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What's Cooking Relaxed Dinner

A Relaxed Dinner

By Clodagh McKenna

Clodagh McKenna

This month it’s risotto and coffee cake on the menu – two Italian inspired dishes that won’t fail to impress. Serve up with a large glass of red wine and tuck in.


The idea of this recipe came to me from the margherita pizza. When I lived in Italy I used to make a lot of risotto’s, so I was always looking for new ideas.

2 shallots, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
300g risotto rice (arborio)
6 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon of tomato puree
100ml oz dry white wine
500ml of hot vegetable or chicken stock
2 fresh buffalo mozzarella, torn in bite sized pieces
10 large Basil Leaves, torn
150g grated Parmesan cheese, plus a block for grating
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g butter
Olive oil

Serves 4

What's Cooking Risotto


1. Heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the finely chopped shallots and garlic, cover and simmer until translucent – about 2 minutes.

2. Stir in the Arborio rice with the shallots and garlic and toast for about a minute until the rice is dry. Pour in the white wine and let the rice absorb almost all of it. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree, let the liquid come up to a bubble, then reduce the heat to a simmer for a couple of minutes.

3. Then add a third of the hot stock, and once the rice has absorbed most of this liquid, add more stock as the rice absorbs the liquid.

4. After 10 minutes stir in the pieces of buffalo mozzarella, and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.

5. Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Scatter the basil over the top and gently stir to combine.

6. Divide risotto between warm bowls and with a couple of pretty basil leaves.


This cake is such a beauty to look at, and tastes ever bit as good as it looks. Creamy, deep flavours with saltiness in the butter icing. Perfect afternoon treat.

300g unsalted butter, softened
300g caster sugar
4 eggs
300g self-raising flour
50ml espresso coffee
4 tbsps coffee essence
1 tsp cardamom seeds, ground

125g white caster sugar
100ml cream
2 tsps sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g salted butter, softened
110g extra butter
200g icing sugar

What's Cooking Coffee Cake


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20–22cm round cake tin.

2. Place the unsalted butter in a large mixing bowl with the sugar and beat together with a whisk until light and fluffy.

3. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the flour and coffee essence.

4. Pour the cake mixture into the tin and tap the sides to release any air bubbles. Bake in the oven for 35–40 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make the icing.  Heat the caster sugar and 4 tablespoons of water in a saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and cook the caramel for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and slightly thickened. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and stir in the cream and Irish whiskey. Stir in the salt and vanilla and set aside to cool completely. Whisk together the salted butter and icing sugar together for at least 2-3 minutes, then slowly beat in the caramel and set aside.

6. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove to cool completely on a wire rack.

7. Cut horizontally through the centre of the cake. Spread half of the icing on the top of the bottom half of the cake. Place the top half in position and cover with the remaining icing.

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