Some stats and a short survey

Hi all, Notjunkfood.net has been up and running for a little over a month now and I’m very happy to see that we have a growing number of regular visitors, a Facebook page heading for 100 followers and more than 100 followers on twitter, that’s way more than I expected at this early stage, so I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you all for stopping by and I hope that you find our little project either interesting, entertaining or useful or all of the above :)

In order to help this site grow, I’ve put together a short survey, which will hopefully give me a little more insight into you, the readers, so I can get a better idea of what direction to take.

Recipe: Risotto

Risotto
Risotto

Ingredients;

1 large onion finely diced
1 sweet red pepper finely diced
2 sticks of celery finely diced
2 cloves of garlic finely diced
butter
olive oil
250g risotto rice
2 vegetable stock cubes, mixed with 1.5l boiling water
handful of parmesan finely grated

Serves 4

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Begin by chopping the vegetables as finely as you can. You can use a julienne peeler on the carrot and then cut across the strips for very fine dice.

In a very large saucepan or stewpot, melt a knob of butter with a lug of olive oil. Throw in your vegetables and fry softly on a medium heat for 15-20 mins, until the vegetables soften. The onions should not take on any colour, so don’t have your heat up full whack.

Once the veg is soft, place 2 stock cubes in another saucepan and add the boiling water. Keep this on a low simmer.

Turn the heat right up under your veg pan for 2 mins and add the risotto rice. Stir this well, and once the grains have soaked up the juice from the veg and begun to toast lightly, throw in a glass of white wine (or a good splash of vermouth). As this starts to boil off, reduce the heat again and add your first ladle of stock.

Stir it well and wait for the liquid to be absorbed. Keep the mix moving regularly, as this will encourage the grains to release their starch. Once each ladleful is absorbed, add another ladle of stock (usually about 2-3 mins apart). You should keep this pan at a simmering temperature.

After about 20 mins of adding stock and letting it soak in, taste your rice – it should be soft, with just a hint of a bite. If it’s still too hard, keep on adding the stock as needed. If you start to run out of stock, then top off the stock pan with some boiling water.

Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and add another knob of butter and the handful of parmesan. Stir well to mix it in, then put a lid on the pan and leave for 2-3 mins. This is when the magic happens and the mix all comes together… Taste it and add salt as pepper as desired at this point.

You can serve the risotto plain or add whatever toppings you fancy – fried bacon bits & Gorgonzola, pesto, flaked cooked salmon – as your own tastes dictate.

Risotto

As the nights start to get shorter in autumn, my cooking style changes dramatically. Out go the salads, pastas and lighter meals of summer and in come the thick, heart-warming dishes of winter. I tend to find cooking very therapeutic, and love nothing more than spending 10 or 20 minutes peeling, chopping and preparing veg for a delicious stew or risotto. You get into your own rhythm when doing this, and once practiced, you can do it without thinking, which gives me time to reflect on my day and clear my mind.

Cooking the risotto rice
Image by VancityAllie via Flickr

Of all the winter dishes I cook, risotto is one of my favourites. It’s a true Italian peasant classic, a way of turning a small amount of food into a dish that feeds many people – and extremely cheap to make, which is perfect in the current recession. The only ingredient that is any way “out of the ordinary” is the risotto rice – which is now stocked by all of the major supermarket chains, and I’ve even seen it in some of the larger ‘corner shops’ lately.

Risotto takes time, but once you’ve cooked it once or twice it won’t tie up a lot of your attention, so it’s a great method of relaxing into your evening. It’s also incredibly tasty and super simple – so don’t be scared of trying to cook it!

The recipe I’m giving here serves about 6 people, as this is usually the quantity I make in one go. If there’s only the two of us in the house, then we eat it over a couple of days, re-heating it in the microwave for about 2 mins, with a sheet of kitchen roll on top to stop it spitting everywhere. It’s also really versatile, as you don’t have to add your toppings to the main pan of risotto, but can simply place them on top of a portion in a bowl – which means that you can vary the taste and not feel like you are eating the same meal three times in a row!

Pancake Day

So, tomorrow is Pancake Tuesday and I’ve already got a great pancake recipe posted. So, rather than posting another pancake recipe, I’m going to give you a few ideas for variations for that recipe.

Firstly, there are the fruit options, simply add different fruit rather than blueberries, I’ve tried mashed bananas and sliced strawberries. Others that should work well are raspberries, blackberries, pretty much any fruit can be used – so go wild, try it with your favourite fruit and let us know how you get on.

Another a great idea for pancakes is chocolate! Chocolate makes everything better, doesn’t it?

So, there’s the obvious chocolate chips, just sprinkle them on instead of fruit, job done right? Well there’s always the Double Choc option, just make the milk in the recipe chocolate milk and add the chocolate chips while cooking them.

And for the completely decadent out there, why not try some chocolate spread instead of maple syrup?

So with all these calorific ideas and the food excesses of the Valentine weekend, I’m off out for a walk. While I’m out why not share a few of your favourite pancake ideas?

Recipe: Carrot and Coriander Soup

Soup and the smiling face of Culch.ie
Soup and the smiling face of Culch.ie

Ingredients;

Olive oil
2 medium sized onions
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 Kg carrots, peeled and sliced
1.5 L vegetable stock
Large handful of fresh coriander (approx 30g)
3 teaspoons of coriander seeds finely ground
a thumb tip of ginger, finely sliced

Serves 8-10

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Take a large saucepan and place it on a medium heat, add a lug of olive oil and saute the onions till soft. Then add the potatoes, cumin and ground coriander seeds and stir for about a minute.

Next add the carrots, ginger and 1L of vegetable stock, bring this to the boil and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.

Allow this to cool and then blend it with the fresh coriander leaves until smooth. Once done return the soup to the saucepan and gently heat it again. Depending on the veg this soup can get to be very thick, almost like baby food, so while stirring the soup, start adding the remainder of the stock until you get the thickness that you require.

At this point its a good idea to taste the soup and add salt and pepper to taste. Then simply re-heat and serve.