#ForeverNigella 25: Colourful- Risotto Alla Milanese

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I love taking part in the latest #ForeverNigella blog hop.  I think this is number four of the ones I have taken part in but we are up to 25 now.  I look forward every month to see who is hosting the blog hop and doing the round up and also which is going to be the theme.  It’s always exciting to see which the monthly theme is going to be and this month’s theme of “Colourful” is no exception.

Forever Nigella is organised by Sarah of Maison Cupcake.  I always love reading Sarah’s blogposts whenever I get the chance, so do pop over and have a look at her latest posts.  This month’s Forever Nigella is hosted by Elizabeth from A Girl In Her Kitchen.  I had not come across Elizabeth and her blog before, from Tennessee but I am keen to read through her posts and pick up lots of tips and ideas.

This month’s theme of “Colourful” is a good one to choose and immediately I was thinking of all the colourful bakes in the Nigella books I have.  I thought about the bright green Grasshopper pie with it’s chocolate base but then thought I am always blogging about sweet stuff and desserts. What about some thing savoury for a change?  I suppose it’s because of my love of baking and having a sweet tooth makes me naturally look towards the dessert chapters in any recipe book.

I thought about what I could find in Nigella’s latest book “Nigellisima” which I bought when it came out last September.  There were loads of different recipes but nothing leapt out and made me think of colour in a certain way.  I always associate Nigella Lawson with Italy and then thought about my own special holiday there last summer.

It was my 40th birthday last May and for a late present my hubby took me to Italy for three days.  I’ve always wanted to go to the Italian Lakes and to Venice so my hubby booked a whistle stop tour of Lake Garda, Lake Como, the Stelvio Pass up in the Alps and Venice. It was fab and I fell in love with Italy. I had been to Rome before but nowhere else in Italy before.

St Mark's Square in Venice.
St Mark’s Square in Venice.

In the duty free shop at Bergamot Airport on our way home I got a bit carried away and bought pasta, spaghetti pasta spice, olive oil, limoncello liqueur and some risotto rice to make the wonderfully colourful risotto alla Milanese.  I wanted to bring back some Bellini but my hubby said enough was enough!

A celebratory Bellini sipped outside a cafe on the banks of Lake Como.
A celebratory Bellini sipped outside a cafe on the banks of Lake Como.

Once I got home I gave some of the goodies to my Mum but she said not to be daft and that I could keep them. I then promised her I would make the Risotto alla Milanese the next time she came to visit.  Trouble was on the subsequent visits we would either be going out or the risotto got forgotten. Luckily the rice had a long sell by date on it!

It wasn’t until I was thinking about what to make for ForeverNigella that I thought about the Risotto Alla Milanese! The risotto comes out a gorgeous yellow colour due to the saffron in it. I was keen to try it but because whenever I was out all the restaurants would only serve risotto to a minimum of two people. As my hubby isn’t that keen on rice I had to miss out. The same thing happens when we go to Spain with Paella!

Last weekend my Mum was here and I thought I’d better get that risotto made as promised.  I looked through my Nigella cookbooks and spotted a recipe from Nigella’s book “Kitchen” for Risotto alla Milanese. This is a description of this wonderful book, which I intend to try and cook more out of : here.

I took photos to show how it was done:

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The packet of Risotto alla Milanese rice which came from Bergamot airport! It just contained the rice and the saffron which was enough for four generous portions.
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Butter was melted in a pan and a small chopped onion was fried gently for about 10 minutes until soft. Nigella suggested shallots but I didn’t have any!
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The rice and saffron was tipped into the pan to be coated in the melted butter for about a minute.
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At this stage Marsala wine was meant to be added to the pan. I didn’t have any leftover from the last time I made Tiramisu so I had to use white wine instead!
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I made up a litre of hot chicken stock in a large jug and got my ladle to hand.
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Bit by bit I ladled the chicken stock into the pan and let it simmer away. When it had been absorbed by the rice, I added more, about 2 ladlefuls at a time.
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After a while I got fed up of standing over the cooker so I tipped the rest of the stock in the pan and made a cup of tea!
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A portion of Risotto alla Milanese all ready to eat. It is meant to be served with parmesan shavings on top but I hadn’t got any. I did grind some pepper on top and it tasted fab!

The Risotto was absolutely gorgeous, not only did it look lovely with it’s pretty golden yellow colour but it tasted gorgeous as well.  My son made rude comments about the colour, saying it looked like sick and he didn’t really like it.  My Mum enjoyed it but my hubby and daughter who aren’t great risotto eaters ate a little to be polite.  I will just have to hope that a local Italian restaurant will have it on the menu so I can enjoy it again!

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx

ForeverNigella#24- Easter With Nigella Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake.

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I’m now on my third go at joining with #ForeverNigella.  This is a monthly blog hop where bloggers link up and share their favourite bakes and recipes.  It is organised by Sarah of Maison Cupcake which is a fab blog for all things foodie. I love reading Sarah’s blogposts whenever I get the chance.  This month’s #ForeverNigella is organised by the lovely Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes which is another brilliant blog to catch up on baking and book reviews.  I’m  looking forward to linking up with the other bloggers taking part so I can see what everyone else bakes at Easter.

This month’s #ForeverNigella is called “Easter With Nigella” and I just had to share one of my favourite ever Nigella recipes which I  have baked not only for Easter but at other times of the year as well.  This recipe is none other than the Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake from my well thumbed, coffee spattered and messy copy of “Feast”.  I bought the Feast book back in 2004 not long after my son had started school.  He was the younger one of my two children and at the time I was a stay at home mum.  I had been a primary school teacher before my children had been born and although I did some supply teaching before the birth of my son in 2000, I had been out of the workforce for a while.  It was to be another two years before I would return to work, albeit as a teaching assistant.  My confidence was at rockbottom and I had no self esteem.  Baking was complete therapy to me as I felt here was something I could be good at.  It took away the depression and loneliness I felt from being at home all day.

