Chargrilled red pepper oven risotto

pepper risotto

The fact that I seriously considered writing a list of rules for myself to follow on the blackboard next to the kitchen table tells you everything you need to know about how dinner times are going at the moment.

Here he is happily eating cheese before it ALL KICKED OFF.

Serves 2

1 red pepper

1 teaspoon of butter

1 small onion or shallot, diced

1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed

200g arborio rice

400ml chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika – the smokiness brings out the smokiness of the chargrilled pepper

40g grated pecorino and more to serve

Salt and pepper

First chargrill the pepper. Put it whole, directly onto the lit hob, or hot plate if you’ve got an Aga. When the skin’s black and charred turn it and keep going till it’s all blackened. Put in a plastic freezer bag, seal it and wait for it to cool. When it’s cool, you can just pull the skin off. If you wash it under the tap, the last bits of blackened skin will rinse off and you can get the seeds out at the same time. Chop it into smallish pieces. It sounds fussier than it is. I did it up to the bag stage during yesterday’s nap.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the onion and garlic till soft and translucent. Add the rice and stir through. Then add the chopped red pepper, paprika, salt, cheese, seasoning and stock. Bring to a rapid boil, put a closely fitting lid on and put in the oven at 200 degrees (or on the grid shelf near the bottom of the Aga roasting oven) for about 20-25 minutes. Much as I do like the slow, regular stirring of normal risotto, this is brilliant for life with an evil one year old who keeps very close tabs on your movements.

Bert took a single mouthful, said ‘bleurgh’ (who’s taught him this word?), screamed to watch Peppa Pig on my phone and then threw the bowl of cheese onto the floor, smashing it, followed by the fork, watching me closely for a reaction.

We now have a naughty corner.

Anyway, the risotto was delicious.


Risotto primavera

This is the sum total of my veg patch harvest this year. Maybe my living of the rural idyll is limited a little by my skills. Anyway, both peas were delicious.


Serves 3

Dessert spoon of butter

1 small onion or shallot, finely diced

1 stick celery, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

200g arborio rice

About a litre of fresh chicken stock

Young, baby vegetables – we had the bounty in the photo (baby carrots, 8 peas, 9 broad beans) and some green beans, the carrots and the green beans finely sliced on the slant

A table spoon of double cream

A teaspoon of butter

Fresh mint, leaves from a generous sprig, chopped

Salt and pepper

Grated pecorino cheese

You really need very young, very fresh veg for this. I’m the first to use up manky old veg, as Bert’s dad will testify – I’ll happily bend a carrot double to touch its toes and then chuck it in a stew. But this really relies on tender, fresh veg, as young as possible and as close to being dug up as you can manage. Yes, I only had one carrot that was larger than a field mouse’s femur. But they were fresh out of the ground and delicious. I think you really need home made stock too. Use old veg and a stock cube, and I think you’ll end up with something out of a Birdseye ad. This is all about fresh, delicate flavours.

Saute the celery, onion and garlic till translucent then stir the rice through. Gradually add the stock until the risotto’s thick and creamy. About 5 minutes before it’s done, add the veg. When the rice is plump and starting to fall apart, stir though the cream, the extra butter, the mint and a handful of cheese. Season and have extra cheese at the table.

At 12.30 this morning a delirious-with-teething Bert was sitting cross legged and high fiving me. He ate the veg in this so I high fived him back.



Finger arancini


Finger arancini, because they can be gripped between a tiny, pincer-like finger and thumb.

This made 14 but it depends how much leftover risotto you have, really.

Leftover risotto – we had about 1/3 of last night’s tomato risotto

One egg, beaten

Breadcrumbs – I blitzed a thick slice of stale bread. Or just keep a packet in the freezer and grab handfuls when you need it

Mozzarella, diced. I used about a third of a ball

Form a production line of ingredients while your baby plays a tambourine at your feet like a tiny minstrel. First the bowl of leftover risotto. Then the cubed mozzarella. Beaten egg into one bowl, breadcrumbs in the next. Form small balls with the risotto, a bit smaller than a walnut. Push your finger in to make a hole, pop in a bit of mozarella, then close the hole up. Dip in egg, dip in breadcrumbs and place on a baking sheet. (A Tom Kerridge tip – have a dry hand and a wet hand, so dip in the egg with your left hand, breadcrumbs with your right.)

You could do a few for your baby then season the risotto mixture and breadcrumb dip before doing your own, but I didn’t really notice the lack of salt. Bake at 180 degrees or in the middle of an Aga roasting oven for about 12 minutes. They’ll be golden brown and pleasingly professional looking.

You can also fill these with leftover bolognaise, though who has leftover bolognaise and leftover risotto knocking about at the same time?

Serve with a green salad for adults.

If you have any left, they’re good for taking out and about with a hungry baby.

Tomato risotto


This is a pretty basic risotto, far less rich than I’d normally eat myself, but Bert loves it and I’ll eat it too if it’s just the two of us rather than cook twice. The main point of including it here is that it makes a great basis for Finger Arancini, which I’m planning to make tomorrow.

Serves 1.5 with leftovers for Arancini

Glug olive oil and small knob butter

1 small onion, chopped

Large clove garlic, crushed

About 200g risotto rice (a bit over a third of one of those little bags)

1/2 tin tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano or finely chopped fresh oregano

About 500ml water from a hot kettle – measure the tomatoes into a jug and make it up to 750ml

Low salt stock cube

2 handfuls grated parmesan or pecorino (my mum recently made this with pecorino, and larger handfuls than I’d probably have put in – I’m now realising that a handful is a rather vague term – and it had lovely pockets of mild, soft cheese in it. I’d always do it that way now.)

A little pepper

Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter then stir the rice through to coat it. Add the herbs then the liquid (with the crumbled stock cube stirred in), bit by bit till it’s absorbed. This takes a while – you may have to hold your baby while you do it – but Bert seems to enjoy watching me cook and it’s easy enough to stir with one hand and hold a baby in the other arm. He also loves running his fingers through the raw rice. I’m hoping he’ll have lovely memories of cooking with me, but who knows, he might just have the level of awareness of a high functioning ape at the moment. Anyway, when the liquid’s all absorbed and the rice is soft, season and stir through the cheese. It may take more or less liquid so you’ll need to keep tasting it. I did feel like I needed to add a bit of salt for myself with this one.