Sunday, 20 December 2009

In Which there is Food, and Electricity

Saturday started quietly with a snooze, then I did a little bit of tidying up, with a view to the house looking respectable once my guests arrived, and bed-making, with a view to them having somewhere to sleep.

It was another cold, but sunny day, and when I walked down into town in the afternoon I started to snow - huge, dry flakes, all properly snow-flake shaped, with 6 distinct points! I've rarely seen snowflakes like that, mostly we seem either to have much wetter, sleety snow, of the very fine grainy kind. It didn't settle at all, but we very cold - 20 minutes out doing last minute bits of shopping was more than enough, although the last of the sunlight and the sunset were both beautiful.
Julie & Jason arrived in time for a nice long supper - I had made smoky aubergine dip, so we had hummus, aubergine dip, olives, crudites and warm pita bread, with a rather nice bottle of prosecco which Julies & Jason had brought with them.

We then (despite the very small size of my kitchen) all joined in to cook the main course, which was the Nettle & Chestnut Risotto which I was harvesting and cooking nettles for, earlier in the week.


2 pints nettles (measured when picked), loosely packed
8 tbsp unsalted butter
approx. 1 litre vegetable stock
2 shallots, finely diced
7¼oz arborio rice
8¾fl oz dry cider
8oz peeled chestnuts, chopped in half
lemon juice
2oz fresh parmesan, finely grated, to serve

1. Wash the nettles in a large bowl, allowing any debris to drop to the bottom. Pick out any thick or tough stems. Do not be concerned that the washing water is peaty brown, this is normal.
2. To cook the nettles, heat one tablespoon of butter in a large pan over a high heat and drop in the leaves. Allow them to wilt and cook until they are tender.
3. Strain through a sieve, catching any liquid in a bowl. Squeeze the nettles and remove to a board, chopping them roughly. Set aside in a cool place while you make the risotto.
4. Heat the stock in a pan. Melt half the remaining butter in a large heavy pan, adding the shallots and stirring to soften them. Cook the shallots until they are tender and clear, then add the rice, stirring to allow all of the rice to be coated with some of the fat.
5. Add the cider and stir. While the cider is being absorbed, turn the heat to a medium simmer. Add ladlefuls of stock - two at first, and allow each addition to be absorbed. When two thirds of the stock is absorbed, add the chopped nettles and allow them to continue cooking in the rice. At this stage, add the chestnuts - they will break down slightly in the pan.
6. When most of the stock is absorbed, check the rice - it ought to be just cooked, the sauce still emulsified. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add the remaining butter and the parmesan, and serve with a sprinkle of lemon juice and a little freshly chopped parsley

The stock I made was partly made from soaking some dried mushrooms, so our risotto had a few mushrooms in it, too. The original recipie which (which I found on the BBC Food website) had dry white wine instead of cider, and suggests using chicken stock, which of course wouldn't be any good for vegetarians.

It really was very nice :-) So much so, that we ate all of it before I thought to take a picture of it!
I cheated on desert, and bought some Gu chocolate puddings. Pure decadence.

We had a lovely relaxed evening, talked, listened to music (Including comparing and contrasting the various 'IKEA' songs, by Mitch Benn, Jonathan Coulton and The Lancashire Hotpots )

I hope that they enjoyed the evening, I certainly did!

Sunday involved a leisurely breakfast, then Jason very kindly fixed the light socket in my WC - I had pulled the cord too hard and it broke, but when he took it to pieces, the socket itself was broken, so we had a quick trip to B&Q, and pausing only to google the changing rules about the colours of wires, and for me to borrow an electric test-y thing (multimeter?) from a neighbour, he fitted the the new socket for me, which was much appreciated. I can do some basic home maintenace - I can wire plugs and change fuses, but I am very nervous about anything connected to the mains, and because of my dodgy shoulder I find anything which involves working with my hands above my head almost impossible, which of course makes wiring in a new lighting socket to the ceiling quite tricky!

Sadly J&J couldn't stay later as they had lots of family to visit, so I wasn't able to give them lunch.

After they had gone, I spent the afternoon wrapping Christmas gifts and then ventured up into the loft to retrieve the christmas decorations, into the cupboard under the stairs for the Christmas tree, and put the two together.

I'm starting to feel a little festive!
I'd originally planned to go out this evening to a Carol Service (I'm not religious, but a carol service is a lovely part of Christmas) but it was so cold, and the road icy, and in the end I decided to stay inside in the wall, and watch a BBC4 documentary about Christmas Carols, instead.
(I also enjoyed a supper of Nathalie's Pumpkin & Almond Lasagna, which turned out beautifully. (I made mine with Butternut Squash, instead of pumpkin, and I have the other half of the Squash sauce in the freezer, so I shall be able to have it all over again, soon)
All in all, a most satisfactory weekend!


Phiala said...

Sounds like fun! I'm glad the nettles turned out well. And your tree looks quite nice.

I have my very own multimeter, because I'm like that. :) Among other things, they're good for checking batteries.

quasigeostrophy said...

Wow. Dendrite snowflakes like that aren't that common, because they form when it's relatively warmer and they do tend to stick together easily. We were getting some of the nice 6-pointed ones here yesterday, too.

Marjorie said...

Dan, nice to see you here:-) And teaching me a new word.