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Baked Gorgonzola and Spinach Risotto with Red Wine Mushrooms

ROASTED RED WINE MUSHROOMS WITH BLUE CHEESE AND SPINACH BAKED RISOTTO

I’ve just received a huge piece of Gorgonzola dolce (thanks @GorgonzolaUk) and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. I’m having friends over for dinner this Friday and one friend is vegetarian. I haven’t time to prepare two separate meals for a Friday night dinner party, so I have just had the decision made for me. I’m going to make this recipe.  The rich red wine marinade and all of flavours that roast into the mushroom are so delicious it becomes a really juicy, meaty dish so will please both meat and non-meat eaters. Furthermore, a baked risotto is perfect as there’s no standing and stirring involved, leaving me plenty of time to enjoy my friends company.

If this recipe takes your fancy – it is actually from my book In the Mood for Entertaining.There’s plenty more like this in there.

Serves 6

Takes about 20 minutes to make, plus 1 hour marinating and about 25 minutes in the oven

For the mushrooms:

6 large Portobello or field/flat mushrooms

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

leaves from 2 sprigs of oregano

handful of basil leaves

1 tbsp tomato puree

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

100ml red wine

50g cold butter, diced

For the risotto:

50g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

450g risotto rice

150ml white wine

1.2 litres hot vegetable stock

250g Gorgonzola (other blue cheeses can be used)

150g baby spinach leaves

50g toasted pine nuts

Place the garlic, oregano, basil, tomato puree, olive oil and balsamic in a mini chopper or small food processor and whiz until fairly fine. Season with salt and pepper.  Rub this into the mushrooms, smearing it lightly into the gills. Sit in a dish and pour over the red wine. Leave to marinade or about 1 hour, basting the mushrooms with the wine a couple of times.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan ovens/gas 6

To make the risotto, melt just half of the butter in an oven-proof pan or casserole dish and gently sauté the onion until it is softened. Add the rice and stir around until it is well coated in the butter, before adding the white wine. Cook until half of the wine has been absorbed.

Transfer the mushrooms and wine to a roasting tray and place in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.

Add the hot stock to the rice with a twist of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Not too much salt as the blue cheese will give some saltiness when added. Stir briefly and cover with a tight fitting lid or tin foil for 18 minutes, or until just cooked.

Remove the risotto from the oven, stir in the cheese, spinach and remaining butter, and leave to sit for 5 minutes.

By now the mushrooms should be lovely and tender and starting to release their own juices.

Serve the risotto onto warm plates and scatter over the pine nuts. Either leave the mushrooms whole or slice in half or three, and sit on top of the risotto. Spoon any juices over the mushrooms and serve straight away.

PS…

To avoid having to spend too much time in the kitchen during your dinner party, the risotto can be partly prepared ahead of time. Once you have added the white wine and it’s has been absorbed by the rice, remove from the heat and then continue with the rest of the recipe 25 minutes before it is needed.

Tilda Vintage Basmati

A special dinner party guest.

We all know that good wine, ham, cheeses and Daniel Craig get better with age, but I’ve just discovered that Basmati rice does too. And what a great find. I was intrigued when I recently opened up a very posh looking box of limited edition Tilda Vintage Basmati rice. The stylish black casing gave it such a special look and quite rightly too. It is a truly delicious ingredient.

Apparently, when rice farmers have a ‘good year’ they usually keep some back for themselves to use on special occasions. The clever people at Tilda have done exactly this with the ‘excellent’ 2006 harvest and boxed it up beautifully.

I must admit I was wondering if there would be a difference to Tilda’s regular dry Basmati Rice, but was pleasantly surprised. It’s even richer, sweeter, with a lovely nutty aroma making it the perfect accompaniment to pretty much anything. The polished dry grains are more refined and there are zero broken grains in the pack, meaning the starch content is even lower guaranteeing a lighter, fluffier texture when cooked.

So since this is extra special rice – I figured it deserves to be treated well and cooked up for a dinner party rather than simply being used as my everyday rice.

For me, planning a dinner party menu is the fun part and I’ll start off by setting a theme or cuisine style. My first thought was to go for an Indian themed menu since basmati is traditionally associated with Indian food. However, to ring the changes I opted for a Middle Eastern menu, which offers such a variety of exciting flavour combinations.

Griddled, spiced Halloumi with tomato, cucumber and mint salad.

