Monday, May 30, 2011

Greek Salad

Greek Salad 1

After four wonderful days in Athens, I have now arrived on the beautiful island of Paros, where I will spend the next five weeks on a yoga retreat with Graeme & Leonie Northfield.  Though it would be fair to say, that even though this trip is really all about the yoga, to a large extent it is also all about the food.

Monastiraki, Athens

As I was saying, I had four wonderful days in Athens, and relished the opportunity to get to know this city a little better.  I visited the Acropolis when I stopped in Athens briefly last year and, although there are many more fascinating ruins and such like to be seen here, I will freely admit to being a “seen-one-ruin-seen-em-all” kind of girl - of course, I know some of you are going to be absolutely horrified to hear me say that, and if history is your thing then this is without a doubt the city for you.  However, I am just not good at being a tourist, and visiting all the usual tourist attractions (fascinating though they may be) holds no interest for me whatsoever.  I’m sorry, but I would rather gnaw off my right arm than stand in a queue a mile long of other tourists all waiting to see some old relic.

I am more of a chameleon by nature - I like to blend in with my surroundings, sit back almost unseen, and just observe.  Take me to a city like this and I like to try and imagine that I live here - I want to slot right in with the natives, shop in the places the locals shop, eat where the locals eat, and do the things the locals do, and let’s face it you don’t see too many of them queueing up to take snapshots at the Roman Agora.

I like to get off the main street, away from all the brightly lit stores and glamorous “shop-girls”, and find the places where the locals shop.  Not for me the Bennetton, Toi & Moi, Gap, Zara and Sephora stores of Ermou Street!!  Within metres of my hotel I found a fascinating mix of specialty stores - I saw a shop selling only walking sticks;  another selling only string, twine and rope in all manner of thicknesses and colours;  a store selling only light bulbs, another only candles;  and a store which sold only bottles (in every imaginable size, shape and colour) along with large metal vessels all of which I imagine are intended for storing your precious olive oil or perhaps wine.  Now admittedly, these are not the things I am going to fill my suitcase with to take home, but it is nevertheless fascinating to me that these places exist and I love to peer through the windows and watch the local people shopping here.  And then there were the places that had diversified a little with a rather mysterious, and seemingly incongruous mixture of products - a store which sold door handles and toilet brushes, and another offering dried fruit and nuts alongside wedding veils and bridal fabrics.  How did these products come to be married together I wonder - I imagine the conversation going something like this:

Over dinner one night, Christiana pushes a sardine to one side of her plate and says to Dimitri, who has been selling dried fruit and nuts in his little store on Atthinas Street for 40 years:  “Glykia mou, I think we should diversify.”

Dimitri stabs his fork into a fat, black olive, then pauses and looks up:  “Hriso mou, that’s a great idea.  What else should be sell?”

Christiana takes a bite of her sardine, and thinks for a moment:  “Mmmm, let me see now.  I know - what about bridal fabrics?”

Dimitri, drops his fork in wonder:  “Of course - why did I not think of that?  That seems so obvious now.  You are so clever,  my little baklava - no wonder I love you so much!” 

Equally mysterious is why, in the central market, the lambs feet are sold in the fish section.  Why?

Speaking of the central market, it goes without saying that this place would be heaven to me.  I would show you pictures, but this is not the kind of place where you pull out your camera.  I have been to La Boqueria in Barcelona where the shoppers can hardly move for the tourists taking photos of the fascinating array of products on offer (I have done this myself).  But this is not the case at the Athens market - this is a busy and bustling place, and this is all business.  The meat section of the market is huge - bigger I think than any I have ever seen, and even here they seem to specialise.  Unlike our butcheries at home which seem to sell meat of every description, here you will find one butcher selling only lamb, another only pork, one selling only whole chickens, another selling only chicken portions, and others selling only offal (and I imagine, although I didn’t take too much notice, that even that is specialised by beast).

