Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Mushroom hunting part 2: the ubiquitous wild mushroom risotto

One of the laws of physics states that for every glut of foraged chanterelle mushrooms a risotto must be made. Yep it’s predictable but it is perhaps it is predictable because it is just so good, a classic if you will. I think keeping things simple is the best way to show these bad boys off.

In my defence of being boring I thought I would write a list of other potentially boring but ultimately enjoyable/good things –

            Sunday papers
Hong Kong style sweet and sour chicken
Holidays in France
Radio 4
Stacy from “Gavin and Stacy”

Convinced? Perhaps not but here is my recipe for wild mushroom risotto anyways.

Wild mushroom risotto
Serves 4

300g of risotto rice - arborio, vialone and carnaroli all work well.
2 large onions - finely chopped
2-3 stalk of celery - finely chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
a large glass of white wine
1 small pot of chicken stock (about a litre)  - keep on a rolling boil throughout the cooking process
400g of cleaned wild mushrooms - chanterelles, hedgehogs and ceps work particularly well, cut in halves or quarters if particularly large
1 tub of mascarpone, about 225g
50g of parmesan
a handful of coarsely chopped parsley
salt and pepper
olive oil and butter

Pop some olive oil and butter in a pan and over a low heat cook the onions and celery. Let these soften for the best part of 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and continue cooking for another couple of minutes.
Do not let the onion et cetra go brown, the idea is that it is sweet and translucent.
Season with salt.

Turn up the heat a little and add the rice, cook for a minute stirring all the time.
Do no let the rice go brown as this will reduce the amount of starch you can get out of it.
Once the edges of the rice have gone clear add in the wine.
It should sizzle as it hits the pan, keep stirring until 70% or so of the liquid has been absorbed.
Add one ladle of the stock into the rice at a time, stirring fairly continuously until most of the stock is absorbed before adding the next ladleful.
The more elbow work you put into your risotto the more gooey starchy wonderfulness it will release, this will ensure you have a lovely unctuous risotto.

After about 12 minutes of cooking the rice pop the mushrooms into a frying pan with a little oil and some butter.
Cook until golden and slightly crispy.

When the risotto is a minute off being ready add the parsley, mascarpone and Parmesan.
The rice will take about 16-18 minutes to cook, once al dente add in the mushrooms, perhaps saving a few for looking pretty on top.
Season to taste.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Chanterelle pappardelle

chanterelle papparadelle

Life has been very busy recently. I’ve been so caught up with seeing friends I’ve barely had time to sit, think and just be still. It’s been fantastic but by Sunday we both needed to slow it down. Mushroom hunting was the order of the day. We drove away from the city, listening to radio 4 and munching on lemon sherbet sweeties. It was nice just getting to spend a bit of time together.

On reaching the wood we pushed our way through a thicket of nettles and wild raspberries. Once inside it was truly beautiful. Natural, untouched silver birch, pillows of deep sphagnum moss and little shafts of light coming through to hit the forest floor. It was the perfect terroir. It wasn’t the long before we spotted our first chanterelles half hidden away under moss and branches. The ruse of the fallen silver birch leaves often catching us out.

lovely looking chanterelles

We only spent about an hour in the wood but that hour was so restorative. For me there can me few simple pleasures as wonderful as finding your own food especially when it is as tasty as chanterelles. Maybe my enjoyment of foraging is some throwback to some primal instinct but that little bit of time out helped me put a few things in perspective. I felt better.

All our lovely "chanties"

Chanterelle pappardelle – serves 2

150g pappardelle
teaspoon of oil
6 strips of streaky bacon or pancetta
100-300g chanterelles, trimmed and cleaned with the largest ones quartered
2 cloves of garlic, paper like skin still left on
3 sprigs of thyme
30g butter
100ml double cream
handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
½ lemon
sea salt and pepper

Add the oil and bacon to a skillet pan.
Cook until brown and crispy on a moderately high heat.
Remove from the pan and set aside on kitchen paper.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet with plenty of salted water.

You may need to drain some of the oil from the pan. You will only need about 1 tablespoon worth of oil.
Add the chanterelles in small batches to the pan, making sure there is plenty of space between them so that they don’t stew.
Add the garlic and some of the thyme.
If the pan gets too dry add a knob of butter.
Cook the mushrooms until they are pleasantly soft but coloured. This takes a few minutes.
Season with sea salt to taste.
Once each batch is cooked remove the chanterelles from the pan and squeeze a little lemon juice over them and set aside till later.

