Thursday, 4 November 2010

Roast pumpkin filled with lemon and hazelnut risotto à la Cafe Paradiso

This is the third recipe from Denis Cotter's book named after his restaurant that I have tried. This is a really great vegetarian cookbook with lots of ideas that will impress dinner guests so much so that even the most ardent of meat eaters will not realise until long after desert if at all that they had a meat free meal.

I have to admit that at first I was a little put off as the recipe seemed finiky and had lots of different steps . Had it not been for the fact that I had pumpkins to use up (from the in-laws vegetable plot the weekend before) I many not have attempted the recipe. The truth is that this is the perfect recipe to use up any leftover risotto, as preparing the risotto is the bulk of the work. Once you have the risotto you only have to cut open some pumpkins, boil them for a few minutes in hot water, then stuff them with the risotto, bang them in the oven and while they are cooking, whip up a quick leek and cream sauce! The recipe suggests serving with roast parsnips and sweetcorn, I only had parsnips and could have done with roasting them a bit longer. I have also tried this recipe using a barley risotto which gives a nutier flavor and works well with the pumpkin.

For 4 people you will need:

(for the stuffed pumpkin): 2 small pumpkins cut in half with the seeds scooped out,1 onion,400mls of warm vegetable stock, 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped, 50mls dry white wine, 120g risotto rice (or pearl barley),2 tbspns hazelnuts roasted and roughly chopped, rind of one organic lemon and juice of half it,20g freshly grated parmesan, 2 tbspns olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper

(for leek sauce): 1 small leek washed and 2 cloves of garlic bth finely chopped, 20g of butter, 40mls dry white wine, 60mls of vegetable stock, 150ml cream, 40g freshly grated parmesan, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

500g parsnips chopped into large batons, butter and a tablespoon of honey.

Start by making the risotto: heat some of the butter in a saucepan and add onion and garlic. When onion has softened add the rice coat in butter. Pour in wine and stir until it has evaporated. The add he stock one ladle at a time, letting the rice simmer in it and waiting until each ladle has been absorbed, continue until rice is almost cooked, ie should still be a little on the firm side. Then stir in the roast hazelnuts, lemon rind and juice, parmesan, olive oil, remaining butter and season generously. Leave the risotto to cool.

Prepare the pumpkins (and parsnips). Bring some water to the boil in a large saucepan and cook pumpkin halves for about ten minutes - this is the delicate part of the operation as the pumpkins should be cooked just so, you need them to be tender but not overcooked. In another saucepan bring some more water to the boil and cook the parsnips also for about 10 mins (I just reused the saucepan and water from the pumpkins).

Heat the oven to 200°C. Fill the cavity of each pumpkin half with the risotto and place filled side down in a roasting tin lined with greaseproof paper. Make several slashes in the skin of the pumpkin and brush with olive oil. Coat the parsnips in some butter and the hone if using, season and put in a separate roasting tin. Both pumpkins and parsnips will both take about 20 - 25 minutes.

While they are cooking, prepare the sauce by frying the leeks and garlic in butter in a small pan, when the onions are soft add the wine and stock and bring to the boil for one minute. Add the cream to the sauce just before you are ready to serve the pumpkins and boil for a few minutes to reduce it to a thick consistency. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve place a half pumpkin on each plate with some parsnips with a large spoonful of sauce.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Chestnuts at Dournazac and a pear & chocolate crumble

No making foie gras for me this weekend - there was just no time! On Friday evening we were invited to family friends who have a farm outside of Limoges for dinner! It was a typical rustic dinner served up by a woman who has never owned a cookbook or a weighing scales and boy was it delicious. This was not a meal for the faint hearted or those watching either their weight or cholestral! We started with her homemade pork pate on chunky slices of bread washed down with champagne of course! We then moved on to starters of avocado filled with tuna and hard boiled farm eggs with tomatoes from her garden before the piece de resistance - roast goose served with potatoes fried in goosefat with a bit of butter thrown in for good measure! Our host even killed the goose herself!

On Sunday morning we headed off bright and early to the chestnut festival at Dornazac which is about 30 mins drive south of Limoges. It was a typical small town affair with lots of stands selling not just chestnuts but among other things; local cheeses,enormous freshly baked breads, cider and apple juice (which was being made on site!), honey - including chestnut honey, walnuts and demi baguttes filled with black pudding made from chestnuts of course!

Our find of the day was local Cepes - we bought 2.5kilos at €12/kg which we served up later that evening in omlettes made with farm fresh eggs laid - a parting gift on Friday evening. We also bought some cider and some local goats cheeses.

Unfortunately we had missed the fact that a three gourmet meal was being served up at midday for €20 but as father in law had been left at home in charge of roasting the chicken it would have been rude not go home for lunch as planned.

It was with heavy bags we headed back to Paris on the train - loaded up with the best of vegetables from the parents in laws' garden, pears, gibiers and pate from the farm we had visited on Friday evening, home made jams, a large quantity of cepes and about a tonne of walnuts which we discovered right at the bottom of the rucksack which explained why it took two of us to hoist the rucksack on to the train!

The pears did not weather the train journey well - so I decided to transform them into dessert that evening. I love the pear and chocolate tarts you find in Parisien patisseries with their frangipane filling - and this crumble was the the closest thing that my cupboard could afford me!

For six people you will need:

9 ripe pears (but not too over ripe!)
200g of the best dark chocolate you can afford
juice of half a lemon
1 packet of vanilla sugar
110g butter
60g ground almonds and 100g plain flour
150g of brown sugar
pinch of salt

To make:
peel and core the pears - and cut into small cubes - try to retain juice
add lemon juice to prevent pears from discolouring
break the chocolate into small pieces
divide the pears between 6 ramekins or mini cocottes
pour over the retained juice (if any)
sprinkle the chocolate over the pears
sprinkle over the vanilla sugar

next make the crumble by mixing the butter, ground almonds, sugar and salt using your fingers until you have a crumble like consistency (try to be light with the finger work and make sure your butter is cold) then divide the crumble between the six ramekins

bake in a preheated oven (180°c) for 20 - 25 mins until golden on top. they can be served hot or lukewarm with a good vanilla ice cream on the side!