IN THE MOOD FOR FOOD
Our mood plays a huge part in dictating what we want to eat, so it's vital that we take care of our moods and pamper them with delicious, nutritious and well balanced foods to keep our mind, body and soul happy and content.
One of the times when we really need to listed to ourselves is when we are feeling overworked and hard done to from a stressful day at work or exhausted from too much juggling of the life/work balance. It's likely you've not stopped long enough to fill up on body fuel, so by dinner time, you're exhausted and in total need of some comforting, satisfying and tasty food to lift your mood.
Resist the urge to order a take away and vegging out in front of the tv or device for the duration of the night - this is when you need to be doing some cooking. There is something very relaxing and stress-busting about spending some time in the kitchen. Just the process of cooking can give comfort and calm you down; taking time out from the rest of the world to prepare dinner. It’s a great way to switch off from the day and just concentrate on the job in hand.
There are certain foods that you crave at times of comfort, usually ones that are full of flavour and wonderfully satisfying. They don't have to be the healthiest of foods (after all, you deserve a treat after the day you’ve just had) but you don’t necessarily want to go full on naughty too. It’s about getting the right balance – food to satisfy your body and mind, and soothe your soul.
I find a risotto is the perfect dish when I’m tired and stressed and hungry. Yes, I know they take a while to cook and you have to stand and stir for some time, but it's a relaxing process. I find having a glass of wine on the go and mull over the day, or chat to whoever is in the kitchen with me, a friend on the phone, or even flicking through a magazine makes the time go very pleasantly indeed. Here is one of my favourite risotto recipes that I hope you'll enjoy as much as I do.
ROAST BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SAGE RISOTTO
Butternut squash and sage is a marriage made in heaven as this simple yet flavour-packed risotto shows.
- 450g diced butternut squash
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- olive oil
- about 15 sage leaves, chopped
- flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 25g butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 400g arborio or other Italian risotto rice
- 250ml white wine
- 1.2 litres pint hot chicken or vegetable stock
- good handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese (or alternative vegetarian hard cheese), plus extra to serve
- 50g toasted pine nuts
- Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Put the squash and garlic in a roasting tray and toss in about 3 tbsp of the oil and season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, turning a couple of times, until softened and lightly golden. Once cooked, roughly mash with a potato masher.
- While the squash is roasting, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and a good knob of butter in a large frying pan or saute pan. Gently fry the onion for 7-8 minutes until softened. Add the rice and stir for about a minute until the grains are coated with the oil and butter.
- Pour in the wine and stir continuously until it has cooked into the rice. Add a good ladle of hot stock, chopped sage and season well with salt and pepper.
- Turn the heat down so the stock is simmering gently. Keep adding ladles of stock as it cooks into the rice, stirring and moving the rice around in the pan frequently.
- After about 15-20 minutes the rice should be soft but still have a bit of bite left in it. The texture of the risotto should be thick and creamy, but not too loose. Add extra stock if necessary.
- Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir the roasted butternut squash into the risotto with the parmesan, the remaining butter and seasoning to taste. Add any extra stock if the risotto seems particularly thick. Cover with a lid for a couple of minutes as this will give the risotto an even creamier texture.
- Spoon the risotto into warmed bowls and scatter with the pinenuts, extra parmesan and sage leaves.