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mushroom pate on sourdough bread

mushroom pate on sourdough bread

Simple.  Easy to make.  And delicious.  I could quite happily eat this from the bowl until none is left.  But it’s also quite good on fresh sourdough bread or toast.

We used, what is possibly my favourite bread, French Campilou, a sourdough loaf from Barbakan (www.barbakan-deli.co.uk).

French Campilou bread :: Barbakan Deli, Manchester ::

French Campilou bread :: Barbakan Deli, Manchester ::

I am not that good at measuring things out, and for a recipe like this I don’t think you need to be exact. I used a glug of wine, and roughly the right weight of creme fraiche and cream cheese, but just added more to suit how I wanted it to taste. These are the joys of cooking.

Mushroom Pate

Serves 4 -5

1 small onion or 2 medium-sized shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g (or more) fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 tbsp dry white wine
75g creme fraiche
100g cream cheese
large knob of butter
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the onion and garlic and cook until soft.

Add the mushrooms, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat until the juice from the mushrooms has almost gone.

Pour in the glug of wine and cook until its evaporated. Transfer the mushrooms mixture to a bowl and let it cool.

When it has completely cooled, you can blitz it up – a coarse texture is nice. Finally, you stir in the creme fraiche and cream cheese and mix until its all incorporated.

Taste it and adjust the seasoning if needed. At this point you can put it in the fridge for a couple of hours to let it set, or just smear it onto some fresh bread and enjoy!

This recipe is taken and adapted slightly from A Year of Family Recipesby Lesley Wild of Bettys (www.bettys.co.uk).

snowy wintery garden

snowy wintery garden

I won’t be able to post anything for about a week as I’m off to run a week-long residential conference for green space managers!  Very exciting, done a lot of work leading up to this point, and this is what I love to do – organise events. 

I am leaving N and the bunnies to fend for themselves – N left for work this morning with a sleepy reminder to make himself nice dinners while I was gone.  The Co-op and its frozen pizzas are sometimes a temptation too many for a bloke home alone.  Even still, I am tempted to leave him a list of all the lovely bits and pieces that are lying in the fridge and cupboards, and a reminder that pasta is so versatile.

Will be back in a week with a lovely recipe that I can’t wait to make, using the homemade marmalade that I don’t like on toast.  This recipe, however, from one of my best friends, makes marmalade quite delicious – Maria’s Marmalade Gingerbread.  Yum!

purple sprouting broccoli with mustard hollandaise

purple sprouting broccoli with mustard hollandaise

I’m not quite sure where I would be without food at the moment.  It is my little bit of space to escape to, whether it’s lovingly prepared home-cooked food, or the guilty pleasure of frozen pizza comfort food – it’s there for me in a quite, steady way. 

Last night we made a simple but delicious dish of Purple Sprouting Broccoli with a Mustard Holandaise sauce.  It was the first glimmer of those summer dinners which are flung together from a few ingredients but turn out to be to be the most satisfying and memorable.  Amidst the snow storms and freezing temperatures that have descended on us this week, this was my first taste of the new year.

Delicately cooked spears of purple sprouting broccoli smothered in a glossy egg yolk sauce have been a food dream for a couple of weeks now, and one of my favourite recipe books helped my realise this meal.  The recipe was taken – and always it seems in my case, adapted – from the Riverford Farm Cook Book from the people who bring us the Riverford Organics box scheme.  This is a fantastic book for anyone who needs a bit of inspiration for cooking with vegetables, although it does include some meat elements in some of the recipes.  It is truly a celebration of the humble vegetable. 

The recipe, slightly adapted to my just-got-in-from-work-and-not-enough-time needs, is simple – boil the spears of purple sprouting broccoli.  Whip up a hollandaise sauce (a sensible thing to attempt for the first time, I feel, after a long day at work…).  Pile the broccoli on a plate and drizzle over the sauce.  Eat standing up, at the kitchen counter, with a fork (and a knife if you wish).  And don’t forget to mop up any remaining sauce with your finger!

It took my two attempts to make the hollandaise, the first I cooked the egg yolk and lemon juice just slightly too long and it went all lumpy. I am not good at admitting defeat, but it was well worth it to accept it had gone wrong, wash the bowl out and start again. The resulting sauce was beautiful.

Our local box scheme – Northern Harvest (www.northernharvest.co.uk) – supplied the first of the seasons English purple sprouting broccoli, and the eggs were laid by my colleagues hens.  That’s local enough for me!

