Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Good Things to Eat by Lucas Hollweg

Lucas Hollweg tucking in to his Lemon and Prawn Risotto

I had an email this evening from The Guild of Food Writers.  For one tiniest moment I thought I had been nominated for an award. I’m not.  I’m not sure why I would even think that I would be ..  I suppose when you put your heart into something for so long it’s normal to imagine that you might be though.  I felt a little silly until I spotted that Lucas Hollweg’s book Good Things To Eat (Collins) has been nominated for the Jeremy Round Award for Best First Book and then I smiled  .. and smiled some more because along side Lucas’s nomination is Bryn’s Kitchen by Bryn Williams (Kyle Books) and
How To Make Bread by (Ryland Peters & Small)

I’ve not come across Emmanuel Hadjiandreou  .. however, I’ve caught up with both Bryn and Lucas recently and you can listen in to an interview and read more about Bryn here.

It’s funny that Bryn’s book and Lucas’s are both books I’ve been cooking from regularly.  They are both delicious, no nonsense straightforward recipes that anyone can really cook.  I’d have a hard time picking my favorite ..  so it’s a good job I don’t have to choose.

Lucas popped over not so many weeks ago and we spent a happy rainy Sunday afternoon cooking from his new book.  My husband, happy to be let off any domestic duties, carried on decorating upstairs whilst the children adopted Lucas instantly. 

There is something delightful about Lucas.  He is easy company. Children have a natural instinct about people and they adored him.  As the rain pattered down we drank wine and stirred, whilst putting the world to rights.  Before long Lucas was serving up Lemon and Prawn Risotto and Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Caramelized Oranges to us all. We devoured all  ..  my family looking as though they had never been fed in their lives!

It was truly wonderful food.  

Lucas spent the rest of the afternoon making sourdough with the children to get the recipe right for The Rose Blossom Bakery (  you can read more about that here. )

I’ve since cooked this combination several times and although I have shared the recipes here, with kind permission of both the publisher Collins and Lucas .. .. I would highly recommend buying Good Things to Eat.  They really are good recipes and think on reflection it should actually have been called Really Good things to Eat.

Lemon and prawn risotto
For 2
1 litre (1 ¾ pints) chicken or vegetable stock
1tbsp olive oil
25g (1oz) butter
½ medium onion, finely chopped
½ celery stick, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
175g (6oz) risotto rice
100ml (3 ½ fl oz) dry white wine
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon, and a few squeezes of the juice
2 big handfuls of cooked, peeled prawns
2tbsp double cream
A big handful of basil leaves
Salt and pepper

Heat the stock in a small saucepan and keep it warm.

In another, larger pan, heat the oil and half the butter, then add the onion, celery and garlic and cook over a gentle heat for 5-6 minutes, or until soft but not coloured. Add the rice, turn up the heat a little, and stir for a minute or two until well coated in the fat. Pour in the wine and stir again until the liquid has been absorbed.

Next, add 2 ladlefuls of the hot stock and continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladle of stock and again stir until absorbed. Keep adding stock in this way until the rice grains are just al dente and the sauce around them has turned creamy. Use a splash of boiling water if the stock runs out. The end result should flow gently and slowly when you move it around the pan. It generally takes 17-20 minutes to get to this stage, depending on your rice, your pan and your hob.

Once the rice is cooked, season it well, then stir in the lemon zest, prawns, cream and remaining butter. Keep back a few of the basil leaves for decoration and tear the rest into the risotto. Add a couple of squeezes of lemon and stir everything together, then cover with a lid and leave to stand off the heat for 3 minutes. Taste and season again, then ladle into wide bowls. Slice the rest of the basil into fine strips and scatter over the top.

Buttermilk panna cotta 
6 small sheets of leaf gelatine
500ml double cream
1 big Ndali vanilla pod, halved (or a tsp of natural vanilla extract)
100g caster sugar
500ml buttermilk
Soak gelatine in cold water for 5 mins until soft and spongey. Get the buttermilk from the fridge and let it warm up a little. 
Meanwhile bring cream to simmer with the sugar, vanilla pod and scraped out seeds (or vanilla powder or extract), stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for a minute.
Squeeze the gelatine to get rid of excess water, then add the floppy sheets to the hot cream. Leave to melt for a few seconds, then whisk in. Leave to stand for an hour at room temperature, stirring occasionally, so the vanilla can infuse and the liquid becomes thick enough to hold the seeds in place. Remove the vanilla pod. If using.
Gradually whisk the buttermilk into the liquid, then strain into a jug through a sieve to get rid of any clumps of gelatine or milk skin that might have formed. Pour into 125ml dariole moulds or small smooth cups. Chill overnight until set.


Buttermilk Panna Cotta .. on a Rachel Ashwell Napkin

Caramelized Oranges 
3 (blood) oranges
100g granulated sugar
100ml water
1 cinnamon stick and/or a few smashed cardamom pods

Use a zester to shred the outside skin from one of the orange and put to one side. Cut the skin and pith from all three oranges and slice the flesh horizontally. Put in a bowl.
Put the sugar, 50ml water and the spices in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Leave to simmer, without stirring this time, until you have a deep caramel. Remove the spices (careful – caramel = hot) and add the remaining water. You might want to do this over the sink. Stir until the caramel dissolves again.
Pour most of the caramel over the orange slices.
Add the orange zest to the remaining caramel and return the pan to the heat for a minute or so, until the zest is bathed in the sugary sauce. Spoon over the fruit. Leave to cool and for the flavours to mingle.


  1. I love that photo of Lucas and Isobel together.

    I chatted to him at the M&S press show last summer - delightfully charming!

  2. I just love reading your blog Vanessa. Every time I learn something new. This time I have added two extra cookbooks to my wish list and I have planned to cook the risotto at the weekend. I'll let you know how I get on.

  3. Risotto and panna cotta would make my top 10 good things to eat any day. Love the picture of your daughter in the rosey dress.

  4. Lovely, and I do think men are good at risotto. My younger son made one the other evening (prawn and pea) and it was superb.

  5. The photos and the food, as always, are all stunning. I have to say, I don't own Lucas' book and I have absolutely no idea why not, so I have just ordered it! Listening to the Audioboo was lovely, really nice to be able to put the voice to the book and Lucas obviously shares your appreciation of good food!


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