Oven-baked risotto with leeks, asparagus, bacon and poached egg

I love risotto, but I rarely make it. It’s one of those things that I eat while my husband is away because he’s not overly keen on it (another thing I don’t understand), but also a lot of the time I just can’t face standing by the stove for 20 minutes stirring it until it’s cooked. I know it’s not exactly hard work, but a lot of the time when I’ve just got home from work I just want to shove something in the oven and sit down until it’s cooked.

As you can imagine, when I saw the recipe for an oven baked risotto I got a bit excited. This opens up SO many possibilities, not only to eat it more often, but also to experiment with more elaborate ingredients. If I’m not standing stirring the risotto, I can be cooking up some other things to put in. I went to a restaurant in Birmingham called Bank a few months ago, and had the most amazing haddock and leek risotto with a poached egg on top which was complete heaven. I LOVE poached eggs on anything, it seems common sense to add one to the top of a risotto so the yolk mixes in to all the creamy rice, yummmm.

Risottos are such a great way to use up leftover bits of veg that otherwise won’t go very far, or they can be made into something delicious with just some freezer ingredients (peas, broad beans, french beans etc). As long as it’s got lots of cheese in, it’s a winner. I’d recreated the above risotto (without the haddock since I didn’t have it) already, but I fancied trying out a baked version to which I could also add some crispy bacon that can be cooked in the oven alongside the risotto. The result was nothing short of AMAZING. It was so easy and quick, and the resulting risotto was super creamy and the rice was cooked to just the right consistency. I did, however, sustain the most painful burn I’ve EVER had, because I made the foolish mistake of grabbing the saucepan handle when I was stirring the risotto right after it had come out the oven. After running it under cold water for ages I finally ate the (albeit lukewarm) risotto with a wet lump of tissue stuck on the burn before I could run to my resident first aider (my husband’s cousin who lives opposite) who administered me with some rather amazing burn gel. Who knew being a food blogger was so dangerous?

Injuries aside, I will definitely be making this again, and again and again. With loads of different ingredients. It’s SO easy and convenient. What’s not so convenient is the burnt on milk in the saucepan but hopefully that’s nothing an overnight soak won’t fix. I got the recipe from the BBC Good Food website but tweaked it a little. This is how I did it.

Oven baked risotto with leeks, asparagus, bacon and poached egg

Serves 2

1 medium leek
Knob of butter
Olive oil
150g risotto rice (I used arborio)
350ml vegetable stock
125ml milk (I used semi skimmed but use whatever you drink!)
Around 10 asparagus spears
4 rashers bacon
2 eggs

Method

Melt the butter in a pan which can go into the oven, and add a drop of olive oil. Slice the leeks and add them to the pan and cook them gently for 5 minutes or so to soften. Once the leeks are soft, add the rice and stir. Wait until the rice has absorbed the butter and then add the stock and the milk. Bring everything to the boil and then cover the pan with a lid/foil and put into the oven at 200C.

The risotto should take about 18 minutes to cook. Chop the asparagus into pieces and get a pan of water ready for the egg. When the risotto’s got about 5 minutes left, add the asparagus spears and add a little more water/milk to the risotto if it looks a bit dry. Put the bacon rashers on a baking tray and put them into the oven.

Once the bacon has been in a few minutes, poach the eggs. Once everything is cooked it’s just a case of piling everything on top of each other, and seasoning the risotto to taste. I would normally have snipped the bacon into pieces once cooked so that I could easily eat this with a fork, but in my burned, fragile state I didn’t get round to that! You can, of course, put some parmesan in/on this – I didn’t this time in the interest of trying to be healthy but normally I would fill it with cheese!

I will never go back to making a risotto the normal way now, I’m coverted for life!

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Chicken, leek and bacon pie

This is a recipe that I’m slightly obsessed with at the moment. For me, the combination of chicken, leeks and bacon is a complete winner – the leeks are sweet and soft, the bacon is smoky and salty and the chicken provides some chunkier texture which pulls everything together.

If you’re not sold on it just by seeing the words CHICKEN, LEEK and BACON together, then maybe the recipe will sway you. It’s really easy and doesn’t really require any specific measurements. I just kind of throw it all together and put as much in as looks right!

Sometimes I think I could eat the entire pie, but really this serves 2 greedy people, with maybe a bit to spare for lunch the next day

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie Filling

4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs (Sainsbury’s do good free-range ones and they’re super cheap)

A few rashers of bacon

2 leeks

A few carrots

A few tablespoons of plain flour

A large knob of butter

A tablespoon of dried thyme

1/2 glass white wine (optional)

Glug of liquid chicken stock or stock cube

Salt & pepper

Pastry

I use the half-fat-to-flour method that my nan used, and for the fat part use half butter and half vegetable fat (my nan used lard, can’t bring myself to use it though)

I use about 80g of butter to cover an enamel pie dish around 20cm in diameter so 160g of plain flour, plus a pinch of salt. If you want to make the pastry richer you can use an egg yolk but I only tend to do that for sweet pastry cases, the butter makes this rich enough for a savoury dish, in my opinion.

Method:

Heat a small amount of oil to a saucepan or casserole, and snip the bacon into the pan and leave to get crispy (if it doesn’t go crispy now it never will, I can’t stand that wobbly white fat on bacon, yuck)

Meanwhile,  chop the leeks finely (I usually cut them in half lengthways, in half again, and then finely slice) and add them to the pan with a large knob of melted butter to get soft in all the bacony juices. Peel and chop the carrots into 1.5cm -ish chunks.

When the leeks are soft, snip the chicken thighs into the pan (I barely ever use a knife to cut meat!) and fry until it’s all turned white. Add the carrots in and stir. Add 2-3 tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper (not too much salt, the bacon will be salty), and a good tablespoon of dried thyme. Stir in with everything else until the flour has combined with the buttery juices to make the roux which will thicken your sauce.

Add a generous glug of liquid stock, or a stock cube crumbled, and add enough boiling water to cover the mixture. Then add the white wine, and stir everything until combined. Simmer the mixture for around an hour or until it’s a nice thick consistency. The chicken should fall apart easily and the leeks will have almost melted into the rest of the sauce.

While the pie simmers away, you can get on with the pastry. One thing I will say: PASTRY IS EASY. Honestly. Do not fear it, especially if you have a food processor as it makes the whole thing incredibly easy and fast!

Just make sure the butter is really cold, straight from the fridge. Weigh it, and cut it into cubes. Add it to the processor with the flour (don’t need to sift, woo) and salt. Run the processor until the flour and butter look like breadcrumbs. While the motor is runnng, slowly add cold water until the mixture starts to come together into a dough in the processor. Then turn it off, take the dough out, squash it all into a ball, form it into a patty and wrap it in cling film and leave it to chill in the fridge for half an hour. This method is great because it involves little handling of the pastry so it keeps it cool.

If you don’t have a processor you can still do it by hand. Just dice up the butter nice and small, and add to the flour and salt. Rub the two together with the tips of your fingers, until you reach the breadcrumb consistency. Then slowly add the cold water until it comes together as a dough, and then squash it together, make the patty, clingfilm and refrigerate as usual.

When the pie mix is cooked, add it to your pie dish, and then roll out the pastry. I usually just roll it out into a rough circle and then squash it into the tin (nothing fancy here) and trim the edges. Then just lightly slash the top (not all the way through the pastry) with a sharp knife and make a hole in the centre for the steam to escape. Brush the top with a beaten egg or some milk and put in the oven for 20-30 mins until golden and crisp.

I usually eat this with loads of green vegetables (it is especially good with the new season asparagus). Enjoy!