Risotto is meditative. It’s like a ritual. A short, delicious ritual. You ladle in stock, and stir. Ladle in stock, stir. Repeat.
I’m one of life’s obsessives; ideas or thoughts get stuck in my head and spin round and round. Right now is one of those times where darker thoughts have gotten lodged, and so I’m at a low ebb. Risotto is perfect for these times because you can get lost in it for just a little while, and turn your thoughts only to the stock, the rice and the stirring.
This risotto, in particular, is good for times of low ebb and tumbling thoughts. It’s spiked with lemon juice and zest, which is a sharp but somehow sunny taste, and there’s kale in it, so you can feel like you are looking after yourself properly. I always associate kale with being extra, effort-filled healthy for some reason – but it is good. There is also goat’s cheese, which, with all it’s milky, tangy creaminess, is one of my most favourite of foods. It’s the goat’s cheese (and the parmesan, of course), that makes this risotto extra comforting.
This is my self-care. This is me taking twenty minutes to stop, to stir, to get all caught up in the smell of hot stock and to mix cheese into rice until it is beautifully creamy. I’ve never gone in for the meditation or mindfulness stuff, really, but if I was going to it would all be based around risotto. It would be stirring, stirring, stirring, and then eating rice with a load of butter in it.
Lemon, Kale and Goat's Cheese Risotto
Stir. Stock. Repeat.
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock*
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- A big-ish knob of butter and a glug of oil
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
- 1 cup of white wine
- Zest of juice of 1 lemon
- A few handfuls of kale
- 3 rough tbsp soft goat's cheese, plus a little extra for garnish
- 2 rough tbsp of grated parmesan
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the stock in a saucepan. Have a ladle to hand.
- In a deep-ish frying pan over a medium to low heat, melt the butter and heat the oil together.
- Once the butter is doing a gentle bubble but not burning, add the onion and garlic. Stir to coat in the oil and butter and let it cook for a few minutes, until the onion starts to go clear. After a few minutes, add the thyme and cook for another minute.
- Add the rice. Fry the rice for a minute or two - it will start to go clear. You might need to stir it once or twice to stop it sticking.
- When your rice is clear, add the wine. Cook. Keep stirring.
- When most of the wine has been absorbed by the rice, add a ladleful of stock. Keep stirring.
- When the stock has been absorbed, add more stock. Stir. Stir.
- Repeat the adding of stock and the stirring. Keep tasting, too, to see when your rice is cooked through but retains a little bite. Stock, stir, repeat.
- When your rice is nearly cooked, add the kale and lemon zest in with the next ladle of stock, and stir. The kale will wilt a little.
- When your rice is completely cooked, take it off the heat. Stir in the goat's cheese, lemon juice and parmesan, along with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, with a little extra goat's cheese on top.
- *Use vegetable stock to make this recipe vegetarian
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/
I’ve been thinking about maths.
When I was at school, I dreaded maths. Sitting in the corner, pining for the use of a calculator and struggling on question four while everyone raced ahead onto question 30-something.
Now, I find maths quite enjoyable. I don’t necessarily sit around doing simultaneous equations or transforming a triangle around a grid in my down time, but I do find the methodical-ness of maths incredibly satisfying. I like things that have an order, and a definite answer. In my day to day life I’ve developed a love of spreadsheets that is at times a little worryingly intimate, and I firmly hold the belief that data makes everything better.
I think a lot of the comfort I find in numbers is part of why I like baking stuff. When I was at school, I felt quite fiercely dedicated to being an artsy type; full of words and otherness and being an outsider. Now, settled into the person I actually am, I like structure, clarity and efficiency. Baking is a bit of both; it is precision and it is science, but it is also flair and fun.
Shortbread is good because it is based around a beautifully pleasing ratio of 3:2:1. Flour, butter, suagr. It is easy to change the yield of your recipe with the ratio, easy to do less or more, and it’s still easily 3:2:1. It is lovely, simple maths that produces crumbly buttery goodness. This version has lime and white chocolate, and those are my little additions to satisfy the bit of me that still wants to be one of life’s creatives. These zesty, sweet little morsels are the intersection of me and maths.
White Chocolate and Lime Shortbread
Zesty, sweet, buttery and crumbly little biscuits.
- 300g plain flour
- 200g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 100g caster sugar
- A big handful of white chocolate, in chunks*
- Zest of two limes
- Line a large baking tray (or, a few littler ones) with baking parchment. Preheat your oven to 160°c.
- Using a wooden spoon, mix together the butter and sugar until combined into a paste.
- Gently, mix in the flour, the hunks of white chocolate and the lime zest. Use your hands if you need to. Don't be too rough; you want it to just come together - be careful not to overmix. The less you work it, the more crumbly your final biscuit will be. Since this is shortbread, crumbly is the ideal.
- Wrap your dough in clingfilm and chill it for a bit in the fridge - about 30 minutes will do.
- Roll out your dough (mine were about the thickness of my phone, or about half the thickness of a DVD case, but it's all down to preference) and cut into desired shapes** Prick them a bit with a fork, which will stop them rising up and keep them snappy.
- If you have time, chill your shaped biscuits in the fridge again (they'll spread less in the oven)
- Put in the oven The best advice here is from James Morton's How To Bake: "Baking time will depend heavily on the thickness of biscuit... the key is to check regularly and if they are beginning to brown at the edges, take out the tray." A slow bake at a lower temperature will make them a little crumblier, and means they are less likely to burn.
- When cooked, transfer to a cooling rack and leave to cool. Or eat them warm, while the chocolate is still melty and delicious.
- *I used a big old Milky Bar, hacked up into big chunks with a knife - which means I used 100g. You might want to use cooking chocolate, because the Milky Bar went a kind of caramel coloured brown - and I'm not sure white chocolate in a cookie should. It was, however, delicious, so don't discount a Milky Bar for flavour.
- **I used a little flower cutter, which looked alright but did play havoc with the dough a bit and made them difficult to remove from the cutter.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/