Friday, 26 July 2013

Curry for 48? No worries...

Do you like shopping?

You do?

Then I must tell you about the epic shop I went on yesterday. 3 of us - good friends - went.

A much planned trip, in anticipation of one of our annual highlights.

We were gone for 5 hours, while the children languished with various friends, and as the afternoon drifted into evening, with our respective husbands.

We spent over £1,000. I know. £1,000.

It took us 2 cars - well, actually a 7 seater people carrier type car and the camper van to get our spoils home.

Because, yes, this was no girly clothes shop (we wish), and the event is no swanky done up to the nines new outfit occasion. Oh no. This is Scout Camp.

We leave tomorrow. For the Derbyshire Dales. Via Leicester Forest East services (for us) to hand the dog over to my mother).

Shopping for scout camp is one of those things that I don't think I will ever get over. Normally, the thought of food shopping in any kind of supermarket fills me with fear and dread, but there is something so spectacular and so utterly hilarious about shopping on this scale, that somehow, the fear and dread leaves me and I start to enjoy it.

To be fair, I didn't draw up the list. The senior scout wife does that, although I am in charge of catering the curry feast on the last night. Oh yes. My list for that particular meal starts off with 16 onions, 16 cloves of garlic and 2 jars of lazy ginger...

While our menfolk, all Scout leaders, prepare climbing and abseiling expeditions, worry about how many minibus places there need to be, whether we need one or 2 trailers or whether a horsebox will do instead, and organise surprise drop hikes for our charges, we scout wives squirrel ourselves away with a bottle of gin and come up with the food and the craft. Every now and again, the men drop  in helpful comments like  - "Oh yes, so and so doesn't eat pork" or "Don't forget there are 2 scouts with nut allergies". Fortunately, on this occasion, we had at least 12 hrs notice before the shop. 

Yes folks, those 3 trolleys - they are all ours...

In the end, it took 3 cash and carry trolleys, stacked to the gunnels, followed by 2 trolleys in Morrisons for the 'sweep up' (including the all important chocolate custard and Angel Delight). We try and get as far as possible all the non-perishable goods for the week, and fresh to get us through the first couple of days so we can get our breath before playing sat nav roulette to find the nearest peddlar of groceries to where we are camping. This involves things like 325 packets of crisps, ditto cereal bars, 56 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes and 1 catering pack of approx 3 kg. 100 tortillas (for the turkey fajitas we're having on Sunday of course) and 4 kg of turkey, of course. 18 tins of pear halves and 92 pieces of fresh fruit. Your mind would boggle at the amount of cereal we anticipate 48 scouts, leaders and hangers on will eat.

The same applies in the actual cooking. Eggy bread for 48? Nothing to it. But you do need rather a lot of eggs...

So there we have it. For the next week, it's good bye Recipe Junkie and hello Scout Wife. But I'll be back, knackered, covered in mosquito bites, and wearing my mass catering badges on my sleeve (or at least a couple of decent burns). Oh, and if you're that way inclined, please pray that it doesn't rain too much...

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Posh Poached Eggs for the big 3-0

I'm a relative newcomer to the Random Recipes challenge, but it's become bit of a fixture for me. I don't have any sort of pattern or routine to my blogging (you may have noticed), but I find myself looking out for the announcement post every month, and then getting my random recipe selected more or less straightaway in order to have a fighting chance of working it into a meal plan somewhere. You see while I'd love to spend hours in my kitchen designing dishes, tweaking recipes, arranging food beautifully on a plate and taking gorgeous photos, the reality is that the food that goes up here is what I've cooked to feed us, there's no room to re-make and take a better photo (or to take a photo at all if we were all so hungry that it got eaten before I'd got the camera out...).

This month, the 30th month of the challenge, the selection criteria for the recipe was the number '30' (Dom, you're so original!). 30th book on the shelf/ves of cook books, 30th page. 

At the time I made the selection, '30' gave me Posh Poached Eggs in a Cup from Leon - Family & Friends. If I made the choice another time, it would be different because the books don't stay in the same order, or even on the same shelves, depending on what I've been up to in the kitchen.

So, Posh Poached Eggs. "That'll be easy to squeeze in somewhere", I thought.

We ended up having it for lunch yesterday, the kids and I, another sultry day (the rain didn't reach us till late last night) when the last thing I wanted to do, really, was make a cheese sauce - or even poach an egg. The things I do.

