This week was Valentine’s Day so I cooked myself and Jack a three course feast! I have had a bit of a tough time recently and Jack has been so supportive and loving, it has made me appreciate him all the more and so I really wanted to show him just how much I love him this V day. And what better way to do that than with a yummy meal. I have recently been sent a money off voucher for ‘Hello Fresh’ which is a company that sends out all the ingredients you need to cook a delish meal along with the instructions. I love it, it has made cooking super simple, and the two meals I have cooked from the box so far have been really good. If you would like to try it I have a £25 off code that you are welcome to use: www.hellofresh.co.uk/?c=JESBOR I would really recommend getting your first box with the £25 off and you can just cancel the subscription after the first box arrives.
One of the meals was this Middle Eastern risotto, and it used the spice mix Ras El Hanout which I have never used before; it has little dried rose petals in it which was so cute and fitting with the romantic theme. I also used the Zahtar Spice which I haven’t come across before, both spice mixes really gave the dish a professional restaurant taste and although you can’t get them in supermarkets you can easily buy them online, there are a few different ones on Amazon which I am definitely going to buy now. Once I have these two spice mixes it will be easy to recreate this dish without having to buy another box. Although Jack and I have decided the reason it tasted so good was because the ingredients they sent where very up-market, not just the Aldi stuff I usually buy on my shopping trips. Now I have never really believed the hype about going to posh supermarket’s for my ingredients, and have more often than not gone for the budget packs of vegetables and looked for the cheapest things I can, with the belief that if I cook it well enough it shouldn’t matter. But this belief is beginning to waver a bit, because this risotto was seriously seriously amazing; Jack said it was the best risotto he has ever tasted! And gave it a 9.5 which is the highest rating he will ever give to anything, and he reassures me he wasn’t just being nice because it was Valentine’s Day! So now I am wondering whether I should be getting nicer ingredients… maybe we will just have to settle for nice ingredients for special occasions and budget food for the rest of the time, we aren’t made of money after all!
Risotto is a tricky one to get right as it can easily turn into a horrible mush of soft on the outside and hard on the inside rice if you aren’t careful. I kept my rice on a really low heat and kept stirring it, just adding one ladle at a time of stock, it took longer than the recipe said it would, but came out lovely. I don’t usually like cheese but the feta in this made it really creamy and lush.
For a starter I did a simple ‘nibbles’ board with stuff I bought from the shop (cheating I know, but I am a working woman as well as a ‘perfect’ housewife!). I got some nice breads, olive oil, balsamic, olives, stuffed peppers, and some meat for jack the carnivore. I also cheated on the pudding and used a ‘Gu’ cheesecake. The whole thing was washed down with some prosecco and made extra romantic with Sade and Candles. It was a lovely evening and I hope I managed to get across to Jack how truly grateful I am to him and all he does for me. Anyway time to stop being a soppy cow and give you the recipe!
Middle Eastern Risotto – with Zaatar Portobello
- 900 ml Water
- 1 Vegetable Stock Pot
- 1 Shallot
- 1 Garlic Clove
- 4 Portobello Mushrooms
- 1 Red Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Ras-el-Hanout
- 175 grams Arborio Rice
- 1.5 teaspoon Zahtar Spice
- 15 grams Butter Unsalted
- 1 block Feta Cheese
Fill a pot with the water and put it on high heat. Add the vegetable stock pot and stir to dissolve. When your stock comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low and keep warm.
Meanwhile, start your prep by cutting the shallot in half through the root. Peel and then chop into ½cm chunks (or as small as you can). Peel and grate the garlic.
Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add a glug of oil. Add your shallot and cook for 5 mins until soft.
Cut the portobello mushroom into 1cm thick slices. Remove the core from the red pepper and cut into 1cm slices as well.
When your shallot is soft, add your garlic and ras-el-hanout. Cook for 1 minute and then add the arborio rice. Stir well to coat your rice in the spices and then add a ladle of your hot stock to the pan. Stir well until this stock is absorbed by your rice.
Add another ladle of stock. Keep the pan on medium heat and continue adding stock (and stirring now and again while it cooks), letting it absorb before adding another ladle. The cooking should take 20-25 mins and your risotto is done when your rice is ‘al dente’. If you feel the risotto isn’t quite cooked but all the stock has been used, just add a ladle of water and continue the process for a little longer.
Keep an eye on your risotto and heat a frying pan over high heat. Add a glug of oil and then fry your pepper for 5 mins or until nicely browned and soft. Transfer to a plate when done, cover with tin foil and place into a warm oven and then fry your mushroom in the same pan for 5 mins.
When your mushroom is soft and glossy, season with salt and black pepper and then return your pepper to the pan. Remove from the heat and sprinkle over the zahtar spice. Put back into a warm oven while you finish off your risotto.
When your risotto is ready, stir in the butter and crumble in half the feta cheese. Taste and add some salt and black pepper if necessary.
Serve your risotto in deep bowls and top with your mushroom and pepper. Drizzle on any juices from the pan and finish by crumbling over your remaining feta cheese.