vegetarian/vegan/gluten free/lactose free
We are recovering from a nasty bug here at the moment. My husband has been sick all week and I have felt stranger than a blue hippopotamus with wings.
Despite being nominally hungry the very thought of cooking makes me want to leap out of the kitchen window. It’s hard to know what to do when you’re feeling sick. Should you eat properly to keep your strength up or should you follow your first instinct and hide under a blanket with a bag of crisps until it all goes away?
My go-to choice for times like these is a simple vegetable risotto. This can be made as safe and bland or as exotic and exciting as you need. It doesn’t use too many ingredients and is quick to prepare. This isn’t the proper way to make an authentic Italian risotto, especially since I always insist on ruining the suble flavours by adding large amounts pesto at the end – this recipe is probably more accurately described as “risotto rice with mixed veg” – but it is tasty, nutritious and very easy to make.
- This recipe can be made with whatever vegetables you have lurking in the fridge, which is especially handy if you’ve been feeling too ill to get to the shops. I have used pepper, courgette and kale here because that’s what I had to hand but pretty much anything goes. If you are planning on using root vegetables however they may need to be pre-cooked as they do take longer to cook through.
- I like to add a protein element to my vegetable risottos. Here I’ve used some Quorn chunks, vegetarian hot dogs and mixed seeds but you could try nuts, tofu or any other vegetarian meat substitute. Or, of course, there’s meat if you’re not vegetarian. Chicken is probably best. If you are using meat this will require a longer cooking time so it’s be best to add that before the veg instead of after.
- At the end, I like to add extras for flavour such as pesto and/or cheese but you don’t have to.
(To serve 2 people)
- 200g Arborio risotto rice
- Approx 700ml boiling water
- A vegetable stock cube (gluten free)
- A pinch of mixed Italian herbs
- Salt and pepper
- A splash of white wine – optional – (about half a glass should do it)
- Mixed vegetables. I generally use: a red pepper, half a courgette, a handful or kale or spinach, half a carrot.
- A jar of tomato pesto (gluten/dairy free brand)
- A handful of grated cheese (vegan or Lactofree if necessary)
- Peel and/or chop the vegetables into small cubes.
- Fry the vegetables in a little oil for a couple of minutes until they start to soften.
- Add any protein, if desired, and fry with the vegetables. (If using meat, a longer cooking time may be required – you may need to add it before the veg.
- Meanwhile, make up 700ml of vegetable stock by adding boiling water to a stock cube. Add the herbs and seasoning to the stock.
- Add the uncooked rice to the pan and fry with the vegetables for 1-2 minutes.
- Add a splash of wine if desired and stir until the wine disappears.
- Add a splash of the stock to the pan, stir and reduce the heat. Allow to simmer (you should see gentle little bubbles, not big violent ones).
- When the stock has disappeared, add a little more. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked through – taste it to check – and all the stock has been absorbed. (The amount of time this takes and how much stock you need will vary depending on how absorbent and quick-cooking your ingredients are. As a rough guide this should take around 15 minutes)
- Add the kale or spinach and cook for a few minutes until softened.
- Add any extras such as pesto, cream or grated cheese. Continue to cook until these are melted/absorbed/dissolved.
- Enjoy and feel better.