Tag Archives: mushroom

Mushroom and Lentil Cottage Pie

Mushroom and lentil cottage pie - half eaten!

We’ve had the Vegan round for tea again.

And it’s autumn. Time for comfort food. And mushrooms.

  • 500g mixed white and chestnut mushrooms
  • 20g dried porcini
  • one onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried marjoram
  • a pinch of dried mint
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 250ml rioja
  • 1/2 tbsp plain flour
  • 400g tin of lentils
  • a small sprig of thyme
  • a bay leaf
  • some brandy
  • 1kg potatoes
  • 100ml almond milk
  • a knob of sunflower spread
  • 2 spring onions
  • fresh nutmeg
  • a few splashes of olive oil for frying

Soak the porcini in a pint of boiling water and leave to soak for at least an hour. Chop the spring onions finely and gently heat in the almond milk, then leave to infuse until needed.

Quarter the mushrooms and sauté briskly on a highish heat with a pinch of salt. You may need to do this is batches. When they’ve taken on some colour and are starting to squeak sprinkle with chopped rosemary, add a splash of brandy and tilt the pan to flambé. Let the mushrooms drain on kitchen paper. Next sauté the onions gently, adding the garlic and dried herbs  once the onions have softened. Add the tomato puree and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Return the mushrooms to the pan. Add the wine one glug at a time, allowing each to bubble away before adding the next. Sprinkle in the flour and combine well. Cook for a few minutes more then add the porcini soaking liquor. Chop the soaked porcini finely and tip them in. Add the bay leaf, ketchup, and the sprig of thyme tied up with string. Taste and season. Bring to a simmer and bubble gently for half an hour, until reduced and thickened. After 20 minutes add the lentils. If you have time allow this to cool – it’ll become firm and will be easier to top with your mash.

Boil the potatoes then mash, adding the strained, infused almond milk and sunflower spread. Season well with salt, pepper, and a good grating of nutmeg. Fish out the bay leaf and thyme sprig, and top the pie with the mash. This time I textured the top with the tines of a fork. Sometimes I’ll scallop it with the tip of a palette knife, like the one below. Finish in an oven at 190 degrees C for about half an hour, and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

We ate this with Delia Smith’s caramelised fennel, and some peas, and vegan and carnivore diners alike requested seconds!

Cottage pie with scalloped top

PS – you could add some finely diced carrots and celery once you’ve softened the onions. I – mistakenly – thought our guest didn’t care for either. 

Two Soups

both mushroom, but there’s a gag in there somewhere for fellow Julie Walters fans…

A halved mushroom

My favourite mushroom soup began life as a stuffed cabbage which, as opening gambits go, is going to require more explanation than most.

I’d intended to make Valentine Warner’s spectacular savoy cabbage stuffed with mushrooms, leeks, walnuts and stilton. It’s a vegetarian friendly dish so splendid that you might want to invite your non carnivorous friends over just for an excuse to make the blighter, assuming of course that you eat meat in the first place. As one of my guests on the night in question eschews red meat I was glad of the opportunity. Seriously, even if you don’t try these soups you must try Val’s cabbage.

But it was one of those days. Time had completely run away with me in the kitchen and, even though I’d prepared the mushroom and leek component of the stuffing [PS – you’ll need to do the same], when it came to preparing the cabbage the leaves all split on me. And you can’t make stuffed cabbage with a pile of shredded, tatty leaves.

What was a boy to do? The close [though geographically distant] relatives were starving to death in the other room after a long drive, and were being ‘entertained’ by the Shopkeeper. Food was needed, and fast.

As luck would have it there was double cream in the fridge and some decent vegetable bouillon powder in the cupboard. A good splash of dry sherry went into the mushroom pan and once almost evaporated was joined by half a litre of vegetable stock, 300ml of cream, and a bunch of thyme tied with string. After a few minutes of simmering, a very good dose of seasoning [as I think I’ve said before, cream dishes need plenty of seasoning], and a blitz with a stick blender – hey presto, soup!

NB – if you also need to do this quickly then don’t repeat my mistake and remember to remove the bunch of thyme tied with string before blending. Stick blenders, it turns out, don’t get on well with string [who knew?], and the time spent disentangling it and then passing the soup through a sieve causes further and entirely avoidable delay!

Whilst the above is not really time consuming [especially if you’re not in a flap at the time] what follows is even quicker and easier. I made it one day when working in the shop and with half an hour off to come up with some lunchtime sustenance for three hungry cheesemongers. This will make three decent sized mug-fulls.