And it was here in the market that I had the best meal of my stay in Athens - in fact I would rate it as one of my best meals ever.  This was one of those tiny places, with only a few tables and no menu.  The chef came to my table and said:  “I have meat or I have fish”.  I asked what was the fish, and was told that there was sardines, calamari, octopus or whole fish available.  I said that I would have the calamari, to which he asked:  “Do you want grilled or fried - grilled is best?”  I told him that I would have “the best”.  He then offered me a choice of different salads, from which I decided to have the ubiquitous Greek salad.  When it arrived the calamari had been very simply flavoured with paprika, oregano, olive oil and salt, and had been grilled to absolute perfection.  The tentacles and edges of the wings were just charred and crispy, and the body of the squid was so achingly tender that it almost brought tears to my eyes.  The other delightful touch, and you find this in all Greek restaurants, is that they always finish off the meal by bringing you something complimentary as a “gift”.  Sometimes this might be a bowl of fresh, seasonal fruit, maybe a plate of yoghurt and nuts, or possibly a special liqueur or wine - on this occasion I was served a lovely block of halva, studded with almonds and sprinkled with cinnamon, served with a glass of white wine.  My meal ended perfectly with a leisurely stroll back to my hotel, followed by a two hour sleep!!

Of course, after several days of eating out, it is wonderful to be now on Paros and able to return to the kitchen - and of course the first meal I prepared was a Greek salad.  You know that I participate in the I Heart Cooking Clubs group, and that right now we are cooking with Jamie Oliver.  Our theme this week is “Mad about Herbs”, and on researching Jamie’s recipe for Greek salad, I discovered that it was well-flavoured with dill, mint and oregano, so this seems like the perfect contribution this week.  I added some freshly grated lemon zest and used lemon juice instead of vinegar, as I personally think that lemon juice is a less “aggressive” partner with tomatoes than vinegar, and I left out onion as I am not hugely fussed on raw onion.  I had a wonderful selection of olives which I had picked up from the market in Athens, and used some of the big fat Kalamatas and some of the tiny dry-cured ones.

Olives 1

I also used some of the local mizithra cheese instead of feta - just for a change.  A variety of different tomatoes, if you can get them, adds interest to the salad, but most important is that they be perfectly ripe - the very best tomatoes you can get your hand on them - and don’t fuss about trying to dice or slice them perfectly.  Keep the chopping irregular - cut some into irregular chunks, others into wedges or dice, others into slices, and maybe cut smaller ones just in half.

Greek Salad Recipe
(Made 3 generous servings)
Click here for printable copy of this recipe

an assortment of tomatoes
(I used two large ones of differing varieties, and 3 smaller ones)
(include cherry tomatoes if you have them)
3/4 of a telegraph cucumber, cut into thickish circles
1 red or green pepper, deseeded and sliced
handful of fresh dill, roughly chopped
handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped
generous handful of black olives, assorted
1 lemon, grated zest & juice
flaky sea salt
extra virgin olive oil (Greek if you can get it)
mizithra or feta cheese
dried oregano

Chop your tomatoes into a large bowl, cutting them into a variety of sizes and shapes.  Add the cucumber slices and slices of pepper to the tomatoes in the bowl.

Scatter the chopped, fresh herbs over the ingredients in the bowl.  De-stone half of the olives, by pinching them between your fingers and breaking them open to pull the stone out - not a difficult process.  Do this over the bowl, so that as you do so the juice comes out of the olives and begins to season the salad.  Add the remaining olives whole.

Add the grated lemon zest, pinch of flaky sea salt, and lemon juice to the bowl.  Add a generous “slosh” of extra virgin olive oil (most likely around 2 tablespoons).  Toss everything together well, taste and then adjust any of the flavours to suit your palate.

Empty the bowl onto a large serving platter.  Drop large spoonfuls of the mizithra over the top, or if you are using feta place it in one large block on top.  Drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil over the top (particularly over the cheese), and lastly sprinkle the dried oregano over the top.

This quantity made three generous servings as a light meal, but would easily serve six people as an accompaniment to other dishes.

Greek Salad 2

I hope you enjoy this delicious salad for a real taste of summer, and if by any chance you happen to have any leftovers, try Jamie’s suggestion .... put everything into the blender, add a few ice cubes and an extra “glug” of olive oil, and then blitz until smooth for a Greek take on gazpacho.  Haven’t tried this, but sounds perfect to me.

