We used to go to nice places…

Ah, Valentine’s Day – the one day a year where you go, “yeah, not important, such a made up holiday,” then have a breakdown when a card/flowers/gigantic diamond necklace isn’t delivered to your home, accompanied by a barber shop quartet singing songs about how awesome you are.

Or is that just me?

This Valentine’s Day, we decided to not do anything – mostly because I’m STILL getting over the lurgy (tedious) and just wanted to sleep on the sofa. And also there’s nothing worse than going out on Valentine’s Day being surrounded by other couples who also don’t want to be out on Valentine’s Day. I gave the wino a zombie themed card because we’re obsessed with The Walking Dead and then we watched a zombie movie (Life After Beth – 5/10) and a vampire movie (Byzantium – 6/10). Who says romance is dead?

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However, obviously, we did find time to eat good food. On Friday night, because my darling husband informed me at about 6pm that he had to work late, I’d already started cooking dinner, so I decided to eat alone and make him eat lukewarm leftovers. Again, a sign of true love. Bloody good it was too – a baked asparagus and mushroom risotto with pan-fried rump steak.

And on Sunday, my one true love, reason for being, the person I want to spend the rest of my life, etc etc with treated me to lunch at…. Prezzo. We used to go to nice places, you know. To be fair, we were mostly killing time before seeing The Theory of Everything (incredible – 10/10 and Eddie Redmayne deserves every accolade going ever) and the choice was Prezzo, Pizza Express, Nandos or McDonald’s so I guess I lucked out.

Romance is most definitely dead.
Romance is most definitely dead.

So if you want to treat yourself (and your other half) to a lovely simple but visually impressive supper, here’s my recipe for the baked risotto. I’m sure you all know how to cook steaks and to be honest, it’s a perfect accompaniment to any protein really so you can cook what you want with it. Also, this recipe serves 3-4 people if they eat normal portions and don’t overindulge all the time. Not saying that’s what we do. But we do.

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Baked asparagus and mushroom risotto

  • 4 slices of streaky bacon, chopped into small pieces (I used smoked as it was all we had)
  • 6 asparagus spears, sliced into 1cm pieces
  • 1 x red pepper, sliced
  • 150g mushrooms chopped into quarters (I’m obsessed with mini portabellos but any fresh will do)
  • 200g arborio rice (you can use any rice but arborio really soaks up all the stock so is nicer)
  • 450ml of hot chicken stock
  • 100g goat’s cheese
  • 50g parmesan
  • Salt, pepper, olive oil
  • Butter if you’re feeling decadent

You can make this vegetarian by leaving out the bacon and using vegetable stock and replacing the cheese with veggie varieties 

  • Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200c)
  • Fry the bacon until it’s golden and crispy and remove from the pan
  • Add the mushrooms, peppers and asparagus and a little bit of olive oil to the pan and lightly fry till the mushrooms are golden
  • Add the arborio rice and the cooked bacon bits and give the whole thing a good stir
  • Transfer the mix to a roasting tin and pour over the hot stock (don’t worry if it’s not boiling hot, just increase the cooking time by about 5-10 mins)
  • Give the whole thing a stir, season, cover with foil and place in the oven for 20 mins
  • After 20 mins, remove the foil and continue cooking for another 5-10 mins (it’s probably worth tasting the rice at this point to see if it’s cooked)
  • If you’re having steak with it, I’d cook it now so there’s time for it to rest before you serve up
  • Once it’s cooked, slice up your goat’s cheese, grate your parmesan and stir all of them into the rice with a knob of butter
  • Check for seasoning, dish up and enjoy

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It’s the perfect dish for a cold winter’s night and really very good if you’re feeling too lazy to make an actual risotto. I mean, who can bear standing and stirring when there’s sofas and blankets and lots of good TV to catch up on?

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