Thursday, 24 February 2011

Roasted leeks and apple risotto

Cooking risotto is usually a field of controversy in our family: I like it smooth and creamy, “all'onda” (transl: “weavy”) and properly cooked, while my husband cooks it thick and with a slight bite. I'll share with you a vegan risotto “all'onda”, using non-dairy cream instead of butter. Roasted leeks and apples make a delicious mix and add a sweet-and-sour taste to this dish. The inspiration came as I was reading food historian Francine Segan's inviting recipe, which I slightly changed to suit to my taste.

P.S. Though the recipe may appear complex and time consuming you may consider roasting the vegetables one or two days in advance (or eat as a side dish for a change!)

Ingredients for the roasted vegetables:

leeks: 2 large – white and tender green parts
apple: 1 small (Red Delicious, Gala or Fuji)
extra virgin olive oil: 2 tablespoons
apple vinegar: 1 tablespoon
honey: 1 and ½ teaspoon
fennel seeds: 3 (optional)
marjoram: 1 pinch of dried marjoram, or 1 teaspoon of fresh herb
salt: 1 to 2 pinches according to taste

Ingredients for risotto (serves 4 to 6):

carnaroli rice: 5 coffee cups (approx 320 gr)
onion: 3 small spring onion (white part only), or half onion, chopped
extra virgin olive oil: 4 tablespoons
apple vinegar: 1 tablespoon
water: ½ glass
vegetable stock: approx. 800 to 1000 ml
non-diary cream: 80 ml (I used oat milk cream)

For garnish:
parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 180 ° C.
Quarter the leeks and slice into 5 cm (2 inch) pieces. Wash and drain. Core the apple and slice it.
Whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, honey, marjoram, and fennel seeds (optional) in a medium size bowl until combined.
Mix leeks and apple in a medium oven pan add the dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt.
Bake for 30 minutes, stirring gently about every 10 minutes, until the leeks are golden and the apple is soft. Once the vegetables are ready let them cool down, then finely chop on a chopping board.

Meanwhile heat 2 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil with half glass of water in a small frying pan, then add the spring onions and sautè for 20 minutes on a very low heat. When the onion has softened remove from heat and reserve.
Heat the vegetable stock. In a large pan heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add the rice, cook several minutes on a medium-high heat: the rice will begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a few minutes it will look slightly translucent and you can add the vinegar (or white wine if you like). Keep stirring, the vinegar (or alcohol) will evaporate and leave the rice with a tasty flavour.
Add onion and roasted vegetables to the rice and keep stirring. Then add a ladle or two of vegetable stock and a generous pinch of salt.
Keep adding ladles of stock as soon as the rice absorbs the liquid, and keep stirring!Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft and cooked. If you run out of stock before the rice is ready, add some boiling water. This process will take 15 to 20 minutes according to rice quality.

Remove from heat. Add the cream and stir well. Allow the rice to 'rest' and mantecare ( transl.: become 'creamy') for a few minutes.
Check and adjust seasoning and serve.


Sunday, 20 February 2011

"Calming allows us to rest, and resting is a precondition for healing. When animals in the forest  get wounded, they find a place to lie down, and they rest completely for many days. They don't think about food or anything else. They just rest, and they get the healing they need. When we humans get sick, we just worry! We look for doctors and medicine, but we don't stop. Even when we go to the beach or the moutains for a vacation, we don't rest, and we come back more tired than before. We have to learn to rest."

Thich Nhat Hanh, "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching"

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Apple and goat milk yoghurt cake

Sunday morning.
6.30 a.m.
On goes the light.

Our daughter M. is pulling the duvet cover asking for her bottle …
It's no use telling her it's Sunday morning and it's no use pretending to sleep.
I stagger into the kitchen and make a resolution: since there's no chance of going back to bed I'll treat myself with something delicious, and I start peeling apples...
It has become quite a habit for M and me.
She gently asks for some of the diced apples sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and offers to help while I weigh the ingredients.

I've tried many different versions of the 'apple cake' dessert: adding or removing sugar or flour, replacing milk with yoghurt, and cow's milk yoghurt with goat milk yoghurt ... and this recipe is the best result of my experimentations!

Ingredients (serves 6):

Apples: 4 apples (or 5 small apples)
All purpose flour: 150 gr
Baking Powder: 2 teaspoons
Eggs: 2
Unsalted butter: 80 gr - melted
Blond cane sugar: 4 tablespoons
Goat milk yoghurt: 200 ml
Lemon: juice of ½ lemon + 1 teaspoon
Breadcrumbs: 3 tablespoons for dusting the pan
Cinnamon: ¼ teaspoon, or more according to taste

For garnish:

Icing sugar (optional)

Peel, core and dice the apples. Place the apples in a large bowl and cover with one spoonful of cane sugar, cinnamon and the lemon juice, mixing gently. Slice the last apple and place in a cup, covered with water and one teaspoon of lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 180° C. Meanwhile grease a pan with butter and coat with breadcrumbs.

Sift the flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Place the eggs and 3 spoonfuls of cane sugar in a large mixing bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat until fluffy. Add the melted butter (cold) and mix again. Add the goat milk yoghurt and mix until the batter is completely smooth. Beat in the sifted flour, and mix well. Add a few spoonfuls of goat milk if necessary. Gently but thoroughly fold in the diced apples.

Pour the batter in the baking pan and smooth the top with a spoon or a spatula. Cover with the apple slices and some butter flakes.

Bake the cake on the centre rack for 45-60 minutes. Use a toothpick to test readiness (inserted into the centre of the cake the toothpick should come out clean).

Let the cake cool and serve it sprinkled with icing sugar, accompanied with vanilla ice-cream or crème - fraiche.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Our minds are bound because of the conception of ego. To loosen the bonds we have to lose our ego. This might seem strange to you, that you should lose your ego. It's certainly not something we talk about in the West. On the contrary, here we are taught to build our egos: if you don't have a strong ego, you're lost, you're not human, you're weak. However, from the point of view of Buddhist psychology, the conception of ego is our bigger problem, the king of problems. Other emotions are like ministers, ego is the king. When you reach beyond ego, the cabinet of other delusions disappears, the agitated, fettered mind vanishes, and you attain an everlasting blissful state of mind. That's what we call nirvana, inner freedom.”

Lama Thubten Yeshe, “Making Your Mind an Ocean”

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Baby spinach, white and red cabbage salad with wasabi and honey dressing

Though lunch time is sometimes squeezed in a half hour break, I try my best to eat a veggie meal or at least a salad. The one I share here is really easy to make and offers you a unique combination of flavours, textures and colours.

Ingredients for the salad (serves 3-4)

baby spinach: 2 cups, washed and drained
white cabbage: 1 cup (80-90 gr), thinly shredded, washed and drained
red cabbage: 1 cup (80-90 gr), thinly shredded, washed and drained

Ingredients for the dressing:

extra – virgin olive oil: 4 spoonfuls
rice vinegar: 3 teaspoonful
wasabi: 1/3 teaspoon
honey: 1 teaspoon
salt: 1 pinch or two, according to taste

Whisk both vinegar and olive oil in small bowl. Gradually whisk in the honey, wasabi and salt to taste. In a salad bowl toss baby spinach, white and red cabbage. Add dressing and toss again.

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