Some other recent gastronomic endeavours

I've had a couple more Ottolenghi moments recently. The above was a starter from his new book, Plenty. It consists of slices of butternut squash, covered with olive oil, cardamom and allspice and roasted until soft, and then sprinkled with lime juice, lime slices, and a lime, tahini and yoghurt dressing. Sounds a bizarre combination, but it does work, and is indeed a very refreshing way to start a meal, as Yotam himself remarks.
Another effort was the following Moroccan carrot salad:

To be honest, I wasn't a fan, but this is more down to my own silly mistakes - I undercooked the carrots, used an entire teaspoon of ground cloves when the recipe stated an eighth (I accidentally tipped the box and it all fell out into the pan), which gave it a horribly medicinal taste, and although I only used two crushed garlic cloves where he suggests three, the whole thing tasted horribly of overpowering, bitter, raw garlic. I don't like raw garlic in dishes...should probably have remembered this and cooked it first. It was OK, though, with some coriander and feta cheese...but I am glad I made it just for myself and not for guests! To be fair, I was trying to juggle this and baking two different types of biscuit at the same time, which probably meant I didn't give it the loving care it deserved.

A risotto: I haven't made one for a long time, and was having a bit of a craving at the weekend, so decided to make one for Jon, who - shockingly - has never had risotto. Clearly the pressure was on to make it a good one. He balked at the price of dried porcini mushrooms, though I insisted that they make the final dish so much better and I swear by them, so instead I just used normal mushrooms, sauteed until their watery juices had evaporated, with lots of fresh thyme. I then put in onion and garlic, sauteed it until soft, added the rice, some butter, a splash of wine, and the stock (chicken) a bit at a time. I stirred in some creme fraiche at the end, which I don't normally do, but it brought the whole thing together and was lovely. I fried some chopped bacon until crispy, and stirred it in right at the end so it retained its crunch. Finally, lots more fresh thyme and some black pepper went in, along with some dried parsley. Truly delicious, though normally I would soak some porcini in hot water, chop them up and add them halfway through cooking, using the soaking water as well as stock. Not that this needed improving - it had a really wonderful depth of flavour. I normally use fresh parsley, but fresh thyme was definitely a better idea.