Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Wild mushroom tart with lemon and thyme

hedgehog mushroom

Aw how wonderful it is to get away. Last weekend the boyfriend and I headed up to the Cairngorms for some much needed R and R. The boyfriend has been super busy over the summer doing a very intensive art course and last weekend was the first chance we had to get away together. It was nice to get a bit of attention again hehe. We braved the impending autumn, wrapped up warm and set up camp under ancient native Scots pine trees by the side of a little bumbling burn.

some of our mushroom bounty

We took a little walk around Loch an Eilein just as it was beginning to get dusky. It wasn’t long before we came across masses of yummy mushrooms: chanterelles, golden chanterelles, amethyst deceivers, hedgehogs... The boyfriend was super excited to find a perfect specimen of a cep; he was smiling ear to ear. We have been foraging for just over a year now and it’s nice getting to learn more and more; the nuances of each mushroom’s preferred haunt.


Evening came and we headed out for dinner, no mucking around with a camping stove for me. The Old Bridge Inn really does know how to do an exceptional steak, we enjoyed it by the fireside with whisky in hand. It was so lovely to spend some time with the boyfriend, after almost 6 years together we still marvel at how in love we are, I hope we don’t turn into a totally smug settled couple though…

This mushroom tart is great if you have a mixture of wild mushrooms and is quite forgiving if they aren’t in the best nick. If you don’t have any wild mushrooms chestnut mushrooms would work pretty well instead. Having just got back from camping I was in no mood for making my own pastry and bought the readymade variety. I hold my hands up. Guilty as charged your honour. 

wild mushroom tart

Wild mushroom tart with lemon and thyme – adapted from River Cottage Handbook No 1: Mushrooms
Serves 2
Oven preheated to 180°C

250g of all butter puff pastry
25g of butter
½ red onion – very finely chopped
roughly 300g of mixed mushrooms – cleaned and cut into equal sized chunks
2 small cloves of garlic – very finely chopped
breadcrumbs – made from 1 thick slice of white bread
grated zest from ½ a lemon
1 heaped tbsp of grated Parmesan
2 tbsp of chopped flat leaf parsley
couple of sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper to season
1 egg – beaten

Roll out the pastry till it is approx 3 mm thick.
Put the pastry onto a baking tray or into an oven proof frying pan and set aside till later.
Fry off the onion until translucent over a moderately high heat.
Reduce the heat down to medium and add the mushrooms and thyme.
Cook for approx 3-4 minutes till just beginning to soften.
If they are producing a lot of juice, drain this off and continue cooking.
If the pan is looking a little dry add a little more butter.
Add the garlic to the mushrooms and cook for a further couple of minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, Parmesan and parsley to the mushrooms and mix.
Season well to taste.
Add the mushrooms to the pastry, leaving a few centimetres around the edges so that it can puff up nicely.
Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
Bake for approx 20 minutes until the pastry has puffed up and turned a golden brown colour.


Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Jersey Shore

I’ve spent the last week on Jersey visiting my incredible little sister or Wee Skanky as she is affectionately known. It’s been a week of watching Roman Duris movies, drinking disgusting quantities of Pimms and long, late night chats about boys. I had a really great time.

I thought today dear reader, if you don’t mind, I would deviate away from my normal course of writing a recipe and instead give you a quick run down of my holiday culinary highlights. I hope you don’t mind too much.

I wanted to write about where we had eaten because I was so impressed by the quality of all the food I managed to scoff my way through last week. I wouldn’t want you to miss out…

Not remotely bohemian but it is Michelin starred. It’s the best 3 course meal I think I’ve had for under £25 quid.

No photos of the meal in bohemia, I didn't want to do the photo taking thing in there. Make do and mend with one of wee skanky and me instead.

A sweet little cafe on a pretty square in St Malo. It is a wonderful place to sample the famous Breton galette.

Buckwheat galette for breakfast of course

I’ve been fantasising about the welks for a week now. Simple crustacean pleasure and French café culture personified.

