pork (if soft), then continue to simmer the liquid for a further half an hour.

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Strain the broth and put back on the heat to reduce with a pinch of salt (to taste) until reduced by a third (reserve the meat from the chicken bones for another dinner!). During this time prepare the rest of the ingredients:

  1. Pickle the shallots and chilli in the vinegar with a good pinch of salt until serving
  2. Soak bamboo shoots in a tablespoon of the vinegar until serving
  3. Boil the eggs for 5-6 minutes then cool in iced water, peel and cut in half
  4. Prepare the seasoning by mixing ingredients in a small bowl
  5. Stir fry the kale (or other greens) for a couple of minutes with seasoning
  6. Finely chop the spring onions

Put the noodles in the broth to cook (unless using dried noodles in which case follow instructions on the packet) for a few minutes. Meanwhile drain the pickle and the bamboo shoots and put in separate serving dishes for the table.

Slice the pork and share between the bowls – do the same with the greens and the noodles.

Ladle the stock over the top then finish with the eggs, bamboo shoot, a sprinkling of spring onions. Happy slurping!

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Quick Fish Stew

My mum gave me this recipe when I was at University. In my final year I was self catered and was in dire need of some recipes to get me through! When I was at Uni I suddenly realised I had relied on my mum being the most incredible cook for the previous twenty years and as a result of being fed such good food had high expectations of the quality of my meals and when left to fend for myself I just couldn’t meet those expectations! Since then I have tried to recreate many of my favourite dinners from home – usually following a phone conversation where mum gives me a vague outline of what she does (she never measure anything!) and I have a go myself. This then normally ends with the verdict that its not as good as mum’s…

This fish stew is such a great weeknight dinner as its really quick but super tasty and satisfying. At home we would always dunk in some nice crusty bread to soak up the juice which was amazing! Now I follow a (mostly) gluten free diet I tend to just finish up the juice with a spoon which still hits the spot!

Ingredients – serves two

  • 400g fish in large chunks (a mixture of salmon/cod/haddock with some of it smoked if possible to add extra flavour)
  • two spring onions, finely sliced
  • one stick of celery, finely sliced
  • large pinch of saffron
  • small glass of white wine
  • 200g tinned tomatoes
  • 50-70g rice – about two handfuls (I like to use brown rice)
  • half a teaspoon of dried oregano
  • half a bayleaf
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • half a lemon, (juice)

Method – takes about 30 minutes

In some olive oil lightly cook the fish pieces in a heavy based saucepan for a few minutes on all sides. Remove and put in a bowl for later.

In another splash of olive oil (if the pan is dry) fry the spring onion, celery and saffron for a few minutes. Pour in in the wine and cook for a further minute. Add the tomatoes, rice, oregano and bayleaf and bring to a simmer. Leave to simmer with the lid tilted for about 20 minutes until the rice is cooked.

Remove the bay leaf and return the fish to the pan, stirring gently. Leave for a couple of minutes until the fish is cooked through. Finally stir in the parsley and lemon juice and serve in bowls immediately.

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Chicken Kiev

Chicken Kievs remind me of nights when my sister and I had to cook for ourselves when our parents were working. When I say ‘cook’, I mean I put a frozen chicken kiev with frozen potato waffles in the oven for half an hour and boiled some frozen mixed veg on the hob. Not very inspired, but we really liked it!

This is my method to make this nostalgic dish. I have used different recipes the few times I have made this and the recipe I share is a mixture of the best bits. I rarely buy chicken breasts mainly because I much prefer thigh meat for flavour and it is so much cheaper so i don’t see the point. This is one of those times when only the breast will do however. A large, free-range chicken breast with plenty room for stuffing in the butter is best. When the chicken is the star of the show as it is here I do think it’s worth spending a little more to get the best quality you can afford. The panko breadcrumbs are a recent find for me and I will never go back to homemade crumbs for something that benefits from the amazing crunch you get with panko – they are also becoming much more widely available in supermarkets.

There is just no competition between this homemade version and the days of the frozen kiev. Succulent chicken, crispy coating and garlicky herby butter oozing out of the centre… I hope you enjoy this as much as I do!

Ingredients – serves two

  • two large chicken breasts (preferably free range)
  • 50g salted butter
  • handful of parsley, finely chopped
  • handful of chives, finely chopped
  • two garlic cloves, minced/grated
  • zest of half a lemon (or lime)
  • handful of plain flour
  • one egg (preferably free range)
  • 150g panko breadcrumbs

Method – takes 45 mins plus one hour fridging

Soften the butter with the back of a spoon then mash in the fresh herbs, garlic, lemon zest and season well.

Insert a sharp knife into the thickest part of the chicken breast and poke around until you have created a nice large hole inside.

Use your fingers to stuff the butter into the two breasts equally, pushing as far inside as you can. I like to use a couple of cocktail stick to close the chicken securely at this point – just be careful you don’t forget about them when eating later!

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Put the flour, egg (beaten) and panko crumbs into separate bowls and carefully roll each breast in each of them in order, covering them completely. For an extra crunch and for the best covering, redo the egg and panko crumbs a second time. Pop the chicken into the fridge for an hour to allow the butter to reset and help avoid leakages during cooking.

Meanwhile, I like to serve my kiev with some kind of potato and vegetable. This time I made roasted sweet potato chips and stir fried greens. For this I finely sliced one sweet potato and tossed it in olive oil and plenty of seasoning. I the roasted in the over for 45 minutes with a couple of garlic cloves. Towards the end of the cooking time remove the garlic cloves and squeeze out the centre – toss the chips in this for a lovely smoky garlic flavour. Just before the chicken was cooked I stir fried spinach and kale with a little butter, then served with a pinch of salt, plenty pepper and a drizzle of lime juice.

