Sunday, June 3, 2012

New roots

For the first time since I started this blog, I was actually too busy to post something. Well, I don't know if 'too' busy, but I was actually doing something in the last 5 weeks.

I'm now living in my new flat. The first flat that I actually signed a contract for. And I love it.

I have a job, a proper one along with my independent food rounds, that I still do, and still try to avoid doing every weekend.

I cooked a 6 course meal for 50 people, alone, in about 5 hours, and was pretty pleased with that.

I made a movie (!), which reminded me why I kept claiming I was mostly a filmmaker at heart, even though I did more or less nothing about it. I really do love it. I'm not sure if the film is great, and I did to hastily and took way too many responsibilities (never again directing and shooting) but still there's maybe only one thing I enjoy more than being on a set, let alone my set. (In this case it was also my apartment, and even now 2 weeks later, it's not completely back to normal)

So you could say I'm pretty pleased; I missed sleep deprivation, I remember back in high school I had to stay awake for over 3 days straight while working on films, and I was sure those days are gone and that I'm old and disabled now. But having to wake up at 7am to go to work after shooting the whole day before (finishing at 4am) showed me that I still have it (although I do have a strange tick under my left eye in the past few days... Wonder what that means).

All this brings me to that one thing I like even more than being on a set, well, yup, it's food.
One of those things that kept me busy was Master Chef, both the Israeli and American versions. Now I know what you're thinking, oh, and he said he was too busy, well, I think it was an invaluable experience, and along with studying all the 'How to cook like Heston' episodes, will eventually make me a better cook. It did already inspire me to sign in for the Israeli version and more importantly showed me once again how little I know and how much more there is to be learnt and experienced. And so I started master cheffing myself at home. So I went to the market and came back with a few ingredients I've never used before, and started experimenting. So now I have a new best friend, turnip, which along with sardines and freekeh starred in a few meals I made this week. From which I bring you today's recipe.

Freekeh risotto with fennel and spinach

2 cups freekeh.
2 fennel.
3 garlic cloves.
1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds.
1 dry chili.
300g spinach or Swiss chard.
zest of one lemon.
a pot full of fish stock (I made mine by boiling and straining the carcasses of the sardines I used the day before)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
and more*


Like any risotto you need a large and deep pan, heat the oil,chili and fennel seeds, add fennel and garlic and saute until slightly softening.

Add the freekeh and about half a tbs of salt (you could also use carnaroli or arborio rice of course, but freekeh really does have a very unique taste), and continue stirring, toasting the freekeh for a few minutes. Meantime bring your stock to a boil.

Start adding the stock, at first about 4 ladle fulls, and then just one at a time, constantly stirring and adding more, just before the freekeh drinks all the stock. You should either stir in the same direction or make 8's to ensure a good risotto.

Now this one is not a typical risotto, and will be a little less creamy since the freekeh is less starchy than risotto rice, and I didn't add any butter (I will next time, freekeh goes very well with butter, just wasn't sure about the fish...).

Keep stirring and adding stock, this will probably take around 45 minutes, so you might want to have another person for alternating stirring shifts. You'll have to taste and see when the freekeh is cooked enough for you, just remember that it's a bit crunchier than rice, and I like it this way.

About 30 minutes in, start adding the spinach in small batches. I leave one last batch to add only after removing from the stove, letting the residual heat cook it, and keeping a bright green color. After removing from heat, add the lemon zest, and season to taste.

Serve with lemon to squeeze on top.

*and more means that since I made it only once, I tried a few things that I'm not sure if were very necessary, all I can say is that it tasted pretty amazing. I added 2 sprigs of lavender and about 1/4 tsp of wasabi paste. I can't say I felt any of them for sure, but it might have been just the thing to complete a full complex flavor. Next time I'll add a bit more just to see what happens.


Oh, and I made cheese:

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