Interested in getting to know Jamie a bit better?  Then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all been cooking up ....


.... or check out Jamie's Italy and many of his other great titles, available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.

Jamie's Italy     Jamie's Kitchen     The Naked Chef

Monday, May 23, 2011

Salad of Cannellini Beans, Chorizo & Tomatoes

Salad of Cannellini Beans, Chorizo & Tomatoes 1

Another week has gone past in a flash, as I have been busy preparing to leave for six glorious weeks on a yoga retreat in the Greek Islands - it’s a filthy job I know, but someone has to do it, and really who better than me.  If it’s any consolation, I am drafting this somewhere over the Pacific on the 10-1/2 hour flight to Singapore, where I hope to actually get it posted during the 5 hour wait for my 12 hour flight to Munich - by the time I finally get to Athens, I will have had about 37 hours of travelling, which is the downside of living at the bottom of the world.

After the last few months of stress, and more than a little heartache, following the Christchurch earthquake back in February, this trip offers plenty of reprieve - an opportunity to recharge both my yoga and emotional batteries;  a time for reflection and renewal;  a time to reconnect with my wonderful yoga teachers, Graeme & Leonie Northfield, as well as with special friends;  a time, no doubt, to make some new friends;  and almost certainly an opportunity for fabulous food, which you will no doubt hear more about over the next few weeks.  Oh, and did I mention swimming and the suntan?!

Speaking of fabulous food, it’s time for me to share my weekly contribution with the I Heart Cooking Clubs group.  You know that we are cooking with Jamie Oliver, who has an absolute abundance of fabulous recipes to choose from, and our theme this week is Pot Luck.  Everyone in the group loves it when we have our monthly Pot Luck, as that is the time they turn to that special recipe that they’ve had bookmarked for ages just waiting for the right occasion to share it.  There are some wonderful bloggers in this group and I know that everyone will  be pulling out all the stops this week, so for plenty of fabulous food and inspiration go and visit my friends at IHCC.

As for me, it was not so much a case of pulling out all the stops, as it was of pulling out a few remnants from the back of the fridge and pantry that needed to be used up before going away.  I discovered a chorizo sausage, some cherry tomatoes, and a bag of rocket, all needing to be turned into something edible.  Adding a can of cannellini beans to the mix, I made this salad which I had seen Jamie Oliver make on TV once - I think it was an episode of Jamie Does Spain, but I can’t be certain as I can’t find the original recipe anywhere.  So you are just going to have to take it on faith that I saw him make something like this, and this is my interpretation of it.

This makes a great light meal for two, served with some good, crusty, bread, or would also make a great accompanying side dish to some lamb chops or fish.

Salad of Cannellini Beans, Chorizo & Tomatoes Recipe
Inspired by a recipe by Jamie Oliver
(Serves 2 as a light meal)
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1 tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large chorizo sausage, sliced about 3mm (1/8”) thick
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled - leave cloves whole, but smash slightly
20 cherry tomatoes

extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans, put into a medium size bowl, season well with flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper, toss well, and set aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the sliced chorizo sausage to the pan, and cook until starting to brown around the edges.  It will render out quite a lot of its own fat.  Remove the sausage from the pan, leaving the fat behind in the pan, and add the sausage to the bowl with the beans.

Return the skillet to the heat, add the shallot and smashed garlic cloves to the pan, along with the cherry tomatoes.  As soon as the garlic starts to turn golden brown and the tomatoes start to pop, remove the pan from the heat.  Discard the garlic cloves, and tip the entire contents of the pan (including all of the oil) into the bowl with the beans and sausage.

Add a good slosh of the red wine vinegar (about a tablespoon) to the bowl, season again with flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, and mix gently but thoroughly to combine.  Taste and adjust with more oil, vinegar or seasoning as necessary.

Lastly add the rocket leaves, give one last gentle toss, and serve.  This is great served immediately while the sausage and tomatoes are still warm, but also equally good after it has been sitting for a couple of hours and the flavours have really infused.  Either way, this should at least be served at room temperature - do not refrigerate.

I hope you enjoy it.

Salad of Cannellini Beans, Chorizo & Tomatoes 2

Interested in getting to know Jamie a bit better?  Then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all been cooking up ....


