As I walked to work this week, I was struck by a young tree, shimmering with frost in the pink light of the morning. One of many, on a nature-filled route that contrasts from my costly, cramped and often crawling tube journeys to work in the past.
A great career opportunity and our expanded family have encouraged us to move to the beautiful city of Cambridge. We are happy, we are finding our feet and we are struck by the warmth and friendliness of people we meet.
And yet. And yet. London holds my heart in a strong and forceful way. I don’t want that work-life shuttle there again. Yet the immensity and complexity of London, yields variety, novelty and choice that you cannot appreciate till it is not on your doorstep.
Yet what good is having 5 top sushi restaurants on speed dial, when the last time you went to most of them was pre children? Here we have shopped, eaten out and socialised more than ever in our recent past. Perhaps with a bit of a Pioneer spirit!
So here is what we have been up to.
Christmas was held amidst boxes.
My girl turned three.
My boy soon turns one.
Work is great. Really enjoyable, and a great challenge.
It is cold and snowy as it is everywhere, so here is a quick supper that is visually attractive yet perfect comfort food for staying in. Risotto with mushrooms, topped with pan fried scallops and presented in a parmesan bowl.
You can scale the proportions down to present it as a starter at a dinner party. These parmesan bowls filled with mushroom risotto are a carbohydrate and cheese filled nirvana, the heaviness of this rather well tempered by the sweet pan fried scallops, to which I added a little chilli and truffle oil.
Ingredients (serves 2):
150g fresh button mushrooms and 30g dried porcini
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
250g (12 oz) risotto rice
1 litres (3 pints) vegetable or chicken stock
30g (2 oz) Parmesan, freshly grated for the risotto and 120g Parmesan for the bowls
8-12 queen scallops
Half a teaspoon Piment d’Esplettes (or crushed chilli)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 220DegC
On a sheet of greaseproof paper, draw 2 circles around a side plate. In the meantime, spritz 2 bowls with oil on the outside (these will be your moulds).
Turn the sheet over and oil it. Fill each circle with grated cheese.
Bake in the oven for 10 mins or until the cheese has melted.
Remove from oven and using a spatula carefully drape the discs of parmesan over the oiled bowls and allow to cool. Once solid, place the bowls to one side.
Gently heat the garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms have sweated off some of their moisture and reduced. Add the rice and stir until it takes on a transparent colour.
Add stock a ladleful at a time until the rice is al dente.
Stir in the cheese portioned for the risotto.
Spoon the risotto into the parmesan bowls.
Pan fry the scallops with a little salt and pepper. Scatter some piment d’Esplettes chilli (or crushed chilli) and drizzle with truffle oil.
Place on the risotto.