Tomato Risotto

IMG-20140214-00896Risotto is a staple of Northern Italian cookery using arborio rice (this is a must- thank you to our Italian friends for pointing that out). From a simple basis there are endless varieties.

Andrew: This is very labour intensive, but quite simple. A dreamy and filling meal.

Dawn: It sounds it! Love tomatoes!


Serves 4

Two tins of plum tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic

Olive Oil

A few basil leaves

250g risotto rice

15-20 baby plum tomatoes- halved

1 tbsp pesto sauce

1 red onion- finely chopped

1 further garlic clove

75g parmesan

A further handful of basil leaves

Chicken stock- 1-1.5 litres

200g unsalted butter

1 tbs thyme leaves

1 glass white wine

Andrew: You need to follow each step carefully.

Dawn: I will crack on with the tomato sauce!


  • To make the tomato sauce, gently fry the two cloves of garlic in a little olive oil, then add the tinned tomatoes and first set of torn basil leaves,cooking for 15 minutes so the sauce thickens and turns a deep shade of red. Leave aside when cooked.
  • Meanwhile leave the halved baby plum tomatoes marinating in the pesto sauce and a drizzle of olive oil.
  • In a large frying pan, melt half of the butter and add a drizzle of olive oil over a medium heat.
  • Fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes until softened, then add the rice and stir until all the grains are coated in the melted butter.
  • Add the thyme then the wine, and keep stirring until absorbed.
  • Add the tomato sauce, stirring so well mixed. Turn the heat to a simmer.
  • This is the laborious part. You need to add the chicken stock ladle by ladle, stirring as it absorbs, and not letting it stick to the pan.
  • This process will take 20-25 minutes. Taste the rice to ensure it is cooked.This will happen ‘suddenly’!
  • When the rice is cooked, stir in the marinated tomatoes, the remaining butter and the parmesan.
  • Serve immediately with salad of your choice.

Dawn: Wow! Amazing!

Andrew: It is. A little hard work but worth it.

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Gorgeous Garlic Potatoes


Another simple and easy side dish that works well with stews, casseroles and roasts.


Serves up to 6

1 onion, peeled, sliced and chopped

4 large baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, peeled, chopped and crushed

300ml of vegetable stock

25g of extra mature cheddar cheese, grated

a tiny curl of butter

Salt and pepper


Dawn: This makes a nice alternative potato dish to accompany a traditional Sunday roast.

Andrew: Yes, there are many varieties of potatoes and all are so versatile when cooking.

Dawn: There is that old saying: “Variety is the spice of life”! And our food needs to be varied to provide us with all the nutrition our bodies demand. That’s an excellent point, Andrew. There are over 80 varieties in the UK that are grown commercially and being from the carbohydrate family, provide a valuable source of energy which our bodies need. 

  • Put the butter in a large frying pan and melt; then, add the onion and garlic cooking for a few minutes until softened. Set aside in a dish.
  • Next, place the potatoes in the frying pan using the juices from the onion. Layer the potatoes. As you do this, add a little of the softened onion and garlic to each layer, evenly scattering the mixture upon each layer.
  • Pour over the vegetable stock over the potatoes making sure all have been covered with the stock.

Andrew: Can I use a creamy white sauce instead? 

Dawn: Yes, that would make a delicious alternative to this healthier version. 

Andrew: In fact, a super quick version of this dish could be made using a tin of chicken soup rather than vegetable stock. 

  • Add the grated cheese to the top of the dish. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cover the ovenproof dish with kitchen foil.
  • Place in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 6, 200°C electric for 1 hour. Then, remove the kitchen foil and cook for a further 20-30 minutes while the top browns. Test to see if the potatoes are cooked by sticking a fork into them and if tender, they’re cooked.

Andrew: Mmm…certainly smells lovely!

Dawn: And tastes divine!

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Tasty Tomato and Basil Soup


Soups. Hearty. Warming. Sometimes served cold as in the Med. Nutritious. Filling. Easy to make. And relatively inexpensive to pull together, here’s a real Winter warmer one for you.

Andrew: I love soups. I often have one at lunchtime as they are so simple to heat through and keeps me going through the afternoon. Chilled soups are excellent too. The Mediterranean vegetables absorb so much flavour that seems even more potent when cold. Garlic is especially good for this.

Dawn: Keeping the Vampires away!  You will find this one is so easy to freeze, too.


Serves 6 generous portions

1 large onion, peeled, sliced and diced

1 clove of garlic, peeled, chopped and crushed

1 tsp of dried basil (or fresh)

1.2 litres of vegetable stock (using two good quality stock cubes)

2 x 400g tins of tomatoes


  • Put the diced onion into a large saucepan, adding a little cold water so it doesn’t burn.

Andrew: Can I use oil? 

Dawn: Yes, a teaspoon of cooking oil, any sort, will be fine. Even butter. Simply melt it before adding the onion. And warm the cooking oil prior to adding the onions, too. I prefer not to use oil as cooking the onion in water will soften it just as well and reduces the fat content. 

Andrew: In the Mediterranean, it is almost expected that you will use Olive Oil!

  • Cook the onion for about 5 minutes, stirring it so it doesn’t stick and if need be, to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the saucepan, add a little more water but make sure its hot water added to the hot cooking onion.
  • Once the onion is soft, add the garlic. Cook for a further minute.
  • Now add the two tins of tomatoes. If whole tomatoes, chop them. It speeds up they’re cooking time.
  • Add the vegetable stock.
  • Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Add the basil and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • With an electric hand whisk, pulse the soup so the ingredients become one thick consistency.
  • Now, season and hey, presto! Tasty Tomato and Basil Soup for you!

Andrew: Mmm…and serve with a wholemeal, crusty slice of warmed bread?

Dawn: Absolutely! You may even choose to add a nice green mixed salad. An ideal lunch time meal to set you up for the afternoon.