All of a sudden, we've entered the late-20s Wedding Bulge and our weekends are no longer our own. When Mr Dine at Mine and I got married last year, we were one of the first couples in our circle to do the deed and all our celebrations had a bit of an air of novelty. Hats were new, gift lists were a mystery and certain people who shall remain nameless (my mum) went around at the reception telling couples they were like "dominoes", all about to fall. You can imagine how well that went down. Men laughed nervously, girls burnished the plans in their heads and sure enough, one year on we're six engagements down and counting. We've been to two weddings since our own, we've got two more this summer and agonizingly had to refuse another because it falls on the same day as one we'd already accepted (this Saturday, as a matter of fact). With stags, hens, assorted prep and last minute outfit hunts for both of us, our weekends are busy and next year is already getting booked up. Don't tell anyone, but I love it. I particularly love that our own wedding planning is safely over and we don't have to suffer last minute panics about rabid dogs and cancelled manicures.
Last weekend, amid the neverending biblical deluge, my husband set off on his second stag of the year for a weekend of paintballing, fish and chips and he-promises-me-not-too-much-
debauchery. Most of the time, when he's away, I make sure to arrange fun and frivolous social engagements with friends but work had been bananas recently so I actually kept my diary clear. I watched the TV programmes he didn't want to see (Birdsong, very good, very sad). I met up with my mum, went to a haberdashery and did some sewing for a present for my new niece who is due ANY MOMENT NOW. I went to bed late and got up later, listened to naff radio and wore silly clothes he doesn't "get". I enjoyed my time on my own, but I was happier when he got back.
I also took the opportunity to eat the food he doesn't really like. Exhibit a) a tomato and mushroom omelette (eggs, tomato and mushrooms, tick tick tick). Exhibit b) smoked mackerel. I've got loads of this stuff knocking around the freezer ever since online shopping interpreted "one pack" as "one kilogram" and although I adore it (see salad and pate), Mr Dine at Mine is never so keen. We had a beetroot in the fridge left over from the rosti so I had planned on making the salad again but after a day on train platforms, getting soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone, I needed something more. A glass of wine, yes, and don't judge me for drinking alone. But also something hot, stodgy and comforting.
I'll be honest, though - I'm not sure this really worked. I added the whole beetroot because it needed using up and I think it was just far too much - it totally took over the dish. I also skipped the cheese because it was a fish risotto but I think a bit of parmesan might have been a good idea - do try it and let me know. But nevertheless, this was hot, packed with flavour, bright magenta and a great one-bowl tv dinner. Doesn't mean I'll rush to make it again.
Smoked Mackerel, Beetroot and Leek Risotto
Makes 2 portions, and reheats well for an office tupperware lunch
- 1 raw beetroot, peeled and cubed (or less if you want it less beetrooty). Yep, your hands are bright pink now.
- butter and oil
- vegetable stock
- a splash of white wine (or vermouth if you haven't got wine open, or nothing if you don't have either)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- half a leek, finely chopped
- a clove of garlic, finely chopped
- a few handfuls of risotto rice - judge the quantity by your appetite
- some frozen broad beans, if you fancy
- a fillet of smoked mackerel, skin removed and the fillet flaked into biggish chunks
- a few chives
Put the stock on the heat at a low simmer and chuck in the beetroot to cook. It'll also turn the stock bright pink, just so you're prepared.
Meanwhile, make the risotto as normal - gently fry onion, garlic and leek in butter until softened, add the rice, stir it around for a few minutes to toast (until it crackles). Add a splash of wine, and cook it off. Then add the stock, ladle by ladle, stirring all the time - try to leave the beetroot simmering for as long as possible but it's not the end of the world if some bits transfer from the stock saucepan to the risotto pan.
Keep adding stock and stirring, adding the broad beans to the risotto after about ten minutes. Test the beetroot and chuck it into the risotto when it's cooked. When the rice is done (after about 15-20 minutes), flake in the mackerel, turn off the heat and add a knob of butter. Stir around, leave it to sit for a minute then serve up scattered with the chopped chives.