Another carb-free week goes by and I'm fine. I don't miss bread as much as I thought. Basmati rice though, is a little harder to give up, we had lunch at Lahore Karai in Tooting the other day and the children tucked into a big plate of it without loosening their belts.This week I've made a few dishes that are more springlike. A confit tuna Niçoise, a spring minestrone, smoked salmon with avocado and eggs, and a light spinach and apple soup among other things.Last night though, with a breaking boiler and the cold weather still biting, we fancied something cosy and comforting: risotto. Rice is out of the question, but I've been using buckwheat a lot recently. I used buckwheat flour to make the children galettes the other day for lunch and I also used it to make soba noodles to go in a prawn and tofu miso soup. In the past I've toasted it in a frying pan before cooking it, making kasha to serve with salmon steaks. So I used it in place of my favourite Vialone Nano rice to make this simple mushroom 'risotto'.IngredientsFor two150g buckwheat1 small onion, chopped1 clove of garlic, crushed1tbsp powdered, dried porcini mushrooms (you can make your own in a grinder)150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced400ml chicken or vegetable stock. I used homemade chicken stock.Olive oilSalt and pepper2tbsp butterGrated parmesanChopped parsley to serveMethodSauté the mushrooms in a little oil and set aside.Heat some oil in a saucepan and add the onion and buckwheat. Cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the grains are beginning to toast a little.Add the garlic, mushroom powder, season a little and stir well.Add a ladleful of the stock to the pan and stir well. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the buckwheat absorb the liquid before adding the next. Keep on doing this until the stock is finished or the buckwheat is soft, but with a little bite.Add the cooked mushrooms and stir.Now for the 'mantecatura'. Add the butter and Parmesan and vigorously shake the pan while stirring with a wooden spoon. Put a lid on and leave to rest for a few minutes. Stir through some chopped parsley and serve with more Parmesan.
It seems long ago now that we were on holiday on the Greek island of Paxos. Spiros and his Bar Taxidi kept spirits high as I struggled with intense hay fever from the olive trees. It was here I first had spaghetti with sea urchins; we watched a young boy dive into the invisibly clear water and pick them from the sea bed. Eating them there on the beach was one of the greatest meals I've ever had. It was also on Paxos that we first had mushrooms cooked on a wood fire. It may seem a simple thing, and it is, but the flavour was incredible. There is always a first time and this was mine. You can add whatever herbs you fancy to this, but I'd recommend being generous with the garlic and oil. The mushrooms really soak up flavour. Watch them well. Inevitably you will lose a few through the grill, so make sure you have plenty. I'd serve these with some rosemary and lemon chicken thighs and definitely outside in the sun.Ingredients800g chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced, some just halved if you like3-4 garlic cloves, choppedA lot of olive oil to pour over A pinch of chilli flakesA handful or thyme leaves, oregano, rosemary and parsley to finish Salt and pepper MethodMarinade the mushrooms in the other ingredients then cook on a hot barbecue, turning occasionally until turning golden.If you don't have a barbecue, or a garden, these work well on a furiously hot griddle pan.