Once all the mushrooms are cooked add the cream to the pan, give it a good stir to get the flavour-filled bits off the bottom of the pan.
Allow the cream to boil and reduce down so that it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove the garlic and thyme.
Add the bacon and chanterelles to the pan for 1 minute then stir in the parsley and drained pasta.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Roast peaches with Sauternes and lavender

Peaches, Sauternes and lavender - all ready for the oven

Sometime you get it right, sometimes you don’t. I’ve cooked a few blah recipes recently. Namely a disappointing almond sponge cake and a creamy rabbit, leek and mustard stew which frankly freaked me out. I managed to convince myself that it tasted “funny” and couldn't eat it. I think this is due to my nostalgic memories of my childhood pet bunny Shadow (whaaaa). Another culinary low light of late was a full on 3 hour recipe for an authentic Bolognese (made with 3 different types of meat and all). Despite all the effort the boyfriend’s verdict on it was “tastes like mince, as in mince and tatties”. Humph. Just when I was about to hang up my metaphorical apron and go sob into a packet of biscuits I pulled this little number out the bag/oven and all in the world was good again.

Flat peaches

Granted this is a very girly dessert but, without wanting to blow my trumpet, it is pretty interesting. Succulent white peaches, rich, sticky Sauternes syrup and the delicate perfume of the lavender. I think this would go lovely with some goat’s milk ice cream. If you don’t have any lavender you could substitute rosemary or thyme. I nicked the lavender from the flowerbed at the end of my street. My take on the English riots/rampage.


Roast peaches with Sauternes and lavender
Oven set to 175 degrees celsius
Serves 2-4 depending on greediness and volume of ice cream consumed

6 flat peaches or 4 round peaches
20g butter finely chopped
2 tsp of demerara sugar
a glug of Sauternes, (75-100ml)
2 – 3 springs of lavender (ideally use the sprigs that are just beginning to open up)

Half the peaches and remove the stone, add the pieces to an ovenproof dish so that they fit snugly together.
Scatter over the butter and sugar.
Add a glug of the Sauternes so that the peaches are sitting in a Sauternes bath about 1cm deep.
Add the lavender to the Sauternes.
Pop in the oven for about 50 minutes until the peaches are wonderfully soft and the edges are sweet and crispy.


Friday, 12 August 2011

Hello festival/hello lemon, ricotta and poppy seed cake

Lemon, ricotta and poppy seed cake

Well, what can I say; it’s festival time here in Edinburgh again. The world’s largest arts festival is on my doorstep, literally, Boy don’t I know it. The price of a pint has doubled and walking down the road seems busier and more touristy than the face painting stall at Disney Land. The poncho brigade is out in force.

Despite all my dour negativity I am actually hugely excited about this year’s festival mainly owing to the fact that some of my very closest friends back in the city for a little while. It’s nice just to know they are about and not hundreds of miles away in different cities and countries. I feel so lucky to have such awesome pals. It is making me smile just thinking about them and the things we have planned over the next few weeks.

Another benefit of the festival is that in amongst the dross there are some real gem performances out there. Here is a list of the events I’m going to, my Edinburgh Festival 2011 recommendations if you will.

Ben Howard – folksy, finger picky guitar on communion records (08.08.11 – been and gone)

The Animals and Children Took to the Street – 1927 Theatre Company (19.08.11 – 28.08.11). Eerie animation come cabaret come awesomeness. Stylistically and thematically impressive. The guardian describes it as “restrained malevolent tastefulness”.

The World According to Bertie – Andy Jordan Productions (11.08.11 - 29.08.11). This play is adapted from an Alexander McCall Smith book. I know it is going to be amazing as it has one of my amazingly talented friends in it.

Sold – (12.08.11 – 29.08.11). Devised theater based around human trafficking. It is supported by and features the smart graduates from Central School of Speech and Drama where Laurence Olivier and Judy Dench studied.

Andy Parsons - (20.08.11-28.8.11) Comedian with a funny voice.

Part of living in Edinburgh is finding your self extremely popular during the month of August. We have been hosting A LOT this week and have wheeled this cake out on a couple of occasions. This is the best lemon and poppy seed cake recipe I have ever tried. Hand on heart. This cake is wonderfully light, rich but still tart.

Lemon, ricotta and poppy seed cake (adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days)

For the sponge -
190g caster sugar
190g butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs
190g plain flour plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 tbsp poppy seeds
zest of 2 lemons
25 ml milk
80g ricotta

For the lemony syrup –
juice of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar

Preset the oven to 170 degrees C.
Grease a loaf tin with butter and dust with flour.

With an electric whisk cream the sugar and butter together for a few minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one.
In a separate bowl add the flour, salt and baking powder together.
Add a 1/3rd of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir in.
Add a further 1/3rd of the flour to the mixture and stir in.
Add in the milk and stir.
Add the remaining flour and into the mixture and stir.
Add in the zest and ricotta and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the greased loaf tin and cook for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out clean.

While the cake is cooking you can get started on the lemony syrup.
Add the sugar, lemon juice and 100ml of water to a small pan.
On a medium heat bring to the boil and remove from the heat when the syrup has reduced by half.

