Asparagus and White Wine Risotto with Crispy Chorizo

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Asparagus season is always so exciting! I was not impressed by asparagus as a child. Back home we had only pickled white asparagus. The colour of it was a little bit off putting. My mum was very curious but we gave up very quickly, as none of us liked it. However I was still determined to try it fresh when I moved to London. And I can honestly say that I just love the fresh green asparagus! So no surprises I have been gorging on it for about 3 weeks now… Some shops sell the thin variety which is super easy to prepare and tastes lovely.

My favourite way of having asparagus is in a risotto. I love how well it goes with the rice and peas. A little bit of chilli sauce is excellent to enhance the flavours. I have decided to add some of the goat’s cheese just towards the end of cooking. The crumbled pieces melted beautifully into the risotto and add some delicious nutty flavour.

I also like to add a bit of meat just to bring a bit of saltiness and a crisp finish. Sliced chorizo is delicious when fried on a hot pan. In this way each slice crisps up and some of the fat melts away. If you prefer you can also fry a few prawns or just keep the risotto as vegetarian option.

Asparagus and White Wine Risotto with Crispy Chorizo

200g asparagus
80 g frozen peas
1 cup rice
3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
80 ml white wine
400 ml vegetable or chicken stock
70 g goat’s cheese
50 g sliced chorizo

Chop the garlic into small pieces or if you have a garlic press put through to create a paste. Fry garlic with olive oil on ow heat until it become darker in colour. Add white wine and leave to simmer until wine and oil incorporate together. Wine is cooked off once all the oily spots disappear and the mixture has one consisted colour. Add the rice and fry further until all liquid is soaked up. Keep on the heat for a bit longer to fry the rice. Add part of a chicken stock and leave to simmer. After 5 minutes add asparagus and frozen peas. Keep pouring the stock as required to keep the rice covered. Keep stirring until mixture starts to thicken.

Once rice is cooked, add broken cheese pieces and chilli sauce. Mix well to allow cheese to melt. Fry chorizo slices in a separate pan until crispy. Plate up risotto and decorate with fried chorizo slices.

by Maria

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Sweet Treats: Blueberry Tarts

 


As you probably noticed tarts are somehow my favourite desserts to make. If I am lucky they look and also taste lovely. I am very lucky that my friend has some mini tart tins I could use.

This time I decided to up pastry leftovers I had. It was not enough to make another large tart, I thought, so I made four small ones instead. The decorating was no rocket science as I still had some blueberries in the fridge. And so in the end I managed to make rather cute looking blueberry tarts with a bit of a passion fruit syrup.20160530_190944.jpg

I have learnt a few tricks since working with a shortcrust pastry. Never push pastry with a rolling pin to stretch it. Just roll it out with sharp but short strokes. Pastry sometimes crumbles a lot but be patient and it will eventually work. When blind baking always ensure the pastry is crispy and has sort of a biscuity texture before removing the baking parchment with the beans. And once the pastry is turning nicely golden it will be lovely and dry when filled with the cream.

Sweet Treats: Blueberry Tarts with a Passionfruit Syrup

For the pastry
200 g plain flour
100 g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp cold water

For the filling
100 ml double cream
4 tbsp passion fruit syrup
250 g blueberries

For the pastry, rub the butter, with your fingertips, into the flour to create a breadcrumb texture. Shake the bowl every now and then to allow large lumps come to the surface. Once the texture is fairly even sprinkle a little bit of water and work the dough with a round end knife until it come together. Bring the dough together with your hands and tip on a surface. Sprinkle the surface with a bit of flour, this will make it easier when rolling the pastry. Sprinkle a bit more flour on the rolling pin and roll the pastry to about 1 mm thickness. Cut the pastry to a slightly larger size than each tin  and lay carefully over each tin. Press the dough into the wrinkled corners of tin using your fingers. Chill for about 20 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200 C/180 C fan/ gas 6. cover the pastry with a baking parchment sand fill with baking beans. Blind bake for about 10 minutes and then without the paper for another 5-8 minutes. Take out of the oven once golden in colour and allow to cool down. Trim the edges with a sharp knife to cut the overhanging pastry.

Whip the double cream until it is about to thicken and then spread over each pastry shell. Spread some of the passion fruit syrup over each tart. Or if you prefer whip the syrup with the cream. Place blueberries in circles starting with  the outer circle. And finally sprinkle a little bit of icing sugar on top.

by Maria

 

Sweet Treats: Strawberry&Cream Cake

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When I think of an early summer I am always reminded of strawberries. They are the first tempting taste of those lovely warm evenings. The gorgeous bright red colour is perfect for the summer and it just gives us a light hint that spring is slowly coming to an end.

Ideally strawberries should be collected in late May or June to ensure they had enough time to develop its full fruity flavour. I still remember impatiently grabbing first crop in my parent’s garden. We had mostly forest strawberries that are much smaller and taste very different from the perfect shop bought ones. But the advantage was that they took less time to ripe and their taste was much stronger. However cooking with these little treasures was not an option. Well I guess it would be if we ever left them alone. But we had a perfect excuse of ‘protecting’ them from evil snails.

My mum always made some strawberry jam and the making of it made our house smell like fairytale. She loved leaving big pieces of strawberries so that we had juicy chunks mixed with delicious sweet and sticky juice. Later she admitted to us that she just didn’t fancy chopping all the fruits. Apparently she found it far to tedious.

This cake is very simple and takes only and hour or so to make. The sponge itself is a basic Victoria Sponge recipe. I love the combination of rich cream with fruitiness of the strawberries and delicious vanilla sponge. You can also add some jam if you wish to sandwich the two sponges.

Sweet Treats: Strawberry&Cream with Vanilla Sponge Cake (serves 8-10)

4 medium eggs
225 g softened unsalted butter
220 g self raising flour
220 g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence

200 ml double cream
2 tbsp strawberry jam
1 packet of strawberries (about 200 g)

Preheat the oven to 180° C/150° C fan. Grease the 2 sandwich tins with butter and dust with flour, or with greaseproof paper.

Whip the softened butter with sugar until pale, and then add eggs, and the rest of the ingredients. Mix until combined. The mixture should be light and easy to spread. Do not over-mix as that would stop sponges from rising. Fill both tins with roughly the same amount of the mixture and place in the oven next to each other.

Leave to bake for about 20-25 minutes. You might need to rotate your tins in the oven to allow an even bake. Check the cake after about 20 minutes and test with a toothpick. if the toothpick comes out clean then sponge are done. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes. Then release both sponges from the tins and leave to cool on the side, preferably on a cooling rack if you have one.

Whip the double cream until it is just about to start to thicken. Then spread over both sponges. If you wish you can also spread strawberry jam over the bottom sponge. Place some of the sliced strawberries on the top of the sponge and sandwich both layers together. Scatter the rest of the strawberries on the top of the cake and dust with icing sugar.

by Maria