So you make a cheese sauce using gram flour and butter, quite a lot of cheese and some truffle oil. I didn't have gruyere or truffle oil in the house, so cheddar and some nice olive oil had to do.

You fry some thin slices of chorizo till they are nice and crispy, and poach some eggs, then layer it all up in a cup.

It's delicious. Even Blue, who, as I have bemoaned before, normally avoids cheese sauce with a barge pole, and isn't massively keen on poached eggs, enjoyed it. Result.

The only thing I'd say is that the recipe in the book makes a huge amount of cheese sauce. More than you could possibly use feeding the 4 specified in the recipe, however hungry. The rest of it is in the fridge covered with greaseproof paper. Pasta bake for dinner tonight, then.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Tarragon chicken and a hankering for France

I may have mentioned before once or twice how much I love France.

Indeed there was a time as a post-grad law student when, unsure of my destiny and only certain that I had failed the land law component of the C.P.E. conversion course that non-law graduates had to sit, the only thing I could think of doing was to decamp to France and see what happened.

Fate intervened, I met the Husband and passed land law by the skin of my teeth (events related only by the fact that the Husband was in the same pub that I was celebrating the end - but not the results - of said exams), so my other life as an English woman in France never happened. May be, Sliding Doors-esque, my other self is currently sitting on the terrasse of a sprawling proprietee somewhere in the Midi, a herd of goats and some chickens milling around, while the Husband, assuming a slightly more unreliable "Kevin-Kline-in-French-Kiss" air about him than he currently sports, grows grapes and olives and the children run about tanned and bilingual...

I still have friends in France and we go back occasionally - we haven't been to my preferred corner of Languedoc for a few years, although we had a great holiday in Normandy last summer. I love French towns and cities as much as the countryside: Paris for sure, but also Lyon, Toulouse, Nantes, Aix en Provence, Carcassonne and my favourite of them all, Perpignan. I would gladly go back at any opportunity. May be next summer.

For now, I am compensating by cooking French. Tarragon is one of those classic tastes of France. My mother and I both have tarragon plants parented by a plant belonging to my French exchange's grandpere . Combine that with chicken and creme fraiche, a splash of white wine and some peas, and I could be sitting in a little bistro somewhere, the best memories I have of eating fabulous meals in France washing over me. The feel of the heat that hits you getting off the plane, the wonderful, clear light you get in the mountains, the sunsets over ancient fishing villages, the markets, the pains au chocolat, le Grand Bleu, Jean Reno, the cafe culture - all of it.


Tarragon Chicken
serves 4

8 chicken thighs (bone removed)
salt & pepper
olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
100ml dry white wine
300ml chicken stock
2 tsp cornflour
fresh peas - a good couple of handfuls
3 tbsp creme fraiche
2 tbsp tarragon leaves, ripped

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large  frying pan and fry the shallots gently until soft - about 5 minutes. Add the garlic at the end of the cooking time for a minute or so.

Add the chicken pieces to the pan and brown for 2-3 minutes, turning once. Increase teh heat, pour in the wine and let it bubble up then add the chicken stock and let everything simmer for 10 minutes.

While the chicken is simmering, mix the cornflour to a paste with 2 tsp water, then stir into the cookking liquid when the 10 minutes is up. Throw in the peas and keep simmering until the sauce thickens at which point stir in the creme fraiche and tarragon and serve with new potatoes.

Best eaten outside as the sun goes down with a glass of crisp white wine...

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Superbreak

Monday, 22 July 2013

Camping Cake

Camping cake comes in many forms. The main thing of course is that there is cake when you are camping and beyond that it's really up to you, but in case you were needing a bit more guidance, here are my thoughts on what constitutes good camping cake.

Let's get one thing straight. Delicate doesn't cut it. If you're going camping, the last thing you need is delicate cake. You need something fairly substantial. 

Anything that includes filling or buttercream is out on grounds of practicality and the fact that in the unlikely event that the weather is good, it's likely to melt.

If it's got oats in it, you're onto a good thing - you use up a lot of energy with all that fresh air and out of doors stuff. 

Ditto fruit/veg because if you can get it in cake form, well that's got to be a bonus.

It must be 'cup of tea' cake. Cake your tea would be too wet without. I'm not suggesting you're going to dunk it or anything, just that if you've got a cake that tastes perfect with a cup of straight up builders tea, you can't go far wrong.