  • 125g chestnut mushrooms, diced to your preferred size [mine is chunky, and they will shrink with cooking]
  • Garlic, crushed
  • Rosemary, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 500ml rich chicken stock
  • 3 tbsps double cream
  • Chilli sherry to finish [optional, but highly recommended]

Fry the mushrooms in the oil over a relatively high heat and season with salt and black pepper. Once well coloured add the garlic and rosemary and cook for a couple of minutes more. Add the chicken stock and cream, bring back to the simmer and cook for five minutes. There is less cream here but you will still need to check and adjust the seasoning. Ladle into mugs and top with a splash of chilli sherry*, another marvel from Mr Warner.

*Sorry but I can’t find a recipe for Valentine’s chilli sherry online, and I wouldn’t reproduce it without permission, so if you don’t already have it you’ll need to buy his book.

The Full English Breakfast – On a Stick!

OK, they might sound a tad unconventional at first, but I’m sharing one of my best kept secrets here, and after their first appearance I guarantee that you’ll be asked to make them again [and again…]

A tray full of Full English Breakfast canapes

My “full English breakfast on a stick” was invented over a dozen years ago when I was asked to help cater the 30th birthday party of an old friend. His then partner (now wife) didn’t share his fondness for baked beans and I was tasked with devising a comestible Trojan horse to sneak them into the feast. Deciding that a canapé can cover a multitude of sins I set about hatching my egg and beans plot, and now it’s become my drinks party must have. Besides, if a full English breakfast is such a good hangover cure, surely there must be some preventative benefit to be gained by eating one with your cocktails?

This canapé essentially consists of a ‘fried bread’ crouton with a layer of baked beans, a slice of sausage, a dollop of ketchup and a boiled quails egg. Allow 2 or 3 per guest – once over the initial shock they’ll be back for more.

You will need

  • Sliced white bread [this can be as cheap as you like, but everything else should be the best you can buy]
  • Good pork sausages
  • Olive oil
  • Baked beans [would you use anything other than Heinz?]
  • Tomato ketchup [see above]
  • Quail’s eggs

First grill the sausages and allow to cool. Each will probably yield about 7 or 8 slices around the thickness of a £1 coin. Simmer the baked beans for a few minutes, all the better if a few break up, and allow these to cool too. This thickens the sauce and makes it much easier to perch a few beans on each crouton.

Cut small circles from slices of the bread with a pastry cutter or liqueur glass and slather them with olive oil. You will get between 6 and 9 croutons from each slice depending on the size of the loaf. Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and cook in a 180˚C oven for about 10 minutes until golden and crunchy, but do keep an eye on them – one minute they’re golden brown and the next they’re charcoal! Drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool.

For years I cooked my own quails eggs and laboriously shelled them, which is easier if you roll the egg between your palm and a hard surface to crack the shell, and then peel under a running tap. Now I buy them ready cooked and peeled and suggest you do the same. It saves hours.

Pour some tomato ketchup into a small bowl, arm yourself with a couple of teaspoons and some cocktail sticks, and you’re ready to assemble. First top each crouton with a few beans using a teaspoon. Then balance a sausage slice on each. Next use the other teaspoon to dab on a blob of ketchup. Skewer an egg with a cocktail stick and push the bottom of the stick through the middle of the canapé, squishing the egg into its ketchupy cushion.

And voila, full English breakfast on a stick! Even if it looks slightly daunting at first the whole thing should be taken in one mouthful to be best appreciated. Recently a four year old guest of mine managed it [several times!] so I’m sure you can.

As with most canapés the best way to present these is in repeating rows – they look particularly good on a black slate.

The Shopkeeper has always been egg-averse, which somewhat lessens his enjoyment of this otherwise remarkable morsel. If you find yourself with similarly afflicted guests then a quarter of a mushroom sautéed with garlic and rosemary can stand in for the egg.

Full English Breakfast with Mushroom

Coq au Vin Pie

Puff pastry pie crust decorated with pastry leaves

Half a leftover chicken in the fridge. Half a leftover bottle of red wine in the kitchen [no idea how that happened, must have been a guest]. There are also mushrooms, shallots and bacon lardons in the house. The stage seems set for a Coq au Vin, but I’m in the mood for a pie, so it’s time for the best of both worlds. Anyway, what is a pie if not a casserole in a pastry coat? Or a casserole if not an exhibitionist pie?

