Monday, February 21, 2011

The Princess and her Peas...

Another long absence and a rethink about blogging.

If you're still with me, hang in there.

If you haven't been here before, welcome!

If you're wondering what the heck has been going on, then wonder no longer.

I've simply had Bloggers Block. You know, like writers block. I've also, truthfully been facing some middle age related health issues to, which are now being resolved. Say amen to that~

I've also made a decision that in between my blissful musings, I will introduce you to some of my families favourite frugal, yet fabulous meals.

So, onward.

Here is a meal that is the epitome of 'less is more'. I've always been a great believer in presentation, presentation, presentation. And indeed that is what this blog is all about. The presentation of a meal, a gift, a breakfast or lunch tray for a loved's all about showing you care.

This is a green pea risotto...truly peasant fare...dolled up with just five fat sea scallops (Coquilles St Jacques). It's a meal I enjoyed at La Pavillon at the end of the Champs Elysees a few years ago. It's one I've successfully replicated at home for many special and not so special dinners.

The Princess and her Peas

4 servings

You need:

2 cups Arborio rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
4-5 cups boiling water
4 vegetable stock cubes
2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
Good knob of butter
Handful of grated cheese
Chopped fresh herbs (optional)

You will also require:

One serving of fish per person eg. 3-5 scallops, 1-2 sardines or whiting fillets, a slim fillet of fresh salmon. Don't go overboard. The fish component is almost a garnish in this case. Two to three succulent mouthfuls is worth far more than a tummy full of ordinary. Go to the trouble to find a good fresh fish market for this. It's worth the extra effort, honestly. Avoid supermarket fish if possible. It's just not the same.

In a large microwave safe bowl, add the rice and the oil. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir well to coat the rice in the oil.

Crumble the stock cubes into the rice, and add one cup of boiling water. Stir well to dissolve. Microwave on high for four minutes.

Stir well for 30 seconds. Add a further cup of boiling water. Microwave for six minutes.

Repeat this step one more time.

Check the rice for doneness. It should be tender but not sloppy, but allow for your family preferences. If it's still too chewy, add more water, half a cup at a time and microwave for 2 minutes each time, stirring well after each addition.

The amount of water used varies, but it usually ends up being around 4 cups or a little more.

Meanwhile, steam the peas in a little simmering water on your stovetop until they are soft.

Crush the peas with a masher. Add to the rice and heat for one more minute.

Allow to sit while you pan fry the little scallops or fillets of whiting, sardines or salmon. Any or all are a wonderful accompaniment. I like to pan fry my fish for about 4 minutes on one side, so it's nearly cooked through and super browned and crunchy on that side, then flip it over to just finish for about a minute. Obviously for a thin fillet like whiting, you'd only saute briefly on each side.

While the fish finishes on the second side, quickly add the butter and cheese and herbs to your risotto, stir well, and spoon into shallow bowls.

Top artfully with your scallops or fish fillets, drizzle with flavoured oil (we love hazelnut or orange infused extra virgin olive oil) and serve immediately.

Accept compliments graciously.

What's on your tray of bliss today?


Friday, February 4, 2011

Christmas...only 330 days to go!

Christmas is on my Tray of Bliss today, and it's only about 320 days away!

Now it might seem crazy thinking about NEXT Christmas when you're still suffering the fiscal hangover of the last one. But, actually that's the best time to start planning...while the sting of overspending is still fresh in your mind. Many of the best home made gifts take time to grow, sew, or mature.

In fact, my goal this year is to generate enough home made goodies to not have to buy a single gift this year.

My list for gifts for 2011 will include Home Made Limoncello, Custom Scented Bubble Baths in recycled and found containers, Chocolate Syrup, Vanilla Syrup, Jams and Relishes,  Bulk Pancake Mix with Home Made Fruit Topping, Fruit Teas, Potted Herbs, and Herb and Spice Infused Salts.

I've already acquired an impressive collection of bottles and containers to house my lovely gifts and I'm off and running.

So far, I have 10 litres of Limoncello ageing. This will be decanted into little 375ml bottles, so will yield 26-30 gifts. I'll improvise with a bit of extra sugar syrup or vodka to top up to get the 30, I think.

I've made several jams, and my Famous Tomato Relish, as well as several bottles of Chocolate Syrup for Easter Gifts. Packed with some Raw Chocolate Truffles and a beautiful glass, it'll put a smile on a few faces.

Now, some of my faithful readers will have access to these recipes already, but for everyone else, stay tuned and I will post one recipe and a photo every few days.

Happy Gift Planning!