This cake is based on one from the Camper Van Cookbook. I like the Camper Van Cookbook, although the recipes aren't necessarily ones I'd choose to cook while we're camping. Only a very few of the recipes are actually by Martin Dorey, and I'm not sure the author of the bulk of them has done much camping - her recipes are quite ingredient and utensil heavy, and time consuming. That's not to say they aren't good recipes - what I have cooked from the book while camping has always turned out well. Lamb Burgers with spring onions and feta and Lemon Cup Cheesecakes are particular favourites, but I remember the burgers took quite a long time to put together, and with limited utensils, out in the fresh air, I think I'd be just as happy with some good sausages...

There is, however, a section of pre-camp bakes: stuff you'd make to take with you, and I cannot recommend these highly enough. They are great cakes (and biscuits) that absolutely hit the spot in the fresh air. This one is one of Blue's absolute favourite cakes, and went down very well in Suffolk the other weekend .

Sticky Ginger Treacle Cake

200ml milk
3 tbsp treacle
100g butter
75g plain flour
200g soft brown sugar
125g porridge oats
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinammon
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Line a 20 cm square tin with greaseproof paper and pre-heat the oven to 150C/130C fan.

Place the treacle and butter into a small pan with the milk and gently bring to the boil till the butter is melted. Set aside to cool a little.

Seive the flour, ginger, cinammon and bicarb into a large bowl, then stir through the sugar and porridge oats.

Stir the melted ingredients quickly into the dry ingredients, pour into the tin and bake for 45 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into 16 squares and store in an airtight container. This is sticky cake (the name gives it away) so if you need to stack, separate layers with greaseproof paper. 

Of course, you don't have to go camping to make this cake, but I really think you should give it a go

Saturday, 20 July 2013

My Dream Kitchen...

We live in an old cottage. The oldest part of the house dates to the 1750s, there are beams, inconveniently thick (and occasionally damp) walls, not enough insulation, and spiders so big they make a noise when they hit the ground after you've chucked them out of the window. I love it - although the spiders can be quite surprising sometimes...

The kitchen lives in what we think was once a separate outhouse/washhouse/beer cellar. It stretches out of the back of the house on one side, edging a decking area that fills in the square-ish space at the back of the house. The house was once a pub - The Old House at Home. There is now a new 'Old House at Home' over the road which replaced it in the 1920s. We are too close to the river to have a proper cellar - underground, the water table is not too many feet below us - and we understand that this is where the beer was stored at one time. Since then, we know that the room that is now our kitchen has also been the bedroom/music room of a young teenager. We know this because when we had the kitchen done up a few years ago, the same teenager (now in his 40s) did the tiling for us. Village life...

So the kitchen has not been the kitchen of the house for that long, relatively speaking, and certainly before we moved in, the house hadn't had small children living in it for some time. With 2 big dressers at either end, an enormous and impressive French range cooker (can one admit to wanting to buy a house solely for the cooker that is currently in it?) and a big 'breakfast bar' which provided worktop and pan storage down the centre of it, dividing the space between the cooker and the sink, it was not a family friendly kitchen. The room is not all that big, and all this big furniture reduced the space quite dramatically. Chuck in 2 small windows, some dingy yellow paint and navy blue tiling, and you can imagine it was quite dark and dingy. 

We immediately got rid of the breakfast bar (Ebay is a marvellous thing), and installed the 'family' table. The beautiful range cooker eventually had to go too - beautiful and French it may have been but trying to get parts for it as it started to breakdown was a nightmare. We put in a roof light to increase the natural light and a few years ago we put proper units in and moved where the cooker was (installing a newer and less complicated range cooker which I do love for all that it's not French and steel) to give a long run of worktop, perfect for me to make as much mess as I want (when it's not cluttered up with the kids' detritus). 

We kept one of the dressers, painted the walls light blue, and I finally got to install a set of tiles that I was given for my 21st birthday and have been carrying round waiting for the 'forever' house.

I love the kitchen, but at the risk of making the Husband hold his head in his hands with despair, if money had been no object, here's what I would have loved to have done:

I would have extended over where is now the decking, filling in the space at the back of the house. It may not even be architecturally possible, given the pecularities of how the exisiting house is built, but I don't let things like that get in the way of a good kitchen fantasy. There would be sliding glass doors which would open up the entire extended back of the house to the garden in the event of sunshine. The roof might even be insulated glass using something sourced probably from Germany, or even Denmark involving a perilous cross-Europe delivery and much teeth sucking to install (yes, I love Grand Designs...)

