When I resumed my food blogging, I promised to myself to make it look more professional with better quality photos taken in bright sunlight instead of under the dim yellow light in my kitchen, which means planning the cooking and shooting beforehand and cooking in the daytime, preferably with the help of Mr.O during the weekend. I was getting tired of the yellow blurry photos I had taken over the years. But I broke the promise the moment I posted my first recipe with usual dark and yellow coloured photos. Well, I haven’t yet found a solution to this problem and I would very much appreciate useful tips on that issue. Good news is, though, that with the change of calendar year, I’m beginning to think the matter in a different perspective, that is to say, I’m going to put more importance on the true fact that food is an essential part of life and it’s all about the process of cooking, eating and sharing instead of being swayed and challenged by beautiful photography and fancy recipes, maybe occasionally. I’ve concluded that I can’t keep up with all that fancy equipments and techniques. Maybe I’m too lazy to be bothered or I’m getting…well…old. No excuses, lady! In my defense, I have too much on my plate to care about fancy and dandy stuff right now. Full stop.
Whenever I’m at the supermarket, I get amazed by the amount of jarred or canned and processed food on the shelves and wonder who uses them. I can’t remember the last time I bought any of them. Why would you need frozen or canned beans, for example? If you don’t have it, don’t use it in your cooking! For me, my fridge is my cookbook where I collect recipes. So I usually make up recipes in my head depending on what I see in my fridge and what the mood I’m in. If I see something that looks like it’s on the way to the bin, then I priotise it and finish it off. Nothing goes to waste in my kitchen. When I have a lot of leftovers after a dinner party, I don’t throw anything into the bin and always come up with ways to use them.
I like DIY cooking; I make almost everything from scratch. I grind nuts for nut flour or butter, infuse my own olive oil, soak dried beans and chick peas and freeze them, make bread, yogurt and cheese, I don’t buy cookies and cakes from shops because I love butter and I’m suspicious of the cost cutting business and unnatual ingredients used in commercial food.
With years of practice with zero waste recipes, I’m now very proud of my ability to cook out of the fridge and my consciousness of food waste and wellbeing. That is what I am good at and what I need to nurture. As we are living in the world over-loaded with gourmet food blogs and restaurants, I see it pointless and against my food ethics to add yet another pretentious fad blog.
So I’m going to stick to my I-cook-to-eat-and-stay-healthy motto and remain true to my natural farm-to-plate eating and perhaps add a sustainable forage food concept to it. Healthy eating should not mean bland and boring. People should cook more and get to know what they put in their body and appreciate what nature offers. Then, people will stop counting calories and start savouring flavours and ultimately understand the joy of eating, cooking and sharing it with a glass of juice of life, wine.
So my new year’s resolution is to help people cook and eat simply and live happily. To start, I will cook for you this healthy risotto dish done in 20 mins. Well, except the time for cooking beetroots as you can substitute them with other root vegetables.
If you fancy a nice warm risotto dish but want to go light, and don’t have arborio rice, please don’t give up or go out to buy it. Instead, please dig in your pantry and you will surely find something that can be used. For me, it’s always bulgur. I think I’ve already told you about my love for bulgur over rice. The nutty flavour and fluffy and chewy texture of bulgur is an all time winner. My encounter with bulgur has put couscous into the memory of long-gone culinary history.
Every time I eat this healthily delicious grains, I feel the urge to make known this wonderful crop to the whole world, especially North Asian countries. I think people should stop eating boring white rice and switch to whole wheat grains or bulgur. Forget fried rice and make dried bulgar! One of the great things about living in Turkey is the abundance of agricultural produce. A variety of crops are staple here including wheat, rice, lentils and all kinds of peas and beans!
My favourite bulgur is brown coarse bulgur. I often made bulgur salad with dried fruit and nuts in summer as it’s so easy and quick to make and tastes good. But as the weather is getting cold, I crave more of warm and stodgy food like stew, curry and carb-loaded Italian pasta dishes.
One day I was thinking for lunch and saw cooked beetroots left over from the previous night and I needed to stretch it to a meal for two. I’d made beetroot risotto before so I knew it was tasty but since I didn’t have rice in my pantry, I opted for bulgur and made it into a kind of warm risotto, well, more precisely a cross between pilaf and risotto, though I insist on calling it “risotto”. I played around with it by adding some capers and ground ginger, and guess what? It was surprisingly good. I got nutty, earthy and fruity flavours all together. I think it was the capers and ginger that did the trick.
I attempted to make it again one night for my guests to try but unfortunately beetroots had gone out of season then, but when I almost gave up my hope, I saw them at a supermarket and bought them. But but but….sadly they weren’t as sweet and purple as they should be when cooked. As a desperate attempt to make them taste a bit better, I roasted them again with balsamic vinegar in the hope that it might enhance the sweetness and flavour. Well, it slightly improved but not as much as I’d hoped.
I know that beetroots aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I love them so much that I used to live on beetroot sour cream salad in summer time and often made dips with them for parties. In this recipe, the key ingredients that give this dish unique flavours are ginger, capers and mustard, especially the ginger as it enhances the sweet, rooty flavour of beetroots, and I loved it! I hope my gorgeous photos will tempt you to try this recipe and you will like it, too.
In case you’re wondering, the risotto in my photos doesn’t look like the typical smooth, creamy risotto you have in mind, and yes, you’re right. The dish was a remake of the original that I made using the following recipe and forgot to take a picture of, so please excuse me for cheating. 🙂
Beetroot Bulgur Risotto
Ingredients (serves 2)
4 medium fresh beetroots
1 1/2 cups coarse bulgur
4 cups reserved beetroot liquid
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 capsicum, finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp capers
2 tsp whole grain mustard
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter or cream
a splash of white wine or balsamic vinegar(optional)
salt, black pepper
a squeeze of lemon and parsley to garnish
1/4 cup sheep feta cheese to serve
- Boil the beetroots and reserve the liquid. Peel and chop them into bite size cubes and set them aside. (I roasted the cooked beetroots slightly but it’s not necessary)
- Keep the beetroot liquid hot over low heat.
- Sauté onion, garlic and capers in a pan until onions are translucent and add wine and balsamic vinegar if using.
- Add bulgur and stir for a minute or so until bulgur is coated with oil and vegetables.
- Slowly add 2/3 of the liquid and wait until it totally evaporates.
- Add in mustard and ginger, and then season with salt and pepper. Stir for a minute or two.
- Add the remaining stock and simmer by frequently stirring until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur has the consistency that you desire.
- Add butter or cream and herbs and it’s ready to be served with good sheep feta cheese. If you prefer, grate some parmesan cheese over the risotto instead.