More than enough for two

  • 8 shallots
  • 120g button mushrooms
  • 70g pancetta or bacon lardons
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 300ml red wine
  • 50ml brandy
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • A dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 150g leftover chicken, torn and / or diced into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 sheet ready-made puff pastry

Slowly fry the lardons over a low heat until browned.  Turn the heat up a notch and colour the shallots and mushrooms in the fat from the lardons. Add the garlic towards the end and soften without colouring. Pour in the brandy and reduce until almost gone, then do the same with 50ml of the wine. Tip in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Introduce the rest of the wine, the chicken stock, and the Worcestershire sauce, stir well and simmer for around 10 minutes. Then in with the lardons and chicken and give them a couple of minutes to warm through. Check and adjust seasoning.

You can now leave this until needed or go straight to the pie stage, for which…

Top with the puff pastry using any trimmings to make decorations of your choice – whatever I try usually ends up looking like leaves, so I usually go straight for leaves. Brush with beaten egg or milk and pop into a 220 degree oven for 25 minutes. This should give you lovely risen golden pastry but the innards will be piping hot so give it a minute or two to calm down before serving.

Mushroom and Raisin Risotto

Dried Porcini mushrooms soaking to produce the stock

Firstly, a very happy new year to all my readers. For my first post of 2011 I’d like to share a favourite recipe which would be ideal for a twelfth night supper – an antidote to too many treatments of left-over turkey, but still with hints of Christmas from the sherry and the fruit. And the whole thing is oven baked like a Ligurian Arrosto so you won’t need to spend forever stirring at the stove. Perfect for chilly early January.

What began as an old friend from Delia Smith’s winter collection took a new twist one day when I was looking at the photo in the book and thought I saw raisins. Hang on, I thought, why not? The dish is rich with the forest floor earthiness of the mushrooms, salty and savoury with Parmesan, and warmed by the booze – why not add some sweet pearls of fruitiness? Trust me on this one, you’ll be back for more.

For two hungry people

  • 50g raisins
  • 180ml Oloroso sherry [or Amontillado if you prefer]
  • 20g dried porcini
  • 250g chestnut or portobello mushrooms cut into 1 cm dice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 175g canaroli or arborio rice
  • 70g butter
  • At least 150g grated parmesan, plus more to finish if you wish [grated or shaved]*
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

First pour 570ml of boiling water over the dried porcini and leave for a couple of hours. The soaking liquor will provide your stock, so don’t rush it as the longer it soaks the richer it will be. At the same time soak the raisins in the sherry.

Melt the butter and sauté the onions for a few minutes, then add the diced mushrooms. Drain the porcini [reserving the stock liquor], chop, and add to the pan along with the garlic. Allow this mixture to sweat on a low heat for another fifteen minutes, stirring from time to time. As the mushrooms sweat heat the oven to 150˚C and set a shallow dish to warm.

Turn up the heat under the pan, add the rice and stir well to coat with the buttery mushroom juices. After a minute or so pour in the sherry from the raisins and stir for another thirty seconds. Pour in the mushroom stock, the raisins, the salt and pepper and stir thoroughly. Tip everything into the warmed dish and give it twenty minutes in the oven.

Remove from the oven and gently turn everything over with a slotted spoon whilst also incorporating the grated parmesan. Back in the oven for another fifteen minutes, and it’s done. The finished dish will sit happily under a tea towel for a couple of minutes whilst you warm a couple of serving bowls. Top with more parmesan before serving.

*For a strictly vegetarian version try replacing the parmesan with Old Winchester, a British hard cheese from Lyburn Dairy made with vegetarian rennet. Find out more about Lyburn and Old Winchester in my article here.

Old Peculier Casserole

 Old Peculier Casserole

It’s almost twenty five years since I first set foot in the John Peel Inn in Bowness on Windermere. It was only supposed to be for a week’s work, but it would be more than three years before I was to finally leave. I’d say my plans have a habit of turning out this way, but that would be to imply that I’ve ever actually had a plan in the first place. On that first day I’d never even heard of Theakston’s Old Peculier (no, not ‘Peculiar’ but ‘Peculier’), a dark strong ale, let alone drunk a pint of it, or ever dreamed of turning it into a casserole. And there was no way I could have known how much water was to flow under those particular bridges in the years that were to come.