This starter is very simple as you can get everything ready, except for the cooking part well in advance of your guests arriving.

To make this I cut Halloumi cheese into slices and marinated it for a couple of hours in a good drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, ground coriander and dried chilli flakes. For the salad, I roughly chopped super ripe tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and mixed with loads of fresh chopped mint and a handful of pitted black Kalamata olives.

Just before serving I tossed them in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil. I cooked the Halloumi on an oiled griddle until golden, scattered over some toasted sesame seeds and served with the salad and warm flatbread. Everyone was happy and I was feeling relaxed (probably due to the cocktail I’d had when everyone arrived).

Baked Persian lamb and sweet-spiced Vintage Basmati.

Now for our main course – this is where I really wanted to make the most of the Tilda Vintage Basmati Rice, something that would benefit from the richer, more separate grain. I thought I’d prepare a dish that I could leave to cook while my friends arrived, leaving the serving up as the only thing left to do. I decided upon making a Baked Persian lamb and sweet-spiced Basmati dish.

The nutty flavour and sweetness of the rice would tie in beautifully with the lamb and all the aromatic flavours I intended to use with it. The one problem you can come across when baking/braising rice is that it can become heavy and starchy – but using the vintage rice and soaking it in cold water for 30 minutes before cooking gave impressive results. Everyone tucked in, really enjoying all of the flavours in the dish and luckily for me, there was plenty for seconds. (See below recipe).

The final hurdle – Middle Eastern Chocolate Torte

When I have a dinner party this is one thing I like to know is ready prepared with just last minute finishing off just before serving. This is because by the time it’s dessert time (usually about ten o clock!) I’ve had a bit of wine and don’t trust myself with a blow torch for example, or anything sharp.

I decided upon making a flourless almond based chocolate torte, which is big enough to serve at least 8 people, so plenty for seconds. To add a Middle Eastern touch I topped it with some whipped cream flavoured with a rose liqueur that I’ve recently discovered (a splash of rose water and some icing sugar will also do the trick).

The cloud-like cream was spooned on top of the torte. I scattered over a handful of edible rose petals and some chopped pretty green pistachio nuts. A scattering of pomegranate seeds would also have been nice but I’d used them up on the main course.

I presented my masterpiece on a cake stand and we managed to almost eat the whole lot – saving (luckily for me) a little as an afternoon treat the next day.

All in all it was a perfect dinner party – games started and before we knew it everyone had to leave, leaving us with the washing, which we left until the next morning (naughty us!).

Remaining Vintage Basmati Rice.

I only used 350g of the 500g bag and rather than save it for my next dinner party I thought I’d treat my husband and I to it the following evening.

It was a Sunday and I made us a South Indian chicken curry (perfect comfort food). It’s mildly spiced, so I thought I’d add some additional flavours to the rice to compliment the curry. After soaking the rice in cold water for 30 minutes, I rinsed it until the water ran clear under the cold tap. I then cooked the rice using the covered pan/absorbtion method (http://www.tilda.com/our-rice/cooking-basmati-rice) and added a pinch of salt, few cardamom pods, a stick of cinnamon and a pinch of dried flaked chilli.

The results were amazing. It had a lovely aroma, distinctive spiced flavour and the rice was really fluffy. It was just what we needed and this time we did the washing up before we went to bed.

Baked Persian lamb and sweet-spiced Vintage Basmati.

Serves 4-6

350g Tilda Vintage Basmati Rice

900g diced lamb leg

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 onions, finely sliced

2cm piece peeled root ginger, grated

3 cloves garlic, crushed

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

1 litre hot lamb stock

75g dried cherries

50ml pomegranate molasses, plus extra to serve

100g toasted pinenuts

100g fresh pomegranate seeds

1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the rice in a bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse in a sieve with cold water until the water runs clear.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C fan ovens/gas 6.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole and cook the onion for 10 minutes until softened and golden. Increase the heat and add the garlic, ginger and lamb. Fry until the lamb is browned all over. Stir in the spices and cook for about 1 minute before adding the drained rice. Stir until coated in the spices then add the stock, dried cherries and pomegranate molasses. Bring to the simmer and cover with a lid.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes until the stock is absorbed into the rice, and the lamb is meltingly tender.

Run a fork through the rice to separate the grains, which will be lovely and fluffy and season with salt and pepper. Stir through the toasted pinenuts and serve onto plates. To finish off, scatter over pomegranate seeds, chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

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