Purple Sprouting Broccoli with  a Mustard Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 2

200g purple sprouting broccoli, trimmed

For the hollandaise
125g unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
salt and pepper

Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add your broccoli – cook until just tender but still a vibrant green.

In a separate pan, gently melt the butter then remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg yolk and lemon juice in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, just until it starts to thicken. Then start to gradually add the melted butter, a little at a time, whisking it until each amount has been incorporated. This is when the sauce will start to thicken and go glossy.

When you’ve whisked in all the melted butter, you can take it off the heat and stir in the mustard, and season it with salt and pepper.

Drain the broccoli and let if briefly steam dry. Pile onto a plate and drizzle over the hollandaise sauce.

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from the Riverford Farm Cook Book by Guy Watson and Jane Baxter.

Seville orange peel

Seville orange peel

Last week we made our first attempt at homemade marmalade.  I must admit that I am an avid reader of Country Living magazine, and February’s issue had a selection of marmalade recipes.  I personally don’t eat marmalade – probably haven’t even tried it, but like with many things I want to make them even if I don’t take pleasure from eating them.  Perhaps this is my moment to try marmalade!

We did it over a period of an afternoon and two nights as we didn’t have enough time to do it all at once after getting home from work.  I bought a kilo of luscious smelling Seville oranges from an Asian grocers in Chorlton.  After a good hour of careful slicing of the peel – N doesn’t like it too thick – it went into a large pan with water, and a bundle of the pith and pips tied up in muslin (the full recipe is below).  This was then soaked overnight, before being simmered for about two hours until the peel is soft and tender.  Then the muslin bundle is removed and discarded.

soaking the peel

soaking the peel

The sugar – kilos of it – is added to the pan, along with the reserved juice from the oranges.  This is the boiled gently to dissolve the sugar, and then on a hard boil until it thickens and sets when smeared on a cold plate.  It is allowed to cool before making its way into jam jars. 

homemade marmalade

homemade marmalade

This marmalade has quite a deep burnt orange colour from the addition of dark muscovado sugar.  One of my best friends has a fantastic recipe for a ginger cake with marmalade in it – she made it last weekend and its delicious – hopefully I can get the recipe from her and post it on here for everyone to try.

The recipe: Firstly, I would recommend getting some of the equipment out that you will need before you start. A large metal pan - I don’t have a preserving pan, so just used my largest saucepan. A citrus reamer - mine is a great wooden one which gets out as much juice and pith as possible. A square of muslin and a sieve. Some string. A jam funnel - I don’t own one of these, but I wish I did – it’s quite possible to manage without, just expect lots of sticky drips! A ladle and jam jars that have been washed carefully.

Seville orange marmalade

Makes about 2kg – we filled about 10 jars of different sizes

1kg Seville oranges (go for those that are hard and fragrant)
1 lemon
2 litres of water
2kg preserving sugar
200g dark muscovado sugar

Wash and dry the fruit. Cut it into halves or quarters.

Line the sieve with the square of muslin and start to juice all the segments over the sieve. Make sure you scrape the shells out well, dropping into the sieve the pips, the flesh, and the pithy membranes. Country Living’s tip for getting these out is to use a teaspoon to grab a piece of membrance, the rip it out.

Once you have finished juicing, put the peel to one side and tie the muslin up into a bundle. Place the bundle into your large metal pan. Reserve the juice for later.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the peel into thin pieces – or thicker if you prefer. Add all these to pan. Pour in the 2 litres of water and leave to soak overnight.

The next day, bring the pan with the peel, water, and bundle of muslin to the boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 2 hours – the liquid should have reduced by half and the peel should be ‘meltingly tender’.

Making sure you let the mixture cool first, remove the bundle of muslin and squeeze out as much liquid as you can – then discard.

Add the sugar and reserved juice. Slowly bring the mixture to the boil and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, raise the heat and boil hard until you reach setting point – I personally didn’t know what this meant, but a friend had mentioned she tested hers by smearing a bit of it on a cold plate and left it for a few minutes to see if it was starting to set. I used this idea, and it seems to have worked.

Allow the marmalade to cool before stirring, and then pouring into jars – either with a jam funnel for the neat and tidy option, or for sticky fun just use the ladle to scoop it in!

Seville orange marmalade

Seville orange marmalade

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from the February 2009 edition of Country Living magazine.

