Archive for ‘Mushrooms’

December 19, 2012

Recipe: Poricini and Cavolo Nero Risotto

Cavolo Nero. How I love it. There are other leaves and, maybe even elsewhere on ETP, I’ve lauded their many charms. But that was then. This is now. It’s December. Midwinter. The nights are cold and dark. Cavolo Nero, black kale, is the leaf for today.

We’ve done greens in risotto before, but I do like the look of this one from the Independent newspaper – with the addition of porcini. What a midweek wintery treat this is.

The recipe? Here.

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September 12, 2012

So September has come and the days are suddenly a little cooler. Summer is gone – what we had of it. But between the rains of June and July and the collective moment of forgetting everyone took through the Olympics and Paralympics, there were some occasional sunny, warm days. Summer did happen. We have the evidence here in the shape of some pictures of a back garden barbecue.

But what do you cook for a vegetarian at a barbecue? Nothing? C’mon! Buy some frozen veggie burgers and heat them through? Ugh. Make them a salad? What, to soak up the beer and wine? Don’t invite them? Jeez.

It’s a shame that more people don’t realise how much can cooked on a barbecue. Grilling vegetables, fruit and even cheese is simple – much easier than cooking meat, from what I gather from watching others – and is pretty much a surefire way of welcoming non carnivores to the party.

My theory is that a barbecue involves two things: smoke and good quality ingredients – ones that you’d enjoy eating if they were cooked in another way. Simple.

For us at ETP Towers, that means grilling skewers of mixed vegetables over charcoal. Try florets of cauliflower, peppers, cherry tomatoes, artichoke and beetroot. Mix the veg with cubes of halloumi and fruit – my favourite, mango, or even a strawberry. We also grill flat mushrooms, strips of aubergine and courgette and, of course, corn on the cob, par-boiled for a few minutes first.

For a marinade we often use a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a herb – thyme maybe, or rosemary – and chilli maybe, too.

Ella’s fab veggie burgers, here, would also go down a treat.

There are more spectacular things to barbecue – aubergine rolls with all kinds of fillings, chilli polenta slices, for example – but some of the above is so easy, so quick, that the question of what to feed a vegetarian at a barbecue should never need be asked again.

February 8, 2012

Last night’s dinner: Mushroom, chestnut and cavolo nero casserole

Casserole? Well, you could call it a stew. I was intending to cook this (mostly) in the oven, as you should with a casserole, but I didn’t. I was hungry. I cooked it on the hob. It was quicker. It was still good. There.

First, in a deep, wide saucepan or frying pan I fried a sliced onion in a little olive oil until it softened. I then added three sticks of celery, cut into 1-inch pieces. Then I added lots of mushrooms – a supermarket tub each of button, chestnut and oyster varieties, the larger ones being halved or even quartered. Don’t try and get them all the same size however; it’s nice to have them varied. Cook the mushrooms on a medium heat for 15 minutes while they release heir juices and then soak them back up again.

As the mushrooms are cooking, boil a cupful of green lentils (not Puy) until tender in a small pan of vegetable stock, with a bay leaf. When they have finished cooking, drain, removing the bay leaf, but retaining a little of the stock.

Now, take 150g or so of vacuum-packed or tinned, cooked chestnuts and chop them coarsely. Add to the mushroom mixture. Then add the lentils. Then pour in 100ml of sour cream and stir well. If the mixture could do with a little more liquid, top up with any reserved stock.

From here you can continue to cook on the hob for another 15 minutes. While you’re doing so, blanche a few handfuls of cavolo nero or savoy cabbage in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain immediately and rinse under cold water.

When the mushrooms finish cooking, add the cavolo nero and another 100ml of sour cream. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes. Before serving, add a handful of chopped chives and a handful of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley.

Serve with crusty bread and, if you like, an extra dollop of cream.

January 29, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Greens and Noodles with Citrus Broth

We have already documented our feelings about Nigel Slater’s TV series and, judging by the amount of people who find themselves reading this blog after searching for the words ‘Nigel Slater creepy’, then many of you are of a similar opinion. Poor soul.

He doesn’t always help himself, however. In a recent Guardian newspaper feature he advocated using fresh, lighter flavours to accompany an Asian-inflenced dish of greens, instead of ‘the dark, almost sinister spicing of the past’.

‘Sinister’? What, cumin? Ginger? C’mon Nige. Did you a recipe backwards and find some hidden meaning in it?

Well, it didn’t stop us from trying his suggestion, although we pimped the recipe by leaving out the fish sauce, adding a dessert spoon of tamarind paste and throwing in some oyster mushrooms and rice noodles for four minutes at the end to make a more substantial stew. And very nice it was too. Fiery, fresh and fragrant. And definitely not sinister in any way.

