Friday, 9 September 2011

The magic of Mushrooms

I have that memory, the one where I'm 7, in my pink wellies and Kylie Minogue t-shirt, and I'm with my dad in a field and we've 8 Arena bags filled with field mushrooms. It was late summer 1988 and the mushroom wealth was never to be repeated. We had grilled mushrooms with every meal, and boy did we savour them. But there was such a glut that year that my mam made mushroom ketchup, and I can still taste it's intense mushroomyness. She made about 30 bottles, and gave them out as gifts. We retained a few ourselves, and had them for a couple of years (they only got better) It was so concentrated and delicious and what I'd give to have a bottle in my press today. I will call on my mothers recipe if such a monster crop presents itself in the future.

I know there are people out there who are repulsed by the humble shroom, but for everyone else, I've outlined three tasty mushroom recipes that give the noble fungi the royal treatment it deserves. 

Mushroom soup

500g mushrooms, chopped 
(field are best, otherwise, try flat capped)

100g onions, chopped

I clove of garlic, crushed

1oz butter

1 oz flour

1 pint of chicken or veg stock

1 pint of milk 

sprig of fresh thyme (you know at this stage thyme is my 
favourite herb, but honestly, it's made for mushrooms)

1 bay leaf

squeeze of lemon 

salt & Pepper

Cream, fresh thyme leaves and truffle oil to garnish

Melt the butter in a heavy pan, and fry the garlic and onions on a low heat until translucent. Turn up the heat and add the mushrooms, thyme and bay leaf and cook for 5 minutes. Add in the flour and stir to make a roux. Keep this stirred for a couple of minutes. (This gets rid of the raw flour flavour) Add in the milk and stock and keep stirring until thickened. You could adjust the ratio of milk to stock. I actually prefer no milk, and all stock, but it's a matter of preference. Blitz with a hand blender if you like a smooth finish. Season to your liking and drizzle with truffle oil, fresh thyme leaves and a little cream. This freezes very well.

Roasted courgette & Mushroom Risotto
Risotto is always something I thought was a painstaking task, but I actually love cooking it now, it's very therapeutic and pretty much foolproof. I cannot stress how fantastic the combo of the roasted courgettes was with the mushrooms. It totally worked. mmmmmm...think I'll do a Nigella on it and have some leftovers. 

4 courgettes, halved length ways, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

a few basil leaves

300g of wild mushroom mix 
(or dried porcini-follow packet instruction)

1 tablespoon of Olive oil

2 Oz butter

2 shallots, finely diced

300g arborio rice, rinsed

small glass of white wine

If Marco Pierre likes them, so do I
pint of veg stock (the knorr jelly stock cubes are in fact, perfect, I make stock occasionally, but life is too short)

3-4 tablespoons of decent Parmesan, grated.

Mushroom & Courgette was a surprisingly
fab combo.

First, put the courgette topped with oil, lemon juice, garlic and basil into a preheated oven (200 degrees C) bake for about 40 mins until soft

For the risotto, melt the butter in the heavy saucepan and add a splash of olive oil.  Gently saute the shallots until translucent. Turn up the heat, add in the rice and coat in the buttery shallots for a minute or two, until the rice is completely coated.  Add in the wine and KEEP stirring. (this is the therapeutic part) add in the stock, a ladle at a time, allowing it to absorb until adding the next ladle. Continue this until all the stock is used (add more water if needs be) The consistency should be creamy and the rice should be nicely andante. 

In a frying pan, heat a glug of olive oil and add the mushrooms when the pan is hot. Cook for four or five minutes until golden brown. Toss them into the risotto along with the Parmesan, chop the courgette and add these also. Season to your liking.

Stuffed Mushrooms 
with slow roasted tomatoes, basil, honey Goats cheese, wrapped in bacon.

I slow roasted some tomatoes during the week (70 degrees oven, 6 hours, garlic,olive oil, seasoning) and their seductive sweetness had to be celebrated with some of my favourite ingredients. These were awesome.

Layer slices of the slow roasted tomatoes into the mushroom, basil, and goats cheese and wrap with one slice of streaky bacon. Roast in a preheated oven (200 Degrees C) for about 20 minutes or until the bacon starts to crisp. Serve with a balsamic reduction and tossed baby salad.

Am, I think I've eaten my weight in mushrooms today. Good luck!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

After reading my new blog, a good friend of mine asked for some help with throwing her very own dinner party...Here’s the spiel, take note, it might be your turn next.

Look, I won’t harp on about the big R, but needless to say everyone is looking for social outlets that don’t cost the earth, or in my case, anything. I will however make the exception for food. The real joy of food is sharing it. And what better way to share it than throwing a dinner party. 

This is me with some of my friends as a recent dinner party.
They were well spoilt


For the Diners:

Dress up! Look the part, your host has made an huge effort, so show your gratitude by dressing as if you were heading out to a restaurant.

Bring more booze than you intend on consuming. Tis only fair, as you’ll probably drink more than you intend anyway.

It's good manners not to pick up your fork until the host is ready to pick up theirs, unless they tell you to belt on.

