Sweet roasted garlic and spinach risotto with pancetta curls

Sweet roasted garlic and spinach risotto was born after being given a huge bag full of homegrown spinach which would be sacrilegious to waste! Don’t think that if you make this you’ll be walking around the next day sending people running and fending off vampires as roasting the garlic makes for a sweet finish. Use the freshest garlic you can for the best flavour.

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Ingredients- serves 2
Bulb of garlic- cut in half
Olive oil
1 small white onion- finely chopped
50g pancetta- cubed
200g arborio rice
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
100g spinach- washed, patted dry and shredded
2 tbsp creme fraiche or ricotta
Lemon juice
Pancetta slices
Salt and pepper
Fresh grated parmesan to serve

1. First thing’s first! Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180fan and place the halved garlic bulb cut side up on a baking try. Drizzle over some olive oil and roast for around 25-30 minutes until the garlic is sweet and tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. When you’re ready to cook the risotto, take a large pan and add a knob of butter over a medium heat. Cook the chopped onion and pancetta cubes for a few minutes until softening and the pancetta is turning golden. Add in the arborio rice and make sure that the buter coats each grain. Take a ladle and add in the first lot of stock and lower the heat to a simmer. Squeeze out the garlic cloves, mash down lightly with the back of a fork and add to the rice.

3. As each ladle of stock is absorbed you need to add in another until all the stock has been used. When the last ladle has been added pop in in the shredded spinach and stir well to combine. Take the pan off the heat and add in the creme fraiche, a squeeze of lemon to taste and some parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required.

Serve the risotto is warmed bowls with a final grate of parmesan and a pancetta curl or two (make more than you need in case one jumps into your mouth whilst cooking!). To make the curls take thin slices of pancetta and cut a slice into thirds. Wrap them loosely around a skewer, remove gently and place on a baking tray. Cook for a couple of minutes at 180c/ 160fan. Simple!

Sweet roasted garlic and spinach risotto with pancetta curls- treat yourself to a little luxury!

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Ultimate slow cooked bolognese

A great bolognese should be in everyone’s culinary repertoire so let me share mine with you. The key to a beautiful bolognese sauce, or ragu, is slow cooking so be patient! Also remember that Italians traditionally serve this with tagliatelle so use a good quality pasta so the sauce clings to every strand. If you’re not a huge fan of mince then substitute it with diced beef but remember that this would cook better in the oven on a low heat to ensure the meat falls apart.

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Ingredients-serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
400g beef or veal mince or half and half
1 onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
200g chestnut mushrooms- sliced
Handful of rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 celery sticks- finely sliced
1 carrot- finely chopped
Small pack of pancetta cubes
120ml red wine
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
Beef stock cube
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
400g dried spaghetti or tagliatelle

1. To start, take a large pan and heat 1tbsp of the oil over a high heat and brown off the mince which will take a few minutes. I often use veal mince as it has a lower fat content and gives a lighter bolognese.

2. In a frying pan sautee the chestnut and porcini mushrooms until golden. Mushrooms need to be cooked over a high heat to draw out the water

. 3. Take a heavy based pan (time to crack out my Le Creuset again!) and heat the remaining oil over a medium heat.Cook the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta until it all begins to soften and then add the garlic into the pan for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pancetta cubes are easy to find however if you want to ramp up the flavour even more then look for a small block of pancetta which you then cut yourself. This tends to have more flavour and a smokey note which you don’t get with precut cubes so head to the local deli and treat yourself!

4. Next the tomato puree goes in to cook off for another couple of minutes, followed by the red wine and aim to reduce this by half. Pop the bay leaf in and sprinkle the oregano.

5. Stir the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar in and crumble in the stock cube which will add an additional depth of flavour. Season to taste, bring the bolognese up to a simmer, cover and cook on the hob for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. I also keep some of the porcini mushroom liquor back and add a little to give an extra meatiness.

6. When the bolognese is nearly ready cook the pasta and drain well. I add the pasta into the sauce to ensure each stand if pasta is well coated. Divide the bolognese between the bowls and serve with parmesan.

A classic dish to please any family! I mean who wouldn’t want this simmering away on their hob?…