Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Medley of Mushroom risotto

UNADULTERED violence, screaming supporters and not a policeman in sight... something scarey is taking place among the rose gardens, leafy streets and 4 x 4 landcruisers of London's stockbroker belt.
Luckily I survived as a witness to the wonton destruction that went on in front of my eyes on Sunday, though I was left with a sharp knot in my stomach and haven't been able to sleep since "the party".
What party? You may ask. Even though mentioning the words make me, a fearless journalist, decidedly queasy I think the public needs to know... I'm talking about Annabel's party.
Who's Annabel? you may ask. Well she's Wren's four-year-old niece and she was celebrating her birthday at a scout hut in Ewell, a small, picturesque village not far from Epsom and Surbiton.
In a moment of wreckless abandon I had agreed to accompany Wren on the six-hour round trip on Sunday after 17 busy hours and a double-header international weekend on WoS.
We travelled in Millie, Wren's Micra, and were three miles away from our destination when, metaphorically, the wheels came off.
"Where's the e mail with the directions?"
"I haven't seen an e mail."
"Yeh, it's in the map book with your directions."
No it wasn't. Among the hundreds of pages copied off the AA's "find a route" site there was definitely no e mail. Directions to John O'Groats, Land's End, Norwich and Blackpool? Yes. Directions to the Scout Hut in Ewell? No.
Eventually we rang Wren's brother to find out where we should be.
"Look out for balloons," he instructed.
Fine, what kind of balloons? I searched the sky for a goodyear blimp flying over the site with an arrow pointing downwards with the instruction "Annabel's party here"? Umm, no joy.
Actually these balloons were of the common-or-garden variety youcan buy from the local newsagent. I realised that when we finally tracked our destination down about 45 minutes later. I knew they were a last-minute consideration immediately. "50 TODAY" they announced. I had to say Annabel looked very young for her age.
Outside in the field the kids were all dressed in Peter Pan theme clothes, the girls mostly opting for the Tinkerbell option, with the boys choosing to be pirates or crocodiles. The adults were watching the games attentively while sipping on their Pims. What a peaceful sight. Idyllic. Weather wonderful, happy children laughing and playing, adults relaxed and enjoying the scene.

Then came Pinata. Ever heard of Pinata? It's a game I believe was developed in Spain or some other latin country which positively encourages Bullfighting and the like.
After the kids had enjoyed their tea they were invited to gather around as a colourful donkey was attached to the roof by a string. He swung there for a minute as the innocent eyes of the children fell on him and one of them asked: "What's that for?"
"Right," announced one eager mum. "Form a queue if you want to bash the Donkey."
What? Was I hearing right? Did the animal rights people know about this cruel and barbaric sport?
She then retrieved a large stick from behind her back and proceeded to give a "demonstration". Crack! She whipped the little donkey across it's back. "Now who wants a go?" she asked.
Little hands shot up and as I watched in horror one by one these little mites piled into the donkey, their eyes lighting up as they delivered the telling blows.
I tell you, if Frankie Dettori had whipped his Derby winner that hard the previous day down the road at Epsom he would have had the prize taken off him and been suspended for at least a week by the Jockey Club. There would have at least been a steward's inquiry. Outrageous!
Trouble was the little Pinata was strong. However hard they hit it - and bear in mind none of them wore blindfolds, which I thought was a vital component of the game - it wouldn't split and let them at the goodies inside. It ended up in a free-for-all. The adults were all jumping in like some mad "World's strongest parent" competition, bashing the hell out of the little, colourful thing. I could only stand there, cringe and rub my eyes.
Finally one little girl forced it to the floor and they fell on it, ripping it apart until the little curley wurleys and milky ways were pulled from its desicrated body. I was still shaking by the time we got back to Bristol.

Safe at home on Monday night I opted to make a mushroom risotto.
You need:
2 tsp olive oil
2 ozs butter
1 small onion or shallot (I used shallot as I was out of onions)
2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
8 oz rice (you should use risotto but I didn't have any so used basmati)
1 pint chicken stock
mixed fresh mushrooms (you can buy these from Sainsbury's: Oyster, Chestnut, field, etc)
Flat leaf parsley
grated parmesan
salt and pepper

To do:
Make stock and then keep heated on low flame in small saucepan
Heat half the oil in a large saucepan and soften garlic and onion in it.
Add rice and coat in oil, stirring for a minute.
Add a small amount of stock and then mix until it is soaked up, continue adding at intervals for the rice to soak it up.
Meanwhile heat half the butter and remaining oil in a frying pan and fry mushrooms for three to four minutes.
Stir them into the rice, then grate plenty of parmesan over it and add parsley and remaining butter, then season to taste.
I also made some veg to go on top from a Ken Hom recipe...

Reheat the saucepan with olive oil, fry some sliced garlic and add mange tout and sliced water chestnuts out of the tin. Add soy sauce and any remaining stock, together with salt, pepper and sugar. Remove from heat once cooked and mix in some seasame oil.
Heap the risotto out onto a plate and top with the vegetables, then sprinkle with chilli flakes if desired. Yum.

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