.... or check out Jamies Italy and many of his other great titles, available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.

Jamie's Italy     Jamie's Kitchen     The Naked Chef

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fettucine with Spinach, Crab & Lemon

Fettucine with Spinach, Crab & Lemon 1

Thank you to so many of you, who stopped by my blog over the last week and left your lovely messages of support.  I had certainly missed you all and it has been wonderful to reconnect with so many of you again.

As I am now slowly starting to get back on my feet, I was eager to join back in with the I Heart Cooking Clubs group - I have always enjoyed cooking along with a fantastic group of people here, and in the short time that I have been gone they have taken up with a new chef (as they do every six months).  So now they are cooking with Jamie Oliver, and the theme this week is "Plenty-o-Pasta".  Well you all know how much I like a good pasta dish, so I didn't need any extra encouragement to take this opportunity to join back in with the group, and push along a little further in getting back into my "blogging-stride".

So I decided to seek inspiration in a copy of the Jamie Magazine Recipe Yearbook 2009/10 that Alli (Pease Pudding) had very kindly left me as bedside reading - I felt sure there would be a pasta dish there which would tempt my taste buds, and I was not disappointed.  In fact, not surprisingly, there were several recipes for some great looking pasta dishes - but it was a recipe for Spinach & Lemon Linguine that really captivated my interest, and I decided that just such a dish would be the perfect home for a beautiful big bunch of fresh spinach I had picked up last weekend at the Hobsonville Point Farmers Market.  (This is a relatively small local market, but there are a number of excellent and innovative suppliers, and the quality of all the produce was absolutely outstanding.)

Now, I did tweak the recipe a little.  Firstly, I didn't have any linguine on hand, but I did happen to have a box of fettucine in the cupboard which I felt would make a perfectly acceptable substitute.  While I was there, I also discovered a tin of crab meat in the cupboard and thought that would make a great addition - and it did.  The original recipe calls for a large red chilli, but I had some of those teeny, tiny, but very hot birds eye chillies which I had also bought at the market and used one of those instead.  It may have been tiny but it still delivered a bit of heat and made my lips tingle.  I also cut back on the garlic a bit, using only one clove instead of the three in the original recipe, simply because too much garlic when you're getting up-close and personal with your yoga students can be a little unpleasant - so if you like garlicky feel free to add more.  Lastly, Jamie suggests serving with a grating of fresh parmesan (optionally);  however, because I had added the crab meat I decided to leave out the parmesan.  Instead I tried a couple of different serving alternatives, which you can read about in the recipe notes.

This was a great pasta dish - fresh and flavourful, plenty of great texture, and very quick to prepare - another one of those dishes that comes together literally in just the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta.  It's absolutely my kind of pasta dish, and I will definitely make it again - I hope you'll try it.

Fettucine with Spinach, Crab & Lemon 3

Fettucine with Spinach Crab & Lemon Recipe
Adapted from recipe for Spinach & Lemon Linguine in
Makes 2 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

250g fettucine

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 small, hot, birds-eye chilli, finely chopped
170g crab meat
200g spinach
juice of 1 lemon
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

ricotta cheese/poached egg to serve 
(optional additions - see note at end of recipe)

Bring a large pan of water to the boil over high heat.  Once it is boiling, salt the water liberally, then add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the directions on the packet.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the first quantity of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the breadcrumbs, and fry until crispy and golden.  Remove breadcrumbs to a paper towel to drain, then mix through the grated lemon zest, and set aside.

Return the pan to the heat, and add the second quantity of olive oil.  Add the chilli and garlic, and cook for a moment or two, just until the garlic begins to turn golden.  Add the crab meat, and continue stirring for a couple of minutes, then add the spinach and continue cooking until the spinach has wilted.  Season to taste with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Reserve a cup of the pasta water and set aside.  Drain the pasta, and then add it to the pan with the spinach and crab.  Add the lemon juice, and also stir through a little of the reserved pasta water if it seems necessary.

Sprinkle the mixture of lemon zest and breadcrumbs over the top and serve immediately.