My employers were Michael and Vivian, and I owe them both a debt of gratitude for what they taught and gave to me during those three years. From Michael I learned how to cellar fine traditional ales, and how to approach the bar of any four star hotel with insouciance no matter how many unruly golden retrievers I was wrangling at the time. Whilst Vivian taught me not only how to cook, but how to care about my cooking, and that doing so was no bad thing. I have had reason to be grateful for all of these in varying degrees over the years, and if you’re reading this Michael or Vivian, I thank you.

In the pub kitchen we’d make great batches of Old Peculier Casserole with forty pounds of diced beef and chopped onions measured by the bucketful. A cauldron large enough to accommodate a skinny teenager [‘Mark! Get out of that pan!’] would quietly tremble away all afternoon and anyone passing through the kitchen would know to take the huge wooden spoon and give it a good stir. As I’m working from memory and scaling this down considerably for the benefit of those who are feeding less than 100 I have had to extemporise here and there, but when I made this recently it really didn’t seem a million miles away from the original.

With the catering quantities method there was no opportunity for browning the meat, softening the veg, deglazing the pan, and all the things we’ve become conditioned to think are essential when making a casserole. We simply tossed everything into the pot and allowed the ingredients and the alchemy of long, slow cooking to do their work. So that is what I have tried to recreate here. This would probably work very well in a slow cooker too if you have one. NB this needs to be made at least the day before it is to be eaten.

Feeds two, plus one for lunch the following day

  • 400g chuck steak or other casseroling beef, cut into 1.5cm dice
  • 500ml Theakston’s Old Peculier
  • 400ml beef stock
  • 150ml water
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bouquet garni [preferably thyme, parsley, bay and marjoram]
  • 1 additional bay leaf
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced very thinly
  • around 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with water to thicken

Tip the beef, onion, liquids and herbs into a casserole and slowly bring to a simmer over a low to medium heat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in a 150˚C oven for four hours. Ignore. After the four hours cooking time remove the casserole from the oven and, back on the hob over a low heat, add the cornflour to thicken whilst stirring gently. Remove from the heat, add the mushrooms, and stir well to combine – they will cook as the dish cools. Cool and refrigerate for at least a day, two would be even better, three if you can bear the wait. Serve with a buttered baked potato, and maybe a glass of Old Peculier. Or two.

The Never Ending Fillet!

Mmmm, beef fillet. Luxurious, indulgent, and not something you’d eat every day. Not, that is, unless you’ve been living here for the last few days. What began as a South African braai [or barbecue for the non-Afrikaans speaking] in honour of the world cup host nation has, mercifully given the price of fillet, metamorphosed into a medley of delicious dishes. But let’s start at the beginning…

‘Gemsbok fillet in red wine and soya sauce’ read the recipe, helpfully adding that in the absence of Gemsbok any South African antelope could be used. A trip to my local butchers however failed to turn up a single specie of antelope and the decision was soon taken to replace the prancing prince of the plains with a cow. ‘Enough for six’ I told Mr Armstrong and left with a hefty slab of the finest fillet [c. 1.5 kg] ready to submerge it in what I like to think of as a spa treatment for meat, a deep, dark marinade which the recipe said should be composed of the following:

  • A bottle of Merlot [though I had an open Pinot Noir and used that instead]
  • 125 ml soy sauce
  • 125 ml olive oil
  • A tablespoon of soft brown sugar
  • 5 or 6 crushed garlic cloves
  • A small thumb of grated ginger
  • A small teaspoon of crushed coriander seeds
  • 2 or 3 finely shredded chillies [I left the seeds in despite being told to do otherwise]
  • And without being asked to do so by the recipe I couldn’t resist throwing in a couple of torn and fragrant bay leaves

Despite the South African provenance of the recipe there’s a clearly oriental bent to these aromatics which I have previously combined with red wine, Chinese five spice and honey when cooking duck, but the beef [as I’m sure would have the Gemsbok] appeared very much at home with its new playmates and became a darker ruby red with every turn over the next 8 hours.

