A not so frugal dinner on the other side of the world

Take one couple. Who are on the other side of the world. Fast asleep in their friends’ bed, while they’re off jaunting through Turkey.

At 3am when they hear the front door open and the sound of suitcases thudding up the stairs have them realise how badly they miscalculated their return date.

Cue a panicked hello in some sleepwear that’s slightly unsuitable for public consumption. A mad shuffle of exploding suitcases to beneath the sofabed. A restless night of embarrassed sleep.

And an apologetic meal the night to follow.

This is the kind of meal that needs to be rich and comforting, but not overly complicated. It needs to be pulled together in someone else’s kitchen while stirring with one hand and exclaiming with another. It’s the kind of feast that can be eaten in bowls while you’re perched on the the floor of the living room, crowded around a bottle of bubbles and celebrating the good news that came home with their Turkish delight.

Wild mushroom risotto and Plum mess

Run out the door to leave your friends with some peace and quiet in their own house. Head over to Borough markets. Try and restrain yourself at the insane cornucopia spread before you. Try. Fail slightly.

Fall in love with the hoards of wild mushrooms out for display. Try not to think about the price per 100 grams. Instead appreciate that someone else has been hunched over foraging for them, and made the risk calculation on whether these particular varieties will taste great, harm you, or add a little more psychotropic fun to your evening than you’d originally planned.

Pick out 500 grams of the kookiest, coolest looking mushrooms you can find.

Keep winding your way around the markets and source out 400 grams of carnaroli or aborio rice (if it’s been sitting around with some flecks of black truffle for a couple of weeks, then I’m certainly not going to send it away.)

Pick up a large wedge of parmesan regianno. Be sure to taste at least four different sorts to make sure you get the full experience.

Then pick up your other basics; chicken stock, golden shallots and fresh thyme.

Load The Hungry One up with the purchases. Buy him a coffee at Monmouth to placate his role as a packhorse.

Wild mushroom risotto

Put your stock onto warm in a saucepan. If you’re not convinced of its quality, then gussy it up with a smashed garlic clove, some fresh thyme or parsley, a halved onion and any other stock-like vegetables that are dwelling in the bottom of the crisper.

While the stock is coming to the boil chop four golden shallots into an itty bitty dice. You could use brown onion. But if you’ve gone to the trouble of finding truffle infused rice, then you could probably push the boat out a little further for shallots, couldn’t you.

Sauté the shallots with a splash of olive oil and a nugget of butter until they’re the colour of the nightie I got busted wearing. Add a clove of finely diced garlic to soften.

Add 400 grams of rice to the pan and shake it around until it’s had a cuddle with all the onion and the oil. The face of the rice should be slightly shiny- as if it’s just climbed a steep set of stairs with a suitcase.

Then add a glass of white wine. It should make a noise like you’re silencing someone in a cinema. Then shake the pan all around. This was my first time trying the ‘shaken, not stirred’ risotto technique- and you know what? It’s the goods.

When the booze has been absorbed start adding a ladleful of stock, one at a time and gently shake the pan now and again.

When the stock level drops to just above the rice, add another ladlefull. Occasionally taste a piece of rice. You want it to be rounded and soft, but still have some structural integrity.

While the rice is busy absorbing, start multitasking and fry off the diced mushrooms with garlic, picked thyme, butter and olive oil. Don’t be shy about the salt and pepper either.

When your stock stocks get low and the rice’s exterior gives way but the inside still stands relatively firm, take the pot off the heat. Add one more half ladle of stock and a a large handful of parmesan cheese. Stir it very gently around, add a lid and put it aside for a couple of minutes.

Then add the mushrooms to the rice. Add more cheese. More pepper. Maybe a touch more salt.

Have some green leaf on the side to make you feel a little less gluttonous. Until you feel the need to open another bottle of wine- and start throwing together dessert.

Plum mess

A mess is exactly the kind of dessert you want to be able to pull together when you’re feeling festive. Because guess what- it’s SUPPOSED to look like a mess.

Luckily Borough also has some fantastic bake stalls- so instead of fiddling about in a stranger’s oven it’s relatively easy to buy four raspberry meringues the size of baby’s heads. What’s less easy is getting them home in one piece on the Picadilly line.

Once you have, then put the meringues to the side.

Make a quick compote from sweet plums with a slight kick of acidity- plums with spunkiness.

This compote is just about tossing the fruit in a saucepan with a knob of butter, a sprinkle of sugar and a dash of vanilla essence until the purple segments give up their resistance.

Chill the compote.

Instead of whipping cream, we went the creme fraiche route. I think it might just be the novelty factor of having creme fraiche at a sensible price at a supermarket. But then it’s also slightly tart twinge it brings, which helps cut through the silly stickiness of the meringue. Add the zest of half a lemon. If you want to lighten it further fold through a couple of egg whites that have been whipped enough so they can hold themselves up to attention.

Allow everyone to mush together as much puree, mousse and meringue as they feel like.

Let the good times roll.

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