Nigel’s recipe is here.

January 23, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Bun Xa

Ah, I see you’re looking at the bun xa! Or perhaps that’s bunh xao, ben xao, benh xa or other variations of western spelling I’ve come across.

Bun xa is Ella’s favourite Vietnamese dish. Noodles, basically. Rice noodles. And in our case with a topping of fried tofu and salad, with a chilli dressing. It’s a dish that depends on both ‘mouth-feel’ and your nostrils: by which I mean that it should provide a range of textures in your mouth – not just mush – and both a blast of chilli and some fresh, subtle fragrance up your nose! Yep, it’s all about balance.

We’ve been making this dish for a couple of years, attempting to recreate the delightful version found in a favourite Vietnamese place on Kingsland Road, East London. But we’ve never managed to get it quite right… until now.

The difference this time? Sourcing ingredients from a local Asian food store, rather than trusting our supermarket’s ubiquitous brands. D’oh. Seriously, getting better quality tofu, authentic rice noodles, plus soy and rice wine vinegar – in place of the usual Blue Dragon, Amoy and Cauldron brands – really made a difference. The noodles didn’t turn to slop, the tofu crisped up nicely and the seasoning was deeper and more rounded.

So, how do you make it?

First, chop some firm tofu into bite-sized (finger-sized) pieces and fry in a single layer in a wide pan in a couple of tablespoons of sunflower and sesame oil. Add a little soy sauce to the pan as well, but don’t overdo it. (Or marinate your tofu first, if you give yourself enough time). Cook the tofu gently, turning occasionally, until the tofu is golden on all sides. You can set this aside and reheat later if you need to.

While the tofu cooks, get that dressing done: chop a couple of cloves of fresh garlic, a couple of chillis (ahem, or more, y’know, perhaps) and add them to a small bowl. To the bowl then add a large splash of dark soy sauce and generous glug of rice wine vinegar. Next stir in a teaspoon of castor sugar until it dissolves. Taste. It should be fiery, sharp, fragrant and with a touch of sweetness. Remember, it won’t be this hot when it’s poured over your food. Make it as bold as you dare.

The rest is even easier. Plunge your fine rice noodles into a pan of boiling water, take off the heat and leave for around three minutes. Drain immediately then add a splash of soy sauce and a generous splash of rice wine vinegar to season them. Try and coat them well. Set aside with the lid covering them.

Quickly fry some button mushrooms, halved if they’re on the large side, then add them to the tofu pan. Shred some iceberg lettuce, finely slice two spring onions and coarsely chop some fresh coriander leaves.

Now assemble. In the bottom of your bowl place a portion of the noodles. On top of that comes the tofu and mushrooms. On top of that the ‘salad’ of lettuce, onion and herbs. Then, if you can get them in your Asian grocers, sprinkle some fried shallot flakes over the dish (we really find these add a savoury depth that’s very complementary – and yes, we’ve tried making the flakes at home but they tend to remain slightly greasy and wet whereas these are dry). Serve and let people pour the dressing over the top of the dish.

Some variations could include bean sprouts or shredded carrot in the salad. The main thing is that it is light and fresh. Chopped toasted peanuts could also be sprinkled over, as well as, or in place of, the dried shallot flakes.

Get the balance right and this is as fragrant and moreish a dish as you’ll ever have. If it was music you’d be wowed by it hitting every note on the scale. If it’s greasy, heavy or bland – and if there isn’t enough chilli, then something has gone wrong.

Practise this. It’s a tool for life. Honest.

January 10, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Ella’s Shepherdess Pie

Well, it might have been last night’s dinner; it certainly was recently and no doubt it soon will be again. When winter is here, a plate of filling, hot comfort food is a must. Ella’s go-to recipe is this Shepherdess Pie, which our friend over at rather non-veggie The Chilli Source site might call “a plate of sense”.

Sherpherdess Pie? A Shepherd’s Pie without the meat, of course. Over the years we’ve tried many savoury vegetarian options under the pillow of mashed potato and I think Ella’s recipe with Puy lentils is the best.

First, bring a pan of water or, preferably, vegetable stock to the boil and simmer enough Puy lentils to make a inch-deep layer in your oven dish/pie tin when cooked (they’ll take around 20-30 minutes and should retain a little nutty bite). As they’re simmering, finely chop a large onion and fry it in a little olive oil for 10 minutes.

Along with onion, we like to pimp the savouriness of the lentil base by adding a little bit of vegetable variation. So, dice a carrot, or a red pepper, or some button mushrooms – or all three and, like the onion, lightly fry in olive oil for 10 minutes.

Actually, you have some options here: the veg can be fried separately as above (best), or added in with the onion (okay) or you can even skip the frying bit and dump it in with the simmering lentils (lazy). They will all work, but the first option will provide the greatest differentiation between flavours.

