Seaside risotto with spring onions

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I am back in Accra after a week of holidays on Isola del Giglio, off the coast of Tuscany: good friends, excellent food, and the chance to cook with fresh Italian ingredients. Long lazy mornings with cappuccini and cornetti, morning swims, lunches cobbled together for communal eating in the garden, followed by a siesta, or a swim, before apertivi and dinner. Very relaxing. This was an ad hoc lunch dish: a risotto with spring onions, a side dish for the gluten-avoiders while the rest of us had pasta with pesto.

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Risotto can be made with so many vegetables. Here, the spring onions were left over from making Ottolenghis courgette and herb filo pie for another lunch – very nice! Just being able to cook with a sea breeze and a view like this was lovely.

Seaside risotto with spring onions
One onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbs olive oil
2 cups risotto rice (here arborio, I’d normally use carnaroli)
spalsh of white wine
1 litre simmering stock (vegetable, chicken – I used fish stock as that is what we had)
4-5 spring onions, washed and chopped
handful of fresh basil
pinch of salt and pepper

Optional if not using fish stock: a handful of grated parmesan when serving

Heat the olive oil and fry the chopped onion gently. In a separate pot, keep a litre of stock on a low boil. We’d planned to make takoyaki  (Japanese fried octopus balls) one day so I’d brought fish stock cubes to replace dashi, but we never got around to that, so in the risotto it went.  Add the rice to the pot or pan, to toast it slightly. Add a splash of white wine if you have some handy. Keep the risotto on low heat, enough to keep it boiling slightly. Then add hot stock, one ladle at a time, and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Then add more stock. After five minutes or so, add the chopped sporing onions. Keep adding hot stock, one ladle at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed. I threw in some chopped fresh basil.  Eventually the stock is all added, and the risotto has gone from a al dente to done and a bit starchy. Taste if it needs salt and pepper, and enjoy with a sea view.

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If using a vegetable stock or chicken stock, a generous handful of parmesan right before serving will pull this together nicely.

Chilly Rome, and helkornbrød III

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A cat basking in December sunshine. We had ambled up the hill to meet friends from Accra at the farmers’ market on Via Passino, and a lovely sunny morning it was. Laden with biscuits (brutti ma buoni, neretti, cantucci)  we brought them back for a lunch of cacio e pepe ravioli from the pasta shop downstairs, with a market-bought lemon and fruit crumble for dessert. It’s been a very nice Roman day.

Garbatella

Walking back through the narrow streets of old Garbatella, on our way home. It is really odd, knowing that in twelve days I’ll be headed back to Accra again. Am I packing for three weeks there, or a year ? There is still no news on what 2018 brings, which is rather nerve-wracking. As usual, baking is calming and feels soothingly productive when most else is uncertain. Tonight we see friends, so this bread is coming along as our contribution. My husband is baking jollof-flavoured focaccia, so the kitchen is warm and toasty and smells divine.

Since I am only here for a few weeks, the pantry is low on seeds and flour types, so it’s variation III of helkornbrød, wholewheat bread with cracked wheat. Here are variations I and II. This time I also used overnight-soaked cracked wheat, but I added a pre-ferment overnight sponge for flavour.

Saturday potluck bread: helkornbrød III

The night before:
150 grammes of whole cracked wheat
250 grammes of water
Leave to soak over night in covered container, on counter in cool kitchen (17C) or in fridge.

Also the night before:
50 grammes plain white wheat flour (I used 00)
100 grammes coarse rye flour
100 grammes wholewheat flour
10 grammes fresh yeast, crumbled (or 5g dry yeast)
200 grammes water
Stir together. Leave over night in covered container, on counter in cool kitchen (17C) or in fridge.

Next day, in large bowl:
500 grammes plain white wheat flour (I used 00)
100 grammes wholewheat flour
15 grammes fresh yeast, crumbled (or 7.5g dry yeast)
250 grammes water
3 tbs vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
+ the soaked cracked wheat with any leftover liquid
+ the overnight sponge

Stir it all together, mixing well and folding with spatula, you will see the structure develop. Moist, sticky dough but not wet: I was thinking of round loaves this time, hoping the dough would not collapse if baked free-form without tins, but still wanting a decent hydration. Very guess-timated here. Leave to rise until nicely doubled. Here it was left for four hours in the kitchen, while we went off for our market walk and had impromptu lunch guests, which was great.

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When our friends had left and the wine glasses were washed, I folded the dough vigorously in the bowl with a spatula for a few minutes, then split it in two and shaped two rounds, sitting on parchment paper. I covered these with a tea towel and let then rise again for an hour or so. I slashed them before baking and sprinkled both with some water right before they went into the hot oven. Bake at 225C for 45 minutes or so, depending on your oven, on lower rack.

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Off to dinner they go! These could maybe have had five more minutes in, but the jollof focaccia also needs baking. It sounds odd, but is really good for apertivi! Same Gabriele Bonci dough as usual. A very good weekend to all.

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Italian stopover: vongole, leeks and cannelini

Too much travelling the last few months, too little cooking. We just finished a lovely week off the Tuscan coast with friends. I am recovering from food poisoning  (never again samosas in Dar es Salaam…..) so ate little and cooked less, but this dish went down well. 

Italy is also in the grip of the heatwave named Lucifer. HOT here!

Same island every year, always wonderful. It seemed a bit quiet this year, the Italian economy must still be down. 

But we had a great week! Fresh fish and seafood from the fish truck, shouting Pesce Fresco each morning.

Vongole with leeks and cannelini

Bag of vongole (small clams)
Three cloves of garlic
Two leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
One medium tin of cannelini beans or other beans
Generous handful parsley, chopped
Two tbs olive oil
Splash of white wine or water, half a lemon if you have one 

Toast  or crusty bread to serve

Cataplana debut! I bought this in Lisbon in June, took it back to Accra, but decided this holiday was a good time to try it. Special pan for steaming shellfish, it clamps shut like a low level pressure cooker and worked really well. 

First: soak clams in water in sink for half an hour, removing any damaged ones or ones that do not close. 

Hear pan with a little oil and white wine or water, tip in handful of clams and steam 4-5 minutes with lid on. You will hear clams pop open. With a slotted spoon fish out done clams and do next batch, I did this in three batches so they were not crowded. 
Leaving liquid in pan, add sliced leeks and garlic and cook 2 or 3 minutes while you de-shell clams and remove any that did not open. Optional step, we were waiting for a lunch guest.  Then add drained beans, chopped parsley and clams and heat briefly through. Maybe half a lemon squeezed over? Serve with toast or crusty bread.

Happy holidays!