I would keep long worktop where it now is, and reinstate an 'island' unit to delineate the end of the 'kitchen' area. There would be loads of storage and more glorious worktop. Beyond the island unit there would be an area for the table. Given the layout of other areas of the back of the house, the table would stretch across the back of the house, an old refectory style, possibly with benches to sit on. There would be a cosy seating area with a wood burner at the end.

Back to the kitchen though. So yes, there's worktop. Acres of it. I love the wooden worktops we have now (the Husband hates them) but some cool granite would be high on my list if we changed things - easy to keep clean and perfect for pastry, although after my River Cottage bread course, I'd need some wood somewhere for bread kneading - it's better on wood, apparently! I'd also make sure I got back the 'triangle' between sink, fridge and cooking area. We have it now, the holy triangle, except the table sits in the middle of it so when the Husband and I are both in there, we end up chasing each other round it trying not to get in each other's way.

Would I swap my range cooker? I still struggle with this. I don't know. We currently have 5 gas rings and 2 electric ovens, and they are great - even if the non-fan oven is now called 'the Christmas oven'. I wonder about induction hobs - I haven't come across them much, but they are very impressive. And what hardship to have to choose a whole new set of pans too? I quite fancy the idea of a hob in the island unit - but induction or not, it would need to have at least 5 rings. One thing we would defintiely include would be a cooker hood. At the moment, in time of toast burning, and over-zealous grilling/griddling, we run around closing the kitchen door to prevent smoke getting to the smoke alarm in the hall, and open the roof light, then sit surrounded by acrid fumes waiting for the breeze to do its job. Given the nature of old houses, when I'm boiling something for a long time in the winter, we get a huge amount of condensation. A cooker hood to extract steam and fumes would be wonderful.

Beyond that, well, I haven't thought much - this is a fantasy you know. I'd keep a 'rustic' look - despite my desire for state of the art glass doors, I couldn't go completely modern with the look of the room, and the dresser would definitely have a home somewhere. It would be cool in the summer, warm and cosy in the winter, and I'd definitely keep my hanging pan rack - although with all the storage around instead of having the pans hanging from it, perhaps it could hang some hops, and some more strings of chillies instead. That and a trophy copper milk pan. Most definitely!!

And you - if money was no object, and wishes came free, what would you have in your dream kitchen?


This is a sponsored post for electrolux

Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Tefal OptiGrill - a review and a perfect steak dinner

In my role as a member of the Tefal Innovation Panel (check out my badge) I have been provided with a Tefal OptiGrill to try out. 

This innovation was introduced to the panel at an event in London in early July. It's new to the market, and has proved very popular. Indeed, on paper and in demo, this is a very impressive product. It's a grill with 6 programmes depending on what you want to cook - meat, fish, chicken, bacon, sausages and a manual option for toasted sandwiches etc. At the demo day, there were some tasty looking vegetable kebabs knocking around. By measuring how thick the meat or fish you are cooking, using 'sensor technology', the OptiGrill can then make sure that your food is cooked for the correct amount of time- including differentiating between rare, medium and well done for your steak. Even more helpfully, the device then communicates this to you using an LED which changes colour, and a beep to tell you as the cooking is entering the next phase, or when it is done.

So there's the blurb. What actually happened when the Tefal Optigrill arrived chez Recipe Junkie?

Well, after unpacking and feeling quite excited, I texted the Husband - "Steak for dinner tonight!" - and hot (very hot, actually) footed it off to the butcher for some of his best ribeye steak. I had a quick debate with him about whether I should actually introduce the kids to the joy that is a beautiful steak, and in the end we compromised. He cut me 2 big juicy steaks for the Husband and I and 2 rather more modest ones for the kids. I came over all faint at the cost (or may be it was just the heat), but I've had his steak before and it is G-O-O-D. And it hadn't escaped my notice that in the literature that accompanies the OptiGrill, it does mention, casually, that "the results will vary depending on the quality, type and cut" when grilling meat. I felt it was only right to give the OptiGrill the best shot by making sure I bought good meat.