Providing the feast in question is worthy, give compliments

Pretend to help to clean up, even if it’s to bring in your plate. You don’t want to be seen to have too good a time whilst your host is breaking a sweat.

Make an effort to impress your guests

For the Host:

Plan your meal well in advance, if you’ve not cooked your dish before, give it a trial run and give yourself plenty of time on the day.

Don’t cook out of your depth. If you are used to having six pots on the go and can time everything perfectly, great! If not, choose a one pot dish that you can prepare in advance or at least can be assembled with relative ease at the last mintue.

Take time to dress your table and do it well. Polish your cutlery and your glasses in hot soapy water. (a dash of Vinegar brings them up super)

Make sure the bathroom that your guests will be using is inviting, clean and spa like. This can easily be achieved by rolling up a few facecloths and leaving them by the sink, lighting some candles or burn insence.

Make sure you are well presented and greet your guests like they are ultimate VIPs.

Enjoy yourself, soak up the inevitable compliements and don’t get too drunk.

from Russia with love
I’ll give a recipe for a virgin dinner party thrower and in time I’ll accomodate someone who’s had a few notches on their aga.

Beef Stroganoff

This is a crowd pleaser, and super duper easy. You could possibly have everything cooked in advance and keep it warm on a low heat, but it would be just as easy to have the ingredients prepared and cook when your guests arrive.
Serves 6-8

Splash of olive oil

700g of fillet beed cut into strips (this is pricy, I really think sirloin can be acceptable here, just bash it between two sheets of cling firm first)

2 boxes of wild mushrooms (you could use regular ones but this is to up your dinner party game)

2 shallots, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic crushed

2 heaped teapsoons of dijon mustard

2 heaped teaspoons of smoked paprika.

Zest of a lemon

a glug of brandy

fresh thyme (most recipes use parsley but the thyme is a wonderful compliment to the wild mushrooms.

one pint of cream, add in the juice of a lemon to instantly sour it. (‘sour’ cream is expensive!)


So get a good big wok or heavy based saucepan. Ad your garlic and chopped shallots. Cook on the tiniest heat, stirring occasionally so they don’t catch. Do this for about 5 mintues until the are completley translucent. Up the heat to full wack. Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the beef, mustard, smoked paprika and lemon zest and cook on a hight head until nicely browned, but still pink in the middle. Add brandy and reduce. Stir in cream and bring to a simmer, turn down to a low heat and allow to simmer until the sauce slighty thickens. Add fresh thyme leaves at the last minute for a fragrent finish. Season to your liking.

Serve with boiled rice, tossed salsd and crusty bread.

Ps: it might be no harm to have clean sexy underwear in your drawers just in case your guests think it’s customary to have an ole root.....

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Spaghetti Bolognese; It'll get more exciting, I promise!!

You gotta try something before you decide
 you don't like it. Aw I ruined the ending
I kind of feel I've got to go through all the basic recipes that I use all the time first. Then I promise I'll be challenging and exciting and probably fatter. Spag Bol. "Boring" I hear you say. But look, I still from time to time google a spag bol recipe, just to see how everyone else does it. I actually haven't a clue if my recipe is authentic or not, but it's mine and I like it. Mothers have discovered it's a great way to camouflage be honest, I'm not a great veg eater my self so the camouflage is as much for me as for my four year old.....

Let kids get involved

Speaking of picky eaters, my four yr old boy TJ despises mushrooms. But I always put them in. That's not being a bad mother....Jeanie mackers, what kind of life will he have if he won't eat mushrooms. He'll come around eventually. I even went out and bought 'Green Eggs & Ham' to drill home that you can't decide on something unless you try it. I'm 30 and only embraced Horseradish sauce last year. Now I totally get it.

Spaghetti Bolognese,
a favourite in everyone's house. Here's mine:

Contrary to popular
belief, plonk is not
 acceptable to use
 when cooking
Glug of olive oil
500g best quality round mince
1 large onion, finely diced
2 fat cloves of garlic crushed
1 carrot, grated
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
half a courgette, chopped
a handful of mushrooms, chopped
2 or three slices of streaky bacon if you have it, chopped
One large glass of red wine, minus a sup
2 tins of tomatoes, chopped (try and stay clear of the 'value' brands...they are insipid in colour & flavour)
2 generous table spoons of homemade pesto (coz you've made that, right?)

I like to fry my mince (and bacon if you want) first in a hot pan heated with the oil. I love that nutty flavour when the mince is sealed. Once you get that nutty crust, turn heat down and add the veg. (again, I almost always would use my magimix here, I'd prob do at least double the recipe for batch freezing)

Undercover Vegetables...

Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables soften completely, add in the wine and cook on a high heat until the alcohol has burned off. Add in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer Turn down to lowest possible heat and let simmer for about 45 mins. I know some recipes let simmer for 2 hours or so, but my personal choice is I don't like to reduce the bejaysus out of it. That's me. Finish with the pesto and season to your liking. Top with lots of grated Parmesan and serve with spaghetti and garlic bread and bibs.
The one and only, Spaghetti Bolognese