I had a bit of a cooking revelation recently.
FROZEN CHOPPED ONIONS!
Have you ever used them?? I can’t believe I have gone for nearly FORTY YEARS and never cooked with a frozen onion! No more chopping, no more children asking ‘what’s wrong Mummy?’ in a worried voice while I sob quietly to myself over the chopping board. No wanting to make a pasta sauce only to find we have no onions, and NO WASTE.
I feel like this is a landmark in my culinary life. I’m not even exaggerating. If I could suggest one food hack that you take away from this post it’s to always have chopped onions in your freezer.
There’s quite a bit of snobbery around frozen food for some reason, but there are actually a lot of benefits to harnessing the power of frozen. Not only is it super handy, and often cheaper, but nutritionally it’s often better for you, as stuff is preserved naturally by freezing and doesn’t have to have lots of artificial preservatives added to it. (I also discovered that you can shop online with Iceland and the minimum order is only £25, which is handy to know.)
So all hail the frozen onion.
Eat the Week with Iceland
This onion revelation came about as the result of a project with Iceland and their new TV series on Channel 4 – Eat The Week. Have you seen any of them yet? They’re on Sunday lunchtimes, hosted by Simon Rimmer, and are all about the challenges we all face when cooking – finding time to plan ahead, coming up with meals that the whole family will like, but also trying to keep costs low and nutritional value high.
I’ve been really enjoying the Eat The Week series because it’s perfectly pitched at my level.
(I.e. not high.)
Nothing is ridiculously complicated and yet it all looks really tasty. They have real families involved every week, putting the recipes to the test, so you feel like it’s achievable. You know how sometimes you watch a cookery programme and they make it look easy, but you know it has actually taken a team of six people an hour beforehand to prepare everything? It’s not that. It’s just normal, tasty food, that even I can make.
One of the recipes from the show is a ham hock risotto, and I thought this would be a fun one to recreate at home with Belle.
Belle really enjoys cooking and I’ve found that if she’s involved in the process, she is far more likely to eat the final result. It’s nice for us too, as it’s an opportunity to spend time together. Unless I make the effort, we’d end up with me cooking in isolation while she watches make-up videos on her phone. Not conducive to quality family time.
I really love risotto and I’m on a bit of a mission to get Belle excited about it too. Risotto rice is something that everyone should have in their cupboards as you can make a risotto with pretty much anything. With the rice, onions and stock as a base, you can add in whatever you have in the fridge or freezer – peas, peppers, mushrooms, chicken, ham, prawns – whatever you like!
Time to rally Belle.
‘Come and help me make a risotto!’ I say.
‘Why?’ says Belle, pausing her make-up tutorial video.
‘Because it will be fun to cook together!’
‘If I’m cooking does that mean I don’t have to wash up?’ she asks.
‘Sure,’ I say, in desperation.
She turns off the make-up video and skips into the kitchen, suddenly looking far more keen on the idea.
Ham hock risotto ingredients
To make your own ham hock risotto you will need:
- 350g ham hock – cooked and shredded (I wasn’t entirely sure what ‘ham hock’ was to be honest, so I just bought a big pack of Iceland’s cooked ham offcuts and that seemed to work really well.)
- 1 onion – sliced (or frozen! Genius…)
- 1 clove of garlic – crushed (I also used frozen for this.)
- Good glug of white wine (I bought a full sized bottle just in case. You know, to be on the safe side.)
- 50g butter for frying
- 350g risotto rice
- About 700 – 800 ml chicken stock
- 50g parmesan cheese – grated
- 100g peas (the frozen pea is one of mankind’s miracles.)
- 1 tbsp. tarragon – chopped (herbs are another thing that freeze really well. You can often buy them frozen, or buy fresh and freeze leftovers yourself. Find out how here.)
- 2 tbsp. butter
For the puree
- 1 shallot – finely diced
- 250g frozen peas
- 75 – 100ml white wine (hopefully you’ve not drunk the rest of the bottle already.)
- 1 lemon – juiced
- 50g crème fraiche
How to make ham hock risotto
Get the purée underway by gently frying the shallot until soft then adding the peas, wine and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
Will this simmers, start off your risotto by frying the onions and garlic in butter until soft. Take a moment here to appreciate how easy it was just to chuck in a handful of chopped onions and garlic straight from the freezer. (Less washing up too, which is something to consider now it’s apparently my job.) Add the rice and the wine, stir it all up and cook until nearly all the wine has evaporated.
Take your warm stock and add a ladleful at a time, stirring and cooking, adding more stock as each glug gets absorbed. When the rice is soft add the ham, then stir in the peas, tarragon, butter and cheese.
In a blender, purée the pea and shallot mixture with crème fraiche. Serve a spoonful of the purée in the bottom of a pasta dish and spoon on the risotto, or, if you want to make sure that everyone knows you went to the trouble to create a two part dinner, serve the risotto with a dollop of the purée on top.
It was very tasty indeed.
Even Belle had to admit that she quite liked it, and she especially enjoyed the texture of the rice. We will definitely be making risotto again, and I’ll be suggesting that Belle come up with ideas for things she’d like to add to it.
If you need a bit of family meal time inspiration then do check out Eat the Week with Iceland on Channel 4 – Sundays at 12.30pm.
Produced in association with Iceland.