Saturday, 24 July 2010

Cooking lesson: Summer risotto, lamb tagine, strawberry cheesecakes

Last night I gave my first ever cooking lesson to one of the girls from HS&E, H. We had the lesson at my place after work. One of the other HS&E girls, A, came along for the craic, and a good nosh! We only worked out what we were going to have on Wednesday afternoon:

Summer risotto
Lamb tagine and couscous
Strawberry cheesecake

Due to my hectic week that gave me slightly less time than I had wanted to prepare, which is entirely my fault.

Summer risotto

Fresh and seasonal broad beans, peas and leek in a risotto finished with lemon. Not a bad start. It turns out that H is unbelievably sensitive to onion; even the leek had her reduced to tears! Interestingly H had been told that risottos could go wrong at any moment and so were incredibly hard. I hope I convinced her otherwise.

Lamb tagine and couscous

This turned out very well with a strong aromatic depth of flavour although slightly too much chilli made it a touch too hot. The couscous was a good accompaniment. This was something H has seen on Come Dine With Me and wanted to be able to cook herself.

Strawberry cheesecake

A simple but effective dessert to finish. This was an "interesting" expereince from start to finish. A created a new way of making a biscuit base by blitzing the shortbread until the butter melted out. No need to add any more then! Making the chocolate decorations was also quite good fun although I think the alcohol may have been at the fore, see below...

Clockwise from the top A created a star, a cat, a house, herself, unknown and a perfect heart all topped off with a butterfly.

H was more conventional and did the classic snail!

Anyway it all turned out quite well, and I think I'm tempted to try out teaching a bit more formally. I just need to actually come up with some kind of plan and marketable approach.

The recipes are taken from the handout I gave H to take home with her.

Summer risotto

1 onion, finely chopped
150g Arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
Seasonal vegetables (peas, French beans, runner beans, broad beans)
½ glass white wine
2oz butter
Splash olive oil
2oz Parmesan, finely grated
Salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter in the olive oil and sweat the onions until soft.
2. Add the rice, coating the grains in the fats and toast until slightly translucent
3. Add the wine and allow the alcohol to burn off
4. Gradually add the stock, a ladleful at a time. Stirring all the time. Add more stock once the previous batch has been absorbed.
5. Once about ¾ of the stick has been added and the rice has a little bite add the vegetables.
6. Once the rice has a little bite and the vegetables are cooked. Beat in the remaining butter and cheese and leave to rest for two minutes.
7. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice before serving.

Lamb tagine and couscous

1 onion, sliced
~500g lamb, cubed (shoulder works well)
Vegetable oil for frying.
500ml chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½tsp cinnamon
½tsp ground ginger
½tsp cumin
½tsp saffron/turmeric
¼tsp cayenne/chilli
½tsp paprika
2tbsp honey
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Dried apricots
(1 tin chick peas – optional)
For the couscous:
Chicken stock
Juice of ½ lemon
2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. In a large pan, brown the meat in vegetable oil. Remove from the pan and reserve for later.
2. Sweat the onion until soft. Once cooked add the garlic and spices and toast for a short time to release the flavours.
3. Add the stock, tomatoes, apricots, honey and lamb to the pan and bring to a gentle simmer.
4. Cook with the lid on for about 45 minutes until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened (remove the lid for the last 15 minutes to create a thicker sauce). If using, add the chickpeas for the last 15 minutes of cooking.
5. For the couscous, place in a bowl and pour in enough hot stock to cover the couscous by approximately ½”.
6. Add the olive oil and lemon juice. Stir well and cover with cling film. Set aside for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed.
7. Fork through the couscous to separate the grains and “fluff” it up. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Strawberry cheesecake

5oz shortbread biscuits
2oz butter
½tub mascarpone cheese
150ml double cream
1 punnet strawberries
Icing sugar
½tsp vanilla extract (or 1tsp vanilla essence)
[Optional: Dark chocolate to garnish]

1. Crush the biscuits into crumbs.
2. Melt the butter and mix with the biscuits. Firmly press a layer of the mixture into ring moulds and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Hull the strawberries and cut in half. Place strawberries cut side facing outwards around each ring mould.
4. Reserve at least one lovely strawberry per cheesecake
5. Take the remaining strawberries and liquidise. Pass through a sieve.
6. Sieve in icing sugar to taste (start off with 1dsp and add to taste).
7. Whip the double cream until just stiff then mix with the mascarpone. Add the vanilla extract and add icing sugar to taste.
8. Mix in some of the strawberry purée to taste, either mix fully if you want a pink mix or fold in lightly if you want a marbled effect.
9. Fill each mould with the cheese mix and leave to set.
10. Melt the chocolate and pipe a decorative border on the serving plate. Once set fill with strawberry sauce.
11. Garnish each cheesecake with a fanned strawberry and chocolate decorations

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