When the lentils and veg are cooked, drain the lentils and mix them all together in the pan before spreading into the oven dish. Set aside.

Now for the mash. Do I need to explain mash? I hope not. But keep don’t make it too soggy or buttery – this isn’t a Michelin-star-abused side-dish.

Spread the mash over the lentil base and rough up the top slightly with a fork. Bake in the oven at 190 degrees for 40 minutes and, if you like, grate some Cheddar or Gruyere cheese over the top before returning to the oven for a final 10 minutes. The trick is to get a crisp, almost crusty top to the potato. It’s a texture thing.

Serve with seasonal greens.

December 7, 2011

Recipe: Angela Hartnett’s wild mushrooms and fried egg on toast

We know Angela Hartnett can do posh nosh, but it’s rather nice when she does cheap and cheerful too. Good ingredients are probably key with her breakfast/brunch/snack/litebite plate of mushrooms, eggs and bread. And there’s nothing exceptional about her recipe, published in the Guardian newspaper today… except that it makes me want to eat it. Now.

It’s here.

November 12, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Baked mushrooms with parsnip mash and onion jam

The title of this recipe almost does the job of explaining the recipe – it’s that simple.

Onion jam, or onion marmalade, or onion sauce, as you prefer – cook some thinly sliced red onions for longer than normal, say 20 minutes, with some red wine vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of caster sugar. They need to be soft, sweet, caramelised.

The parsnip mash is actually a mix of mashed potato and parsnip (ie, a slightly more interesting mash. Make it as you’d make normal mashed potato. One tip though, cut the core from the parsnips before boiling – they can be a bit stringy. No one wants stringy mash.

And the mushrooms? Make a little herb butter by mixing some chopped thyme leaves into some softish butter. Oregano or marjoram will also work. Spread the butter over the underside of some field mushrooms. Bake the mushrooms, butter side up, in the oven at 190 degrees for around 10 minutes.

Told you it was easy. Great plate of comfort food though.

October 5, 2011

Tuesday-night suppers – the stir fry

I’ve mentioned previously that many of the dishes we post in the ‘Last Night’s Dinner’ section of this blog are the interesting ones – the ones that make use of gorgeous seasonal ingredients, or that make a pretty picture on the plate, or are worked up to some extent: a weekend meal rather than a Tuesday-night supper.

But that’s only half true. Our cooking at ETP towers varies little from weekday to weekend, mainly because at the moment yours truly doesn’t quite work a standard Monday to Friday 9 to 5 week. It’s also because even after a busy day’s work we enjoy a little kitchen prep and cooking as a way to relax. Why completely give that up during the week if you can help it?

That’s a privileged position, however, and there are times of course when you don’t want to think about cooking; when easy fall-backs become a practical necessity. For some people that’s once a week, for others almost every evening.

At these times we often resort to one-pot cooking to create a big bowl of health – for example our own signature dishes of butter beans, greens and peppers in a spicy tomato sauce, or spicy ‘Spanish’ chickpeas (recipes we may reveal in the fullness of time). This is basic stuff: take a big pot, fry an onion, add in some veg, chuck in some tomatoes, add spices, top with water and leave to simmer down. A hob-cooked stew, by any other name. You hardly have to think about making these and they’re so difficult to ruin.

I’ve heard that many carnivores resort to Spaghetti Bolognese and stir fries for a quick weekday meal. Well, we don’t eat much pasta here, but a stir fry, such as the one pictured, does hit the mark. The beauty is that we don’t have to think too much about how to cook the ingredients. Simple innit? But is a good stir fry as basic as one-pot cooking?

Well, it can be: if you use straight-to-wok noodles and throw all the veg in at the same time. Typically, however, and without wishing to turn a simple stir fry into a culinary challenge, I do now think a little extra effort can help.

Take the tofu in our Stir-fried tofu with broccoli, mushrooms and rice (above). Throwing chunks of even a firm tofu straight into the wok with the other veg will cause it to break up into a mush. Much better to fry it separately first for 5 minutes each side, then add it to the wok at the last minute. And the broccoli? To avoid tough stems it’s much better to steam it for 5 minutes before it hits the wok, too. So that’s two extra pans, but not a lot of extra thought. And it really does mean your stir fry will be a much more enjoyable Tuesday-night supper.

August 16, 2011

Recipe: Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad

Yes, you read right. We were looking for a quick pasta and courgette dish, given my earlier comments regarding the abundance of those deep green, erm, truncheons at this time of year. First up on the internet came a recipe from our old friend Yotam Ottolenghi, although from a not very local source, namely the New York Times.

The recipe, which in a British translation is for Penne with Courgette and Mozzarella, is here and very good it looks too.