We are currently away, house and gerbil sitting in Cheltenham. The last time I looked after gerbils was when I was 7 and had my school gerbils for the weekend. Much to my disappointment one of them barely moved and slept for the entire time. Very boring. Then the following weekend, much to my mother’s relief that it was on someone else’s watch, it died.
These gerbils are younger and full of life, they belong to E’s seven year old niece H. They are much loved and desperately wanted first pets. It is an amusement to give them the cardboard inner of a loo roll and watch them frenziedly chew through it in about 30 seconds.
Having had the gerbils for a couple of months H put them into the (empty) bath to run around so their cage could be cleaned out. H’s five year old brother (who is several inches taller than his sister) decided to climb into the bath to play with them. You can probably guess what happened. One of the poor unfortunate creatures was accidentally stepped on and squashed, and cue two hysterical children. Fortunately a replacement gerbil was successfully introduced as a companion to the survivor.
Consequently the burden of gerbil responsibility weighs heavily upon me, and as much as I would like to put them into the exercise ball and watch them run around, the thought it bouncing down the stairs and the gerbils escaping fills me with horror and instead I treble check the cage is secure every time I walk past.
For this month”s random recipes Dom has set the challenge of cooking a random recipe from your favourite recipe book. As I am not at home, I do not have my favourite book (which would be something by Skye Gyngell, Prepped or the Nordic Bakery Book) so I have selected a random book and made a random recipe from it. The book I plucked from the shelf was A Feast for the Eyes, evocative recipes and surprising tales inspired by paintings in the National Gallery, by Gillian Riley, which I hope is suitably random?
I opened the book at page 73, and found Risi and Bisi, a simple risotto-eque dish with peas and flavoured with Parma ham. Perfect for showcasing fresh peas.
Risi and Bisi
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
400g (scant 3 cups) risotto rice
400ml (1 2/3 cups) good chicken stock, more or less
1 kg (generous 2lbs) fresh young peas (weigh before shelling) shelled
1 slice Parma ham, cut into small pieces
Salt & Pepper
freshly grated Parmesan to serve
Soften the onion in the butter and oil. Stir in the rice. Pour over the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 mins. Add the peas and Parma ham, bring to the boil again, and simmer until done, adding more stock if it seems to be getting dry.
Season with salt & pepper if necessary. Take off the lid and let some of the liquid evaporate if it seems too runny. Dot with a little butter just before serving with the Parmesan.
This was OK, but I feel could have been greatly improved following the usual method of making a risotto, adding the stock slowly, stirring as you go, rather than boiling with the lid on. I also added garlic when frying the onion, and a good glug of wine.
There is still time to enter this month’s Breakfast Club! The theme is cereal!