Nigella Lawson's "Feast", the front cover design.  Described as a book with "food that celebrates life"
Nigella Lawson’s “Feast”, the front cover design. Described as a book with “food that celebrates life”

Nigella’s Feast book is described on the book jacket as ” a feast for the eyes and for the senses”.  I could totally relate to that. I was in Borders bookshop in York one day and I stood there absorbed in the book, looking at all the recipes.  I knew as I wasn’t working my own money was tight but I didn’t care!  I HAD to have the book so I shot off to the cash desk to pay before I could change my mind and regret it.  Nearly 9 years later it’s been one of my most used recipe books so I’m glad I bought it!

Anyway, enough of the waffle and here is the recipe that makes me think of Easter and this time of year.  The “Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake” is not classed as an Easter recipe in the book, it comes under a special chapter entitled “Chocolate Cake Hall Of Fame” and this is the first recipe in the chapter on page 269.

The cake itself contains cocoa powder but the flavour that makes it old fashioned and not too overpoweringly sweet is the presence of sour cream.  The recipe is a simple all in one method that can be put together in a mixer or food processor which was very encouraging for me in my early days of baking. It is baked in two 8″ sandwich tins (sorry metric amounts just confuse me) for about 30 minutes.

The chocolate icing is made with real chocolate, more sour cream, butter and icing sugar as well as vanilla extract as well as more sour cream.  I always try to use the best quality chocolate I can find.  It spreads perfectly well on top of the cake and it just tastes sublime.

Here are just two of the versions of this cake I baked last year at Easter, although it has also been turned into a summery chocolate cake with handmade sugar roses, a Christmas chocolate cake with sugarpaste trees and as a birthday cake with hearts on.  These are the Easter versions as shown below.

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This version of the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake has ready made Spring daffodils and violet sugar flowers on top of it.
Another version of the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake, this time I've added Cadbury's Chocolate Flakes and Mini Eggs to look like an Easter nest on top of the cake.
Another version of the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake, this time I’ve added Cadbury’s Chocolate Flakes and Mini Eggs to look like an Easter nest on top of the cake.

I am looking forward to making this cake again at Easter this year.  I’m not sure how I will decorate it, depends what the kids fancy on top of it but all I know is that it won’t last long in our house!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

#ForeverNigella 23 Boston Cream Pie- Nostalgia

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Forever Nigella is a Blog Hop Link which was originally thought up by Sarah from http://www.maisoncupcake.com. Sarah has a book published at the moment which is a joy to use.  It is Bake Me I’m Yours – Sweet Bitesize Bakes and is available in all good book shops. Different bloggers take it in turns to hold this monthly Nigella themed event and this month’s Forever Nigella is hosted by Urvashi from The Botanical Baker.  You will remember Urvashi from Series 2 of the Great British Bake Off who created some gorgeous bakes on the programme.

The idea of Forever Nigella is that each month there is a theme.  You bake or make one of Nigella’s recipes either from one of her books or a recipe which is published online but you mustn’t repeat the recipe word for word because of copyright.

So what did I choose for this month’s theme of Nostalgia?  Well, this was a difficult one for me. Lots of Nigella’s recipes conjure up nostalgic feelings for me and it was a difficult decision to choose just one recipe. In the end I plumped for Boston Cream Pie, one of the variations Nigella lists on her Victoria Sponge recipe in her How To Be A Domestic Goddess book.

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Boston Cream Pie from Nigella’s recipe featured on page 21-22 of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Why Boston Cream Pie?  Well nearly 5 years ago I had the opportunity to go to Boston with my hubby for a few days away. It was a very special trip for us as it was the first time we had ever been to the USA and we had always wanted to go to Boston.  My hubby had been on a fear of flying course and I am a nervous flyer so it was a big thing for us. We had managed flights to Europe ok on family holidays and couple breaks but this was the first time we were going long-haul.  It was a brilliant experience for us, we enjoyed ourselves even though we missed our two children who were 10 and 8 at the time. They did have a lovely holiday with their grandma though and we were so excited when we got back to see them!

The Boston Skyline as seen from a catamaran on the way to Salen.
The Boston Skyline as seen from a catamaran on the way to Salen.
This was our view from our hotel bedroom. Completely out of sync, we went to sleep at 8pm straignt after dinner, woke at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep again. So we watched the sunrise!

As Nigella says in her recipe introduction Boston Cream Pie was invented at the Parker House Hotel in Boston by the pastry chef there at the time in about 1850.  He had had the idea of adding a chocolate glaze to the top of what was originally a Boston Pie which was a custard layer cake. Why it is referred to as a pie and where the cream comes from in the title, I don’t know. The custard and the chocolate icing contains cream though. We did not get to try the famous Boston Cream Pie although the hotel was pointed out to us as we went on a special tour in converted streetcars around the city, I think from what I remember was that we had had lunch in the Cheers Bar and I was full up of burgers and ice cream already! So, remembering I had the recipe somewhere back at home I promised my hubby I would make it for him.

This is the Parker House Hotel in Boston where the Boston Cream Pie was invented.
This is the Parker House Hotel in Boston where the Boston Cream Pie was invented.

Believe it or not this will be the third time I have made this cake and both previous times I wasn’t impressed by my efforts.  However, I was hoping third time lucky. I decided to make the cake and take it into work to share with my work colleagues.  It went down well but it wasn’t very professional looking!

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My two 9″ sandwich tins were greased and lined.
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The sponge mixture (like a Victoria Sponge) was spooned into the two tins equally.

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