Deliciously simple

This month Michele Guinness suggests an easy cook risotto and a gluten free cake that makes a tasty dessert for everyone.

When I married Peter, he was in the remedial class for cookery. Despite sharing a bachelor flat for some years, a rather greasy roast chicken was about the sum of his culinary capability. He lacked not only confidence in the kitchen, but the will. Brilliant at DIY, at putting pipes, wires, boilers and furniture together, he simply did not enjoy putting a meal together. The logistics of having everything ready at the same time seemed to elude him. He put it down to women's natural ability to multi-task. Some excuse - where did all the male TV chefs come from?

But some months ago, stranded for several hours at the end of the world (Fleetwood, actually), while I was supposed to be having foot surgery, (which never happened, but that's another story), he took himself off to the North Euston Hotel for lunch. It's a bit dreary on the outside, but don't be deterred by appearances; they have an excellent bistro. And there he had a spinach risotto that so delighted his taste buds, it inspired him, to my utter amazement, to have a go at recreating it at home. This is not the North Euston Hotel's recipe - we never had it - but I will credit them for the idea, and for building my husband's confidence in the cookery department!

This great healthy vegetarian recipe made those apparently wasted hours worthwhile after all - especially as I can now ask him, from time to time, to have a meal ready for me when I come home from work, and know he won't feel completely floored by it.

The almond cake is a tribute to a number of my colleagues in the office who are on wheat free diets and always feel left out when cakes appear. (Sorry, this is not for people with nut allergies, however!) It is a delicious treat for anyone, as a cake or a dessert, with the lovely summer fruits - strawberries, raspberries, stewed gooseberries, and especially with stewed pink rhubarb. It also freezes well and keeps for at least a week, if you want a dessert to last. In fact, it just becomes more moist.

Spinach Risotto (serves 2)

  • 1 medium red onion;
  • 150g/5oz risotto rice;
  • Around a litre (35 fl oz) of vegetable stock (Use vegetable cubes or powder);
  • 50g/2 oz stringy cheese - grated;
  • 125g/4oz spinach;
  • Black pepper;

Also a combination of:

  • broccoli florets;
  • chopped carrots;
  • chopped courgettes;
  • half a red pepper;
  • several cherry tomatoes;

Fry the finely chopped red onion in a little olive oil, then add the rice and stir for a while. Add the stock as you go. Begin with around a quarter litre, and when the stock is absorbed, add another quarter litre. Cover and boil, adding another quarter litre stock as necessary, until the rice is just cooked, (it will be creamy, but not stodgy). Remove the lid and boil off the excess stock. As you boil off the excess, add the spinach and stir in well. At first it will appear as if there is far too much greenery, but as you stir it in, it will soften and become quite stringy.

Meanwhile, stir fry your choice of other vegetables in a little olive oil (adding the tomatoes last, just before the end so that they don't disappear altogether). Finally, add the vegetables to the risotto, stir in the grated cheese and serve. The stir fry vegetables can be served separately, around the dish, if preferred.

Easy No Fail Almond Cake (Gluten free)

  • 3 eggs;
  • 160g/5½oz ground almonds;
  • 150g/5oz caster sugar;
  • Rind and juice of a lemon or an orange (depending on preferred flavour);

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy, then add the almonds. Add the rind and juice of the lemon or orange. Whisk the whites till firm, then fold carefully into the mixture.

Transfer to a 17.5 cm round or square tin, lined with greaseproof paper.

Cook on 180°c/350°f (150°c for fan ovens) or Gas Mark 4 for 35 mins.

Cool, then sprinkle with icing sugar, cut into slices and serve - alone or with stewed fruit, and thick Greek yogurt or low fat crème fraîche.