Adventurous Eating

by Simone Conti

Merry Christmas to all Cranleigh magazine readers! I hope you’re well and ready for this magical time of the year. As in previous years I won’t write any Christmas recipes because everyone has their own traditional, favourite Christmas dishes. What I will give you is a couple of experimental recipes, so if you feel adventurous and want to make something different, please try them out.

I would like to add a personal note. I know we live in challenging times where wars, economy and others factors make us worry about our day to day life. But I would like to remind everyone that especially at a moment like this, we should come together as a community. It doesn’t matter where we come from or how wealthy we are, we should be pleasant to one other. I say this because unfortunately there’s been intolerance and silly arguments lately in our community. Remember a fundamental fact in life: everyone comes into this world with nothing and leaves this world with nothing. Make time in your life to spend time with people and not just accumulate possessions. Final remember – a kind word makes all the difference.

Savoy Cabbage, bacon, parsnip and chickpea soup – Serves 4

This is a simple recipe for a warm winter soup, perfect after those rich festive meals. Healthy, warm and rich with nutrients.

2 medium leeks, washed and finely chopped   
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
6 rashers bacon, rind off, cut into 0.5cm pieces
100g of butter 
1/2 small Savoy cabbage, core removed and finely shredded 
10 sage leaves 
1 tsp fresh thyme 
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
1 lt of chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper to taste  


1.  Fry the leeks and bacon in butter over a moderate heat until they begin to take on a little colour.

2.  Add the cabbage, herbs and chickpeas and mix well.  

3.  Add the stock and bring to the boil, turn to a simmer and cook until the parsnip is tender. Check the seasoning and add according to taste. 

4.  Now it’s time to plate and serve with a slice of crusty bread or garlic bread. Enjoy!

Recommended Wine – Shiraz (Australia)

Chestnut Risotto – Serves 4

Now a challenge to be a bit more adventurous! This is a great dish, full of delicious Christmassy flavours. The reason the recipe is a starter portion is because for some people, chestnuts can be a bit too rich in flavour. As a small dish they can be a real treat. Believe me, you’ll love it!.

50g chopped red onion 
50g chopped celery   
1 tbsp olive oil   
15g chopped rosemary    
200g Risotto rice (carnaroli) 
75g pancetta cubes (or bacon)   
1 Lt chicken or vegetable stock  
100g of peeled cooked chestnuts, finely chopped
2 shots of brandy 
70g unsalted butter
100g grated parmesan
Salt and black pepper     


1.  In a large heavy-based saucepan soften the onion and celery in olive oil with the pancetta and rosemary on a low heat. Add the rice and cook stirring for 5 minutes until translucent.      

2.  Turn up the heat and start adding the hot stock, little by little, stirring continuously and letting each addition be absorbed before adding more. After about 15 minutes add the chestnuts and brandy, then continue adding the stock and cooking for 5 minutes. When cooked the rice should still have a bite but no crunch.     

3.  Add the butter and parmesan and season with black pepper, then stir until the risotto is creamy. 

4.  Serve hot, garnished with a few picked rosemary tips

Recommended Wine – Zinfandel (California)

Pistachio Soufflé – Serves 4

This is one of my favourite desserts, from one of my favourite chefs Pierre Koffmann. An incredible chef and a lovely person.     

500ml milk
1/2 vanilla pod  
120g egg yolks
100g caster sugar
50g plain flour  
20g butter softened   
25g dark chocolate grated
4 eggs white 
1tbsp caster sugar 
40g pistachio paste 
4 large ramekins or soufflé dishes


1.  Boil together the milk and vanilla pod. Simultaneously whisk together the egg yolks and 100g of caster sugar. Whisk until the mixture slightly thickens and turns a light colour.   

2.  Sieve the flour and add into the mixture, then whisk until smooth. Add half the milk to the base and whisk until there are no lumps. Sieve through a fine strainer, remove the vanilla pod, return the mixture back to the pan and add the remaining milk. 

3. Using a whisk, stir the mixture. When  it comes to the boil, bring the temperature down to simmer. Continue to stir and cook out for 8-10 minutes.    

4. Pour the pistachio paste onto a shallow tray and cool.   

5. Generously butter four individual ramekins or soufflé dishes. Put the grated chocolate inside and rotate the moulds so that the chocolate completely covers the inside, sticking to the softened butter.   

6. Beat the egg whites until firm, add tablespoon of caster sugar and whisk until stiff. Add a small quantity of the whites to the pistachio paste to soften it, then fold in the rest of the egg whites and pour into the soufflé dishes or ramekins.

7. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until well risen, dust the top with icing sugar and serve with ice cream of your choice. Serve immediately.

Recommended Wine – Sauterne (France)

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