Implements of torture?

crab, prawns, 2 different types of oysters. shrimp, periwinkles and wonderful welks

Cheap, super tasty and generally authentic Thai food from an understated beach hut. The beef massaman curry was particularly awesome.

dicq shack - worth every step of our 8 mile walk

massaman curry from dicq shack


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Marrow made tasty

marrow made tasty

I’m sitting writing this entry in my sister’s garden in Jersey, it’s sunny and I am, at long last making use of my stupidly overpriced but trendy sunglasses. So far this year I've only had 3 occasions which would warrant wearing sunglasses and that’s not with out want of trying.

sexy marrow

I’m coming to terms with the fact that summer is on its way out. That warm samphire and crab salad may not happen this year, I might have missed the boat. I’ve been noticing the nights drawing in and that cashmere jumper getting put on every so often. Summer is being slowly pushed out the door but for today at least I’m going to enjoy it. The plan for the afternoon is to take a cycle down to the next village. I have a romantic notion of finding a roadside veg stall and a country pub but perhaps at the back of my mind I’m wondering if that all sounds a little too energetic and maybe I’m best staying here, reading my molecular gastronomy book and drinking gin? Oh the joys of being on one’s jollies.

breadcrumbs - very exciting

I think this recipe, adapted from Mark Hix’s “Seasonal British Food”, is prefect for this time of year; light but cosy. However, my main reason for making this recipe was one of curiosity. Can a marrow really be tasty enough to warrant 2 pages in his lovely book? The short answer is yes.

all ready to go in the oven

Marrow made tasty la Mark Hix –serves 2
Preheat the grill to a high setting

1 moderately sized marrow – halved with seeds removed, each half is then cut into 1-2 cm slices
2 slices of bread turned into breadcrumbs – it can be either brown or white, doesn’t matter
1 medium onion – finely sliced
4 cloves of garlic – finely sliced
4 rashers of bacon or cured ham such as Iberico or a 2 inch chunk of saucisson cut into 0.5-1cm sized cubes
couple of stalks of thyme – leaves stripped from the stem
small handful of flat leave parsley – roughly chopped
vegetable oil for frying
sea salt and pepper to season

Grill the breadcrumbs for a few minutes until crisp and golden, remove from the heat and set aside until later in a large bowl.
In the mean time fry the onions in a pan with oil on a moderately high heat until soft and beginning to get gooey, this should take approx 10 minutes.
Add the bacon or whatever you are using and cook though for a few minutes.
Add the thyme and garlic to this pan and fry for another 2 minutes then add this to the bowl containing the breadcrumbs.
In the same pan that has been used for the onion and bacon add in the marrow, this may need to be done in 2 batches.
The marrow is cooked when the edges have turned golden brown and the flesh is translucent.
Season the marrow well with salt when cooking, taste and adjust as necessary.
Once cooked add the marrow to an ovenproof dish.
Add the parsley to the breadcrumb mixture and pour this on top of the marrow.
Season with salt and pepper.
Grill for about 5 minutes.

Serve with some nice crust bread and a glass of wine (compulsory).



Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Pear and cardamom cake

pear and cardamom cake

I’m trying to let go of my perfectionist tendencies. They aren’t always that helpful. Last week I finished “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamont. She said “they keep us standing back or backing away from life; they keep us from experiencing life in a naked and immediate way”. The challenge was on to drop this bad habit of mine.

I know if I want to write better I have to loosen up a bit. A couple of weeks before reading the book my wonderful friend Nic was over. We were having a cooking afternoon in my flat and she made a savoury loaf cake with feta and olives. She broke all the cardinal cake baking rules. She didn’t sift the flour. Gasp. She didn’t wait for the oven to preheat. Gasp. She opened the door whilst it was cooking. Gasp… Ultimately it was fantastically tasty so all my worrying was in vain. It was a really lovely afternoon.

pear and cardamom

As part of an effort to dampen down my "uptightness" I decided to try a new recipe for a cake idea I had in my brain, tempting me, for the past few months. The said cake was a pear and cardamom sponge. This recipe was taken from the fantastic “Girl Interrupted Eating” blog. This blog is really wonderful; full of lovely seasonal, nose to tail type recipes. This cake recipe is essentially a framework allowing you to adapt your cake to the ingredients you want to add. It seemed to good to be true. What if it didn’t work? What if those ingredients were wasted? What about those starving children in Africa? I need not have worried. The cake was delicious, light and intriguing. Panic over. I’ve just taken a few baby steps. The process to try to put things in perspective is one that will continue. The next challenge is to transfer that principle from the kitchen to the world beyond.

pear and cardamom cake

Pear and cardamom cake - taken from "girl interrupted eating"
Oven preset to 175 degrees, 9-inch spring form cake tin

175g butter at room temperature
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
175g of pear- grated
175g self raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 cardamom seeds ground

Prepare the tin by greasing and dusting the tin with flour.
Mix together the sugar and butter with an electric whisk until smooth.
Add in the eggs and mix.
Stir in the grated pear.
Mix the flour with the bicarbonate of soda and ground cardamom, add this to the mixture and fold in.
Pour into a tin and bake for approx 35 minutes or until golden on top and skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


all gone...on my hips