Winter veg coleslaw

Winter veg coleslaw

For lunch today, I finally made the coleslaw I’ve been wanting to make for the last two weeks.  The two cabbage that I bought, were however bought two weeks ago when I first decided I wanted to try making coleslaw.  I’d stored them in our back porch – which is somewhere between a shabby conservatory, a lean-to, and a boot room – as it’s freezing in there and great when I run out of fridge space.  They probably weren’t as crisp and crunchy as they would have been two weeks ago, but notheless still good.

I finely shredded a small white cabbage and a small red cabbage.  Finely sliced a small red onion, and grated half a giant carrot – probably the size of one normal carrot.  In a bowl I combined a couple of tablespoons of organic mayonnaise, about two teaspoons of whole grain mustard, a little under one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a glug of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a little warm water.  I mixed this all together and added my shredded, sliced and grated veg.  Stir it altogether and you have my version of coleslaw. 

a hearty meal

a hearty meal

What I’ve realised is that you don’t need to think that you need to ‘attempt’ to make coleslaw.  It is in fact, quite simple.  I’m sure you could try lots of different combinations, and with a little bit of tweaking to create the flavours you’re after it would still taste great.  So have a go, it’s the perfect way to eat raw vegetables at this cold and inhospitable time of year.

We ate ours two ways: N served his coleslaw with a minute steak (from Little Heath Farm) and a hunk of Cheese and Sundried Tomato bread (from Barkbakan – this bread is delicious, it is topped with mixture of seeds, one of which is caraway which seems to have the effect of hightening the cheese and tomato flavours); I ate mine with a potato, cheese and leek pastry.

hazelnuts before roasting

hazelnuts before roasting

Last night saw a near disastrous attempt at making biscotti (part of our edible Christmas gifts).  Thankfully it tastes great, but looks shit.  Last Christmas was my first go at making biscotti – and two different types no less (lemon & pistachio and chocolate & hazelnut).  It received rave reviews from family and friends, and I don’t recall it being challenging. 

I should have known it wasn’t going to end well after I split open a bag of sugar all over the worktop, but I shrugged it off telling myself that mess is all part of the fun of cooking.  Then the metal blade in my MagiMix broke.

Things went from bad to worse, when the dough just wasn’t forming into the unctuous just-firm-enough-to-mold it state it should have been.  Even with N attempting to diffuse the situation (I get wound up quite easily in the kitchen when things don’t go right – I’m a bit *understatement* of a perfectionist – I blame it on my dad) and rescue the dough it was looking bleak.

Borage helping me cook

Borage helping me cook

I started imagining my miserable trek to a boutique farm shop or worse still a supermarket to find an alternative for the family members we’d intended to give the biscotti to.  Finally, we (by that I mean N, I am busy sulking in the corner) somewhat salvaged the dough and produced some tasty, but frankly unattractive, oversized biscotti.

The thing is, last year is looked so perfect and beautiful – just how biscotti should look, long and slender with a curvaceous bulge – but we wrapped them up in greaseproof bags tied with coloured raffia.  These were pretty, but you couldn’t see the biscotti.  This year I decided that tall glass jars were the way forward, so that everyone could gaze longingly at their dark chocolately yumminess studded with nuts…

So, as you can see I’m not a happy bunny.  N is trying his best to assure me with the “taste is what matters” line, and my reasonable self agrees – they taste great (what wouldn’t taste great with 300g of the best 70% chocolate?!), but my vain self is unhappy at the prospect of giving them as gifts.

THE biscotti

THE biscotti

To top off the past 24 hours, of all things disastrous: I woke up to discover I had racked up 60p (I rack up a lot) in library fines (one namely a Jamie Oliver book that I have already renewed 9 times!); tipped over an Amarylis bulb showering soil all over the living room; partly wrecked the wrapping of a Christmas present; and on writing this post I realised that I am perhaps the first person to ever write about a cookery cock-up.

In conclusion, I have accepted that I am probably just way too tired, with too many things to do, and too many commitments.  Typing up recipes from my (long-overdue Jamie Oliver library book) this morning I was reading over and over again ‘a handful of thyme’ in the ingredients list.  I realise this is exactly what I need, a handful more of time.

*I will post some pictures of the “ugly” biscotti later*  *Pictures now up – when I have revisited and hopefully perfected this biscotti recipe, I shall post it*

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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