Now it would seem from the recipe book [Cape Wine Braai Masters – free with 6 bottles of South African Wine!] that your average South African barbecues roughly three meals per day, but I’m British and with English summers being what they are I probably cook over coals that many times per year, and as such I think I lack the natural confidence with charcoal which comes from the life lived largely outdoors. So the fillet had its prescribed 20 minutes per side on the barbecue, with regular basting, but there was an oven waiting at 200˚C and off it popped for a further 20 minutes in there to be on what we Brits would call ‘the safe side’. Whilst the meat finished and rested I reduced the remaining marinade to a thick sauce which needed only a sparing drizzle over the thickly sliced meat. The result was meltingly tender meat, still rare at the core and with an intensely flavoured outer crust, but without knowing the exact temperature of the charcoal etc I can only suggest using the ‘poke test’ one would apply to a fillet on the grill to check when the meat is cooked to your liking.

The same book contains a great recipe for a simple but splendid tomato salad with mixed varieties of tomatoes [as many as you can find], diced red onion, finely chopped red chillies and basil with a lemony vinaigrette which eats very nicely with the beef on a warm summer evening.

Well received as the fillet was by the braai guests I was left with about half of the meat and a good quantity of the marinade / sauce. Perhaps I should have scaled to quantities to take account of the Sosatie marinated pork chops and the Bobotie spiced chicken [ostrich, it seems, is no easier to come by than Gemsbok]. Ah well, there are worse things to worry about in life than what to do with a hulking great chunk of steak and some intensely fragrant cooking liquors. And despite the summer heat I was inexorably drawn, wherever else I looked, in one direction. The direction — of cottage pie!

EPISODE TWO – THE PIE.

I do have an old fashioned hand cranked mincing machine, inherited from my mother, but it’s suction foot doesn’t suck properly anymore and the laborious job of feeding flesh into its gaping jaws and winding [and winding, and more winding!] the handle whilst trying to keep it in one place is actually nowhere near as much fun as mum made it look. So mincing by hand with a chef’s hatchet seemed the best way forward, first with, then across the grain of the meat. I have seen Chinese chefs do this to raw pork with a cleaver in each hand, but again it’s probably one of those things where a lifetime of practice pays dividends so I took the slow and steady route.

An onion was chopped and sweated, in went some more garlic, then some quartered button mushrooms [for some reason known only to The Shop Keeper we have a fridge FULL of mushrooms] and some finely diced carrot. And was that half a fennel bulb lurking in the salad drawer? Why not.

Next a good squeeze of tomato puree, a dash of umami paste, and a glug of fruity rose [also, ahem, open], which all cooked out for a few minutes more. Then in with the hand minced beef, the remaining marinade / sauce, a good quality tin of chopped tomatoes, and, as it looked a little thick, another good glug of wine. Oh and a couple more bay leaves from the neighbours’ garden. Then it’s simmering time. Gentle simmering that is, we are after all cooking with fillet steak and not boiling brisket.

And having tipped the result into a pie dish more than big enough for two – there’s still enough left over for another day! [see Episode Three]

I always let a cottage or shepherd’s pie filling cool before attempting the topping. The filling become firm when cold and as such it’s far easier to get a nice even coating of mash. And I wanted this mashed potato to be bold enough to hold its own against the richness beneath so added a generous grated handful of full bodied, meatily mature Comte which had somehow managed to squeeze into the fridge amongst all the mushrooms. So, mash on, top swirled with the tines of a fork, brush with melted butter and into the oven until golden on top and bubbling around the edges. At which point allow to the pie to sit and [literally] chill for a few minutes before serving. The taste buds of a scalded tongue would struggle to savour the delicate complexities of your creation.

There is an ongoing debate between The Shop Keeper and I as to the perfect accompaniment for such a pie, that being garden peas or baked beans. On a cold November Monday with an M&S cottage pie I’m quite happy to take the path of least resistance and open a can of Heinz, but for a pie of this refinement nothing less than the king of the greens will suffice. In case you’re wondering, we ate this one with peas.

EPISODE THREE – THE SKY […’s the limit? OK this is a really crap heading but I’m about to write about tortillas and nothing appropriate rhymes with ‘Braai’ and ‘Pie’]

Don’t forget, this beef is amongst other things, a spicy little number – remember all those chillies way back in the original marinade? They’ve mellowed somewhat by now, but they’re still there. And so the last hurrah for this saucy little cow is to be in a meaty tortilla.

This won’t be the traditional chilli filling but I’m looking forward to the rich and slightly spicy mixture wrapped in a warm flour tortilla, and topped with sliced avocado, a tomato, lime and chilli salsa, and a dollop of soured cream. There’s only one thing missing – the cheese. Luckily we didn’t use all of that Comte, and I think it’s about time that this fillet and that particular fromage were reunited…