Note: Although this quantity made two large helpings, as mentioned, I was actually eating alone so I ate it over two nights.  On the first night, I added a couple of generous spoonfuls of soft ricotta cheese and stirred it through before adding the breadcrumb topping.  This added a nice creaminess and reinforced the lemoniness of the dish - definitely a good addition.  On the second night, I reheated the leftovers and served a poached egg on top - a runny yolk to fork through the pasta being of paramount importance here.  Personally, this was my favourite way of serving it and I only wished that I had done this on the first night, when of course the pasta was at its best rather than the reheated version.  Please note, if you don’t like eggs with runny yolks, don’t bother with this variation as a poached egg on top with a hard yolk will do absolutely nothing for this dish whatsoever.  Either of these additions is entirely optional and the dish will not suffer in anyway if you leave them out entirely - it has more than enough going on to stand on its own without any added extras.

Fettucine with Spinach, Crab & Lemon 4

Interested in getting to know Jamie a bit better?  Then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all been cooking up ....


.... or check out Jamies Italy and many of his other great titles, available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.

Jamie's Italy     Jamie's Kitchen     The Naked Chef

Monday, May 9, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin, Pancetta & Pistachio Risotto

Roasted Pumpkin, Pancetta & Pistachio Risotto 3

I need to begin this post by sending out a huge thank you to so many of you, from all around the world, for the wonderful thoughtfulness and kind wishes that you have kept coming my way since the Christchurch earthquake back in February.

It has been an extremely traumatic and disturbing time, and your constant messages have truly kept me going.  We lost our home and our beautiful yoga school as a result of the earthquake, and have literally had to start building a completely new life for ourselves.  I can tell you that when you are in your mid-50s;  when the youthful part of you, who would once have thought this was an exciting new challenge, has been replaced by the wiser and more sensible one who knows it is just going to be damned hard work;  when your nerves are so shot to pieces that you think just the rumble of a truck going past is the beginning of another earthquake - the world begins to feel like a very scarey place.

And then, just when you are wondering what the hell is going to become of your life, the blogging world opens its arms, and a complete stranger out there in the blogosphere does something wonderful and heart-warming and remarkable.  Right when I was at a pretty low ebb, the lovely Alli of Pease Pudding (who I'd never met, but we'd connected a few times by visiting and commenting on each others blogs - as you do) emailed me and said that she had a flat attached to her cooking school (The Gourmet Gannet at Muriwai Beach) if I would like to come up and have a break away from Christchurch.  Well, by this stage we were already thinking that a move to Auckland (my old home-town) was the only option for us, so I emailed Alli back and, long-story-cut-short, she and Phelan have truly opened their hearts and home to us and enabled us to stay in their flat until we find a permanent home in Auckland.  To say that we are enormously grateful, is a gross understatement - we will forever be indebted for their kindness, and I hope that at some time in the future the opportunity will arise to repay some of that kindness in some way, by being as open-hearted and generous as they have been, to someone in need.

Oh, and did I mention the kitchen?  Let me repeat - this flat is Alli's cooking school = chef's kitchen!!  In my last kitchen - the one decimated by the earthquake (perhaps not so sadly, on reflection) - the sum total of my cooking equipment was:  one solid hot-plate element, slightly rusty (repeat one!);  a tiny "toastie" oven;  a microwave;  a Breville electric grill;  and a crock-pot.  Seriously - that was it - no surprise, now that you know, that I considered myself the queen of the one-pot-wonder!!  Consequently, I now think that I have died and gone to kitchen-heaven - now that I'm here, Alli may not be able to move me on so quickly!!  (It's ok, Alli, just joking)

And, thanks to having the opportunity to cook in this wonderful kitchen, and to relax and unwind in this beautiful part of the world, my "cooking mojo" which had seriously deserted me is slowly returning.  Probably not at all surprisingly, I have done a lot of "comfort eating" since the earthquake;  there have been occasions when I couldn't be bothered to cook, so have had toast instead, or crisps, or something else really crappy;  and there have been innumerable "fails".  But each day a little enthusiasm and confidence returns, and the other night I turned to this risotto which is one of my all-time favourites, and is especially good on a cool autumn evening.  Yes this is definitely comfort food, and this variation is probably my go-to risotto - the one that I make over and over again;  the one that never fails to warm my heart;  the one that I can make with my eyes closed;  the one that I make by instinct;  the one that I want to share with you, if I can just put that into a recipe ....

