Friday, April 24, 2015

Pippa's pumpkin risotto

We've got a lot of pumpkins at the moment--our own nameless variety, cross bred accidentally one year between a Golden Nugget and a Queensland Blue pumpkin and which we now grow every year. They have a lovely, meltingly sweet rich flavour and a bright orange skin which is tough to cut but which roasts to a deliciously nutty softness.
My daughter Pippa, who's a fantastic cook, gave me her favourite recipe pumpkin risotto recipe and I made it the other day. It's just the perfect dish to bring out the flavour and colour of these lovely pumpkins. But any good-flavoured pumpkin would work with it. A great colourful rib-sticker on cold grey days!

Pippa's Pumpkin Risotto

1 Pumpkin, cut in 1-2cm dice pieces and roasted in the oven with olive oil and some chilli flakes (salt and pepper too, of course)
1 cup risotto rice
2L chicken stock, warmed
Leek or onion
Parmesan, about ½ cup grated
Basil, torn

After pumpkin is roasted, you will need to start on the risotto. Cook the finely sliced leek or onion in oil till soft and then add raw risotto rice stirring until it starts to look a little translucent. Then add one ladle a time of the warmed chicken stock until absorbed and rice is al dente. Take off the stove top, add about 25g butter diced along with cheese and stir through, then add pumpkin and basil, stir through and then serve!

It’s best if you use a heavy based saucepan.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A menu from a great Jules Verne adventure novel, Mikhail Strogoff

I've been really busy in the last few weeks with work on a crowdfunding campaign for a great new project I'm involved with: bringing back to English speaking readers a wonderful Jules Verne adventure classic, Mikhail Strogoff(first published in French in 1876). I'm part of the publishing team at Eagle Books, an imprint of Christmas Press, which will be publishing the first new English translation in over a hundred years of this rip-roaring adventure tale, set in pre-Revolutionary Russia. Stephanie Smee, who has already authored several bestselling translations of other French classics, will be creating the translation. We are running the crowdfunding campaign to fund production of a celebratory beautiful illustrated limited edition of the novel, and invite you to join us in this wonderful publishing event here.

And to whet your appetite, here's an extract from the book where Mikhail Strogoff, the hero of the story, puts up for the night at an inn in Nizhny Novgorod. As this is a food blog, I thought it appropriate that the extract features the meal he eats!

Translation copyright Stephanie Smee. Edition copyright Eagle Books. 

And thus Mikhail Strogoff found himself wandering through the town, not unduly troubled, on the lookout for some form of accommodation where he might spend the night. But he was not trying very hard and, had it not been for his gnawing hunger, he would probably have wandered the streets of Nizhny Novgorod until morning. For he was more interested in a meal than a bed. And he found both under the shingle of the Town of Constantinople.

The innkeeper there offered him a perfectly satisfactory room, sparsely furnished, but equipped with both an image of the Virgin and portraits of various saints, for which some golden fabric served as frames. He was promptly served up some duck stuffed with spiced mince, drowning in a heavy cream sauce, some barley bread, some curds, some cinnamon-flavoured sugar and a mug of kvass – a type of beer very common in Russia. He would have been satisfied with less. So, he ate his fill; more so than his neighbour at the dining table, who, being an adherent of the ‘Old Believers’ movement of the Raskolniks and having taken a vow of abstinence, left the potatoes on his plate and was careful not to add sugar to his tea.

Having finished his supper, instead of going up to his room, Mikhail Strogoff headed automatically back out to resume his walk around town. But though the long twilight was still drawing on, the crowd was already dissipating, and little by little the streets were emptying as everybody headed for home.
old photo of government building in Nizhny Novgorod, circa 1900