There is absolutely no denying that the steak we had was wonderful. I had washed the grill plates before first use, as instructed, and given them an optional wipe over with some olive oil. I fed the kids first as they wanted to go to the pool, and I will say that on the first go, I struggled with the lights and the beeping. I think I also didn't press the correct buttons because the indicator LED didn't do the thing it was supposed to do and by the time I'd worked this out, the kids' steak was definitely well done. Not disastrously so, but enough to make me worry. This may well have been due to the thinness of the steaks, and you'll be pleased to know that despite this, the meat was still tender (despite being cooked more than I had intended) and the kids absolutely loved it.

When the time came for the Husband and I to eat, I was a bit more prepared. I had already podded the peas and broadbeans while sorting out the kids' tea (probably why I got distracted), so I could concentrate on my LED and the beeps. The Husband came in while the OptiGrill was pre-heating

"Good grief! It looks like BattleStar Gallactica"

"That's the LED"

This time, it all worked. Once I put the meat in and lowered the lid, the LED did its thing and started changing colour. Pink tried to have a disco in the kitchen with it, but it was too hot to keep on dancing. She has high hopes for her next birthday party, though...

I got a little confused with the beeping, and had a moment of "When do I take it out again?" angst, but I whipped it out while the LED was on yellow (for rare), and had enough time while the veg finished off for the steak to rest a while.

It was delicious. Melt in the mouth, and as promised by the LED, rare. So a combination of great meat and a good grill. I'll admit to being a little concerned about the prospect of leaving the grill to 'tell' me when the steak would be ready, rather than using my own tried and tested method, but the fear was unfounded.

So, perfect steak dinner for 2 aside, what do I think about the OptiGrill? 

As the Husband pointed out, is it really so much easier than cooking it on the griddle I normally use? Well, no. I'm pretty confident cooking steak, and use the James Martin test (for rare steak, the meat will feel like the ball of your thumb when you hold the tip of your thumb and first finger together, getting progressivley more cooked as you use successive fingers). 

On the other hand, it didn't set off the smoke alarm as I am liable to do using the griddle, which in turn had the added bonus that we didn't have to eat our steak in a kitchen full of smoke. Actually we ate outside last night,  but if we had eaten inside, well, you know what I mean... (I don't burn the steak, you understand, but the griddle pan has been well -used and tends to smoke rather once it gets good and hot)

It's a pretty big bit of kit it has to be said, and I'm not quite sure where I will keep it. On the other hand, it will do toasted sarnies & paninis, coffee-shop style, which I am keen to try out. We don't have a toasted sandwich maker any more. The Husband threw it out because it was "Crap" (he doesn't mince his words). Well, may be it was, but I do like a toasted sandwich, so I'm excited to have the means to make them again.

On the demo day, the nice people from Tefal also showed us how it cooked salmon, and it really was incredibly well cooked, which is another bonus, as I find salmon trickier than steak to get right. The OptiGrill can also tell you when bacon is lightly cooked, well done or crispy - and although I haven't tried it out, I'm pretty keen on giving it a go because our bacon tastes differ across that spectrum and if the OptiGrill can make it easier, well that'll be a bonus.

As I have said, I got confused a bit by all the lights and beeping, but I'd done my usual trick of only reading half the instructions and believing that I had remembered everything from the demo. With a little more practice, I reckon I'll have the measure of it.

The grill plates detach very easily for cleaning, but they are quite hard to get fully dry with a tea towel due to the ridges. The instructions recommend paper towel, but I'm afraid I'm a tea towe girl through and through when it comes to drying up. The plates are supposed to be dishwasher safe,  but I can't quite trust that. I'm sure non-stick technology has advanced significantly, but in my experience, stuff like this just dies if you clean it in a dishwasher. This has nothing to do with the product, just my own outdated prejudices. May be I'll give it a go.

So there you have it - the Tefal OptiGrill. First impressions are that it's a pretty good bit of kit, but it may well be more for someone less confident with grilling/griddling than I like to think I am. It's quite big, and would need to offer pretty good results to warrant a space in most people's kitchens, but I think that if you eat grilled food a lot, the OptiGrill does seem to offer those results.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a TEFAL OptiGrill free of charge for the purposes of writing a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

Pets, Vets & Unexpected cherries

So I know I shouldn't let him, but the dog really loves running through the wheat. And he seems to merely pass through it rather than crashing it all down. The only evidence he is there is a ripple passing over the top as he choffles through at speed, nose down hot on the scent - any scent. The problem with stopping him will be forgoing the look of utter joy that is a springer spaniel 'wheat sharking'. But there we go. I know I shouldn't be letting him do it.