Back to the chicken. When it has set in the fridge, heat a frying pan on the hob to a high heat with a splash of olive oil, carefully place the chicken into the pan and brown on all sides. The pan MUST be hot otherwise your crumbs will just soak up the oil and go soggy – you want them to brown and stay crispy. Once browned, put into the oven (180 degrees fan) for 15 minutes on a pre-heated baking tray.

Serve your crispy chicken parcels with you choice of vegetable accompaniments, and get ready for the oozing goodness when you cut into them!

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Cod and Seafood Stew

My husband took me for an impromptu lunch at a Spanish deli/restaurant that we stumbled across at the weekend. He was tempted in by the mouthwatering jamon hanging in the window and I didn’t take too much persuading! We ordered a jamon bocadillo (baguette) and  a portion of the daily special ‘cod with prawns’ to share. We dived straight in when it arrived so sadly I didn’t take a picture, but the whole time we were eating I was saying “I am going to try and make this at home”!

So, as it’s Friday I went to the supermarket and stocked up a range of ingredients that I thought might recreate the flavours of the dish, with a few adaptations including my favourite seafood: squid and clams. I would have happily had some tiger prawns too but they didn’t have any left… it definitely doesn’t need it but any fish and seafood combination would work really well with the sauce.

Our paprika is a bit spicy which gave the dish more of a kick than I was expecting, so make sure you check the type of paprika you have before getting carried away and adding too much! The sauce was just delicious and you can’t beat the soft squid texture you get by cooking it slowly for a longer time. This is a sure addition to our favourites!

Ingredients (serves two generously)

  • One onion, thinly sliced
  • Two garlic cloves, minced/grated
  • Two medium potatoes, thinly sliced (about half a cm thick)
  • One teaspoon of paprika
  • 4 large squid tubes, sliced into 1cm rings
  • 250g passata
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 300g cod loin, cut into two pieces
  • Fresh clams (I used 500g but 300g would be enough)
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Quarter of a lemon
  • Vegetables to serve

Method (Takes about half an hour)

Sweat the onion and garlic in a frying pan with olive oil. Add the sliced potatoes, paprika and season well. Add the squid and stir well, leaving for a few minutes to heat through and start to sizzle.

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Pour in the passata and stock, stir well and leave to simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Stir occasionally to stop anything sticking to the pan.

 

Meanwhile make some vegetables to serve on the side. I sliced two small leeks into rings and cooked gently in butter in a saucepan for five minutes. I then added the sliced outer leaves (about 8 leaves) of a savoy cabbage, put the lid on and let cook down for another 5 minutes. Give it a good grind of salt and pepper before serving.

Back to the stew… nestle the fish into the sauce and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes. Then scatter the clams on top and cover for another 3 minutes until all of the fish is cooked through.

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Sprinkle with the parsley and squeeze the lemon over the fish. Serve the pan on the table with greens on the side. Enjoy!

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Saffron Rice with Prawns

I found this recipe in a book called ‘Gorgeous Suppers’ by Annie Bell – a present given to me a few years ago that I haven’t made as much use of as I should. You can get the book here. In her book she calls this recipe ‘oven-baked saffron rice with prawns and scallops’ – I had to take out the scallops due to not being able to get them unless I paid a fortune for the huge ones in their shells (not prepared to go that far for a weeknight dinner!).

The concept of cooking a risotto in the oven was new to me, and to be honest I was a little hesitant about how well it would work after knowing how much you have to tend the pan when cooking a risotto properly on the hob. However, I stand corrected. This was so easy and  the consistency was amazing. I will try my next chicken and mushroom risotto in the oven too and see if it works just as well! I was also a bit suspicious of the amount of parmesan going in as I’m not sure parmesan and seafood always goes that well together, but again this was a really nice surprise. The flavours of saffron, parmesan and prawns came together beautifully and made a really rich, luxurious risotto.

Ingredients – serves four (or two with leftovers for lunch!)

  • one large knob of butter plus a few small ones
  • one white onion, finely diced
  • about 300g of arborio risotto rice (I counted five handfuls)
  • 750ml of fish stock
  • a large pinch of saffron (I think the more the better – it looked like about 30 strands)
  • one small glass of white wine
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan (or about 3 handfuls)
  • 300g raw king prawns
  • 100-150g small cooked prawns (or 4-6 scallops if using instead)

Method – takes no more than 45 minutes from start to finish

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (fan) and find a suitable ovenproof dish for the rice.

Sweat the onion in the butter in a heavy based saucepan for a few minutes until softened. Meanwhile make your stock if using cubes or warm through if using fresh (I used cubes and it tasted great). In a separate dish pour a small amount of boiling water on the saffron and allow to soften. Try to blend with the back of a spoon to bring out the flavour into the water.

Add the rice to the pan and stir well. Pour in the wine and leave to absorb for a couple of minutes. Stir in the stock, saffron mixture and plenty of seasoning, then bring to the boil. Pour carefuly into your ovenproof dish trying to evenly distribute the rice. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Towards the end of this cooking time grate the parmesan and season the raw prawns. Remove the risotto after the 15 mins and stir through the seafood carefully. Sprinkle the parmesan all over the top and dot a few extra knobs of butter, then recover with foil and put back in the over for 15 more minutes. I misread the recipe here – Annie says to leave it uncovered at this point but I felt that the moisture was kept by me recovering it. Maybe a few minutes without the foil would be a good idea if you want to crisp up the parmesan but I personally liked the soft classic risotto-like consistency.

Serve the dish on the table with something green. I stir fried some spinach and kale with butter and lemon but a nice salad would work well too.

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