When the cake is cooked, leave to stand for a good 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cook completely.
Add the syrup whilst the cake is still hot.


Sunday, 7 August 2011

Unexpected pleasures – beluga lentil salad

Beluga lentil salad

I am ashamed to admit it but I am probably a creature of habit. I guess I am just less spontaneous than I once was. Get up, work, walk, diner, shower, sleep. Last week my usual program of events was altered by a train derailment and my evening was all the better for it.

It has got me thinking about how I would like to be more open to the possibilities that are out there every day. Maybe there is so much more I could do? Am I really making the most of my time on this “pale blue dot”? All very scary and metaphysical questions but for me the scariest thought in the world is lying on my death bed wishing I had spent more time being creative, being with friends, seeing the world… instead of watching sh*t TV. Maybe I’m worrying prematurely, I am only 24 after all. Fingers crossed I’ve got a few years left in me yet.

Due to the derailment I had to get off the train a stop early and instead of catching a bus or walking the shortest route back I made the most of the late summer sun by walking along the riverbank. Here are a few photos I took with my phone. I don’t think they really capture the peace and sense of age of the landscape. It has this lovely, forgotten and ancient atmosphere, all very romantic.

Tired feet

I would describe both my walk along the riverbank and this beluga lentil salad as an unexpected pleasure. I’ve always had a rather nonchalant attitude towards lentils, a bit too rough and earthy maybe, but these beluga ones are richer and creamier but still more delicate than their dhal making counterparts. The creaminess is cut through with the vinaigrette and spring onions and the earthy hint is lifted by the freshness of the parsley. Good ol’ Nigel Slater, that boy never puts a foot wrong in my opinion.

Beluga lentil salad served with grilled courgettes and iberico ham - just as Mr Slater suggested

Beluga lentil salad – adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender Volume 1 (highly recommended)
Serves 4 as part of a lunch

For the lentils
200 g of beluga lentils
600 ml chicken or vegetable stock – ideally homemade as commercial stocks will have more salt which can toughen the skin on the lentils

For the dressing
4-5 spring onions – finely chopped
a clove of garlic – crushed
a large handful of flat leaf parsley – roughly chopped
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Have a quick look and rummage through the lentils, sometimes there can be debris in the packet.
Pop the lentils into a sieve and run under cold water for a minute or two until the water is clear.
Add the lentils to a pan of simmering chicken stock.

In the meantime make the vinaigrette by adding the dressing ingredients together and mixing.

Taste the lentils after 10 minutes but they may require up to 15-20 minutes cooking.
The lentils should be tender but still with a little bite when they are ready.
Drain using a sieve and run under cold water for a minute or two.

Put the lentils in a bowl and pour in the dressing and give it a gentle mix until all the lentil are coated.

Season to taste.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Suck it up – Worcester berry and marzipan crumble

Worcester berry and marzipan crumble
I remember being told as a young child, “sometimes we need to do things we don’t necessarily want to do”. Tough love. I think the next few months are going to fall under that heading. I’m just going to have to “suck it up”  (and comfort eat).

An ex-boyfriend once told me my food wasn’t “sexy”. Perhaps he was right but frankly I couldn’t care less, on a good day it is pretty darn tasty. This recipe is a perfect example of that; not sexy but great comfort food.

Worcester berries

I hadn’t come across Worcester berries before last Saturday when I spotted them at the farmer's market. If you are interested they are a cross between a red gooseberry and a blueberry and make excellent jam apparently. If you can’t find them most stone fruit such as plums or berries such as brambles would work well.

Worcester berry crumble filling

Worcester and marzipan crumble
Makes 4 pots
Oven set to 180 degrees c

For the topping –
100g plain flour
80g of butter at room temperature
20g demerara sugar
35g marzipan chopped into ½ cm cubes

For the filling -
600g Worcester berries, topped and tailed
80 - 100g approx of caster sugar

Add the filling ingredients to a pan over a moderate heat.
Maybe add a tiny splash of water if you think it will stick.
Cook for approx 5 minutes or until soft.
Have a taste you may need to add more sugar.

To make the topping add the flour and butter together by rubbing the mixture between your fingers until it resembles rough sand.
Stir in the sugar and half of the marzipan.

To assemble the crumble add some of the filling to a wee pot or ramekin if you are being posh.
You may want to add the fruit and just a little of juice as it would be a bit of a watery crumble if you add the whole of the filling mixture.
Scatter the remaining half of the marzipan onto the filling and then add the topping mix.
To make a crisp crumble make sure the top is completely covered and compress slightly.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until crisp and lovely.

Serve with cream, custard, yogurt or whatever you fancy. Personally I think some elderflower ice cream would be pretty amazing with this.


Worcester berry and marzipan crumble - tucking in