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Creamy mushrooms pasta with cress

I am a huge mushroom fan in all their shapes and sizes.  I have found a way to cook them that I just love – I’ve had too many of those soggy watery mushrooms that I was determined to find a way to make them taste how I like them.

Mushroom pasta with cream cheese sauce

I cook them over a really high heat in a big knob of butter until they release all their juices.  Then I continue to cook them until all the juices disappear, then they start to brown and caramelise a little around the edges.  This is how I like my mushrooms.  Once their like this they are delicious and you can then do all kinds of things to them (aside from eating them just like this) to make different meals.

Mushrooms pasta topped with cress

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A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the National Trust’s Fine Farm Produce Awards in London.  Before the evening event I spent the afternoon wandering around Borough Market – a place I’ve heard lots about, always wanted to go, but have never been.

Here’s what I found…


Loving the window full of pickled onions


I could have bought so much cheese home but I would have been unpopular on the train home!


Beautiful breads but with London prices

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Tonight we had to make something quick as Mr Rigg was heading out for a bike ride with Buddy.  So I made our favourite scrambled eggs on delicious Campanou bread (a French country style loaf) from Barbakan.

I boiled some asparagus, fried mushrooms in butter and added some pretty pink thyme flowers, before lightly frying the asparagus in the mushroom pan to give it a bit of glisten!  All on top of the scrambled eggs and soft bread it was lovely.

Sometimes you just need something simple, quick and tasty to eat in front of the telly.  For me this week it was mushrooms on toast.  Made with mushrooms from Unicorn Grocery and bread from Barbakan.

Where has the week gone?  Not much excitement on the food front to report – but tonight Mr Rigg and I have planned out our meals (in theory!) for the next week.  There’s something deeply satisfying about being grown up and able to write a list of all the things you want to eat and being able to go out, buy the ingredients, and come home and eat those things.

As well as food planning, I’m also longing for a weekend of getting the house ready for Christmas – hopefully a tree can be found and a wreath put up.  Is anyone else starting to decorate for Christmas?

I’m set on making this meal one of my winter staples.  It was so delicious, and not difficult at all to make. 

Somewhere between mushrooms in a cream and wine sauce and a Stroganoff, this is a vegetarian meal full of flavour – I could have quite happily eaten it straight from the pan.

The mushrooms
Clean and cook the mushrooms in a knob of butter – I used a mixture of tiny button mushrooms (from the market) kept whole, and sliced white and chestnut mushrooms.  Cook them until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are tender and starting to go golden.  Season with salt and pepper.

The cream and wine sauce
In a separate pan, melt another knob of butter and soften a finely chopped small onion.  Add about 200ml dry white wine to the pan and let it bubble until it’s reduced by about half.  Then add in about 150ml double cream and stir until the mixture begins to thicken. 

Creating the creamy mushrooms
At this point, simply add the cooked mushrooms to the cream sauce and stir in.  I added a glug of milk to loosen my sauce up a bit and give us more of it.  Once the milk was added, I just allowed it to heat through a thicken a little.  Finally, taste and season, and stir through some chopped parsley if you want.

What to eat it with
We ate our creamy mushrooms with a pile of steaming rice and a crisp seasonal leaf salad, but it would also be delicious on toast.  We also added a naughty sprinkling of grated Raclette cheese – not essentially but delicious.

This past weekend we went to Bath for a weekend away with friends.  On Saturday morning whilst I was waiting for Mr Rigg to arrive by train, I ventured in to the Bath Farmer’s Market – and what treats awaited me!

Incredible veggies – like these pink stripey beetroot and mixed carrots.  I bought a bunch of each.

Wonderful cured meats and sausages – bottom right is pancetta and Coppa, both of which found their way into my shopping bag, along with some Italian pinwheel sausages (back top left). 

Mushrooms of all kinds – I bought a box of those teeny tiny ‘Paris Browns’.

Cheeses of all kinds, including the award winning Bath Soft Cheese – somewhere between a Brie and a Camembert.

This is the lovely oil man, selling rapeseed oil made from his farm’s crops, and also making a selection of delicious dressings.  I usually make all my own salad dressings, but I couldn’t resist a bottle of his creamy Quince and Cider dressing.

The quince lady…well that’s not her real name (a bit more on her soon) selling a selection of beautiful homemade quince products.  Syrups, jellies, sweets and quince paste.

The choice of vegetables available at the farmer’s markets is outstanding.  All farmers markets around the country should have this kind of choice.  Everyone around the country should have access to vegetables like these.  Dark bunches of cavolo nero and pumpkins of all sizes and colours.

The aforementioned flowerpot bread – cheese and herb I think, baked in a terracotta flowerpot to give it that unusual shape.  Also deliciously tasty!

If you ever thought winter vegetables could be boring, here’s a picture to change your mind – amber pumpkins, pinky-purple onions, muddy carrots, fat beetroot, stalks of sprouts, bundles of spinach, dark curly kale, crisp stalks of celery, fresh broccoli, and the wrinkly savoy cabbage or those tinged violet.

And this