Roasted Pumpkin, Pancetta & Pistachio Risotto 1

Roasted Pumpkin, Pancetta & Pistachio Risotto Recipe
Makes 2 generous servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

olive oil
2 to 3 cups diced pumpkin (about 2.5cm/1" dice)
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper

olive oil
6 slices pancetta, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 generous handfuls of arborio rice (see note * below)
1/2 glass of white wine (see note ** below)
3 to 4 cups of chicken stock, hot
bunch fresh thyme leaves (about 2 tablespoons of leaves)
butter - a generous "glob"
freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
generous handful pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped

extra parmesan and thyme sprigs to finish

Note *:  If you plan on increasing this recipe to feed more people, I use the Gordon Ramsay method for measuring arborio rice, which is one large handful for each person plus one for the pot - hence 3 handfuls for two people

Note **:  If I don't want to open a bottle of wine for this, I often substitute 1/2 glass of vermouth mixed with the juice of 1/2 a lemon

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (425 F).  Meanwhile line a baking tray with parchment paper and dice the pumpkin.  Toss the diced pumpkin with a little olive oil, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and spread out in a single layer on the lined baking tray.  Place in the preheated oven and cook until the pumpkin is golden brown and starting to soften (probably around 20-30 minutes, depending on the pumpkin).  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a little olive oil (about a tablespoon) in a heavy based pan over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown and crispy.  Remove from the pan (leaving as much of the fat behind as possible), and place on a paper towel to drain.

Return the pan to the heat - you will want about two tablespoons of fat in the pan so, depending on how much fat was rendered from the pancetta, you may or may not need to add more olive oil to the pan.  Add the shallot and garlic to the pan - cooking until the shallot and garlic just begin to soften - take care not to burn the garlic - almost as soon as you can smell the garlic it is time to add the rice to the pan.  Also add in one-third of the thyme leaves.  Continue cooking the rice with the shallot and garlic, stirring constantly, until every single grain of rice is coated with the oil - it will take on a kind of translucent look around the edges and will start to "squeak".

Now is the time to add the wine, and continue stirring until virtually all the wine has been absorbed by the rice.  Then begin to add the chicken stock, one ladleful at a time - stirring constantly until each ladleful has been absorbed before adding the next.  (Note:  You may want to turn your heat down during this process - sorry but you really have to feel and guage this for yourself, and a lot will depend on your pan, type of element/heat, etc - again, I apologise that I can't be more precise, but risotto-making is not an exact science - you really have to "feel" it.)

All of this stirring and adding of stock is going to take around 20 minutes, and in that time the grains of rice will swell up dramatically.  Round about the 15 minute mark, have a taste test - once the grains are still a bit chalky, but taste as if they might not have too much longer to go, add in the pumpkin.  You don't want to put the pumpkin in too early, otherwise it just turns to mush.  On the other hand, I like to incorporate it before the risotto is finished cooking, so it amalgamates with the rice more than if it was just stirred through at the end.

Once the rice is cooked add another half ladle of stock, stir it through, and turn off the heat (don't worry if it seems a bit "soupy" - this extra stock will be absorbed during the resting time and the finished risotto should definitely not be "dry").  Add the pancetta, balance of thyme leaves, butter and parmesan cheese.  Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir to combine, then cover and leave to rest for 5 minutes to enable all the flavours to infuse.

Lastly, stir in the chopped pistachios and serve immediately, with a grating of parmesan over the top and some extra sprigs of thyme.

Roasted Pumpkin, Pancetta & Pistachio Risotto 2

I hope you give this comforting and heart-warming dish a try, and enjoy it as much as I frequently do.

Thank you again to all of you for your kind thoughts and messages and for having the patience to keep visiting my blog while I've been trying to get my life back together again.  Your love and support has reinforced for me the knowledge that this blog is not so much about trying to churn out great food and photos as it is about making those connections with each and everyone of you.  A true reminder that our humanity grows when we understand and embrace the fact that we are all connected.