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Stillness

I spent last weekend in Switzerland, and it rained. Mostly. Every day. I attract the bad weather. Jinxed I tell thee. Despite this poor show on the meteorology front, we went to this beautifully peaceful place called Champex-Lac. The stillness. The stunning surroundings. It brought peace. The photos speak for themselves.

I have no recipes for you this week. I did make Heidi Swanson’s Pierce Street Vegetarian Chilli when I was there. It was delicious and the texture was perfect! I’d add some smoked paprika to give it a little more depth. I served it with some potato wedges with melted Gruyère. I’ll be back next week with some new recipes.

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Living by the rules

I love leafing through a brand new cookbook. The smell of the crisp clean pages, the mouth-watering photographs, the unusual combinations, the recipes that challenge your skills and delight your friends. It’s a treat. I read my cookbooks in bed, before going to sleep. Bedtime stories for grown-ups. Grown-ups infatuated with food.

I have a three-recipe rule when using a new cookbook. If the first recipe does not live up to its expectations, it could possibly be down to bad luck or my culinary skills. If the second recipe is below par, then serious questions need to be asked. Everyone has off days, but two recipes from the same book which are not up standard and alarm bells start chiming like Big Ben. Being stubborn, I have to commit to a third. If that fails, I will ruthlessly toss the book aside and let it gather dust, never to be used again. So long baby.

Cook In Boots by Ravinder Bhogal passed the test. With honours. Ignoring the girly fluff within, this is what home cooking is about. Good hearty recipes which always work, taste fantastic and leave you feeling rather contented.

The Portobello Mushroom & Cheddar Crumble is up there, in my comfort food hall of fame, in bright shiny lights. The chunkiness of the mushrooms combined with the spicy tomato sauce and the scrumptious cheddar crumble make this one of my favourite all time vegetarian recipes.

I’ve adapted it because I don’t think there is near enough tomato sauce. I also use wholemeal bread instead of white as I much prefer it. Don’t forget to serve with a nice crisp green salad or if you fancy something a little peppery, try rocket.

Portobello Mushroom & Cheddar Crumble
Adapted from Cook in Boots by Ravinder Bhogal

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
8 portobello mushrooms, peeled and trimmed
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

For the tomato sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp caster sugar
Salt & pepper
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

For the crumble
200g wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
20g Parmesan cheese, grated
50g Cheddar cheese, grated
1 handful torn basil leaves

Method

Preheat oven to 190º.

Prepare the crumble by mixing all the ingredients together. Set aside.

In a frying pan, heat olive oil and cook onion until translucent and soft. Add chopped garlic and chilli and fry for 3 minutes, then add the tomatoes, sugar and season. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes on a low heat. It will thicken, make sure it doesn’t dry out, add a bit of water if so. Finally stir in chopped parsley.

Spread 1/3 to half the tomato sauce in a large ovenproof dish or roasting tin. Then add the mushrooms topped with the sliced garlic, stalk side up. Pour the rest of the sauce over the mushrooms. Cover with the crumble. Drizzle some olive oil on top and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Serves 4.

Take me to the cornfield

Don’t you just love sweetcorn? Corn on the cob gleaming with butter; crunchy, salty, sweet. Or blinis made with fresh corn served with crème fraiche and caviar (or in my case, lumpfish roe). Dreamy. Take me to the cornfield now.

There was such a field near our house when we were kids and we’d spend hours running up and down playing hide and seek. I was recounting the story to John recently and he looked horror-struck. He then said very quietly: ‘Have you not seen the Children of The Corn movie?’. I hadn’t. It has certainly added some edge to my childhood memories. Thank you for that.

Anyway, back to the sweetcorn. I found this recipe in a magazine and immediately took to it, it’s full of fresh healthy ingredients, it has a Mexican vibe to it and you can add cheese for a bit of naughtiness.

Sweetcorn & Courgette Tacos
Loosely based on a recipe in Top Santé magazine

Ingredients
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 fresh corn cobs, kernels cut off
1 green chilli, seeds removed and chopped
2 large courgettes, diced
1 tbsp chopped chervil
1 tbsp chopped mint
Juice of ½ a lime
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Grated cheese (optional)
Taco shells

Method
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the shallots, garlic, sweetcorn, green chilli and courgette. Cook until shallots are translucent and the other ingredients are starting to go golden. This should take about 8-10 minutes.

Add the lime juice, stir, then add the herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange taco shells on plates and carefully spoon in the mixture of vegetables. Sprinkle liberally with grated cheese.

Serves 4 as a light lunch.