My internal tussle came to a head yesterday after I spent time I didn't have and £50 (ditto) at the vets having a rather viscious spike of grass removed from the dog's ear, so this morning, we avoided the wheat and headed up to a gorgeous little plantation of trees that sits up on the Downs to the north of the village.

Well, it's beautiful up there, shady, cool, green. I go up there in all seasons and it's wonderful at any time, but seemed particularly lush this morning, not least because I stumbled upon cherries. Now, I know that there are cherry trees up there - crab apples too - but usually I see them in the early stages of fruiting, and then they are all gone - the birds have them. I reckon the birds must have sunstroke this year, because there were hundreds - ripe and luscious. Far too good to pass up.

I might not have had a conventional picking receptacle, but being the good, responsible dog owner that I am, I had dog poo bags (unused), and while the dog took advantage of the shade, I picked. I only stopped because I thought I'd better save one bag, you know, just in case...

So 1.5 kilos later, and I am a happy Recipe Junkie. My head is reeling with the thrill of the forage, and the prospect of what I might make with my pickings - and of course, I will need to go back and try and get some more later on.

I'm thinking jam, clafoutis, cherry bakewells, cherry vodka - so much choice...

What should I make?

Monday, 15 July 2013

Is life to short to skin a broad bean?

Is life to short to skin a broad bean?

Not pod them. Of course you have to pod them. But once podded and steamed, do you then pop them out of their skins?

Opinion is divided but the general consensus among the cognoscenti would seem to be that yes you should skin them, and the older the bean, the more pressing the need to skin. Broad bean skins can be tough and bitter tasting, but never one to bow to pressure, I have tended to just steam them and serve them as they are, allowing any dissent from the ranks to roll off my back. I ADORE broad beans, and can be quite intolerant of those (i.e. my children) who dare to express anything other than enjoyment when faced with them on the plate...  

When we were on our camping trip the other weekend, though, my friend brought some of her veg box broads with her, for what was a delicious chorizo & couscous dish, and insisted that the beans were skinned. A revelation, mainly because Pink who has hitherto rejected broad beans pronounced them "Quite good, really". They are much more subtle as a flavour with the skins off, and yes, much less bitter, although any broad beans knocking around at the moment are going to be pretty young, and not really bitter at all.

The garden is full of broad beans, there was fennel from the allotment and we had risotto - broad beans skinned. I think I have been converted.

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how to make a risotto, and this evening's was a pretty unexact science. I should also say that I used fennel fronds from a golden fennel plant that is running rampant in the flower beds, because the Husband had trimmed the frondy bits off the actual fennel bulb before putting it in the fridge. The addition of the parsely and fennel fronds adds an extra flavour to the risotto, but you can leave it out.

Fennel & Broad Bean Risotto

olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
I stick of celery, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed (save the frondy bits for chopping up as garnish) and finely sliced
200g risotto rice
'nearly a litre' (that's what it said on the tub I got out of the freezer) of chicken stock
a good handful of broad bean pods - probably about 20, podded
20g Grana Padano cheese, finely grated plus extra to serve
a good handful of parsley and the fennel fronds, finely chopped
salt & pepper

Heat a good lug of olive oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the onion garlic and celery. 

Fry gently for a few minutes then add the fennel and continue to cook gently till the fennel is softening.

Put the stock in a pan on the stove and warm gently.

Steam the broadbeans for a few minutes till the skins are starting to split, then remove from the heat. While you’re making the risotto, you can stir with one hand and pop the beans out of the skins with the other. Alternatively, if you are more organised than me, do this before you start making the risotto.

Add in the rice and stir for a minute or so to coat with the oil in the pan, then start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring as you go.

When the risotto rice is cooked through to the al dente point, remove from the heat. Taste first for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary, then stir in the skinned broad beans, the cheese and a knob or 2 of butter if you are feeling decadent. Put a lid on the pan and leave for a few minutes for the cheese and butter to melt.

Stir through the chopped herbs, and serve with more grated cheese.

Linking up to Herbs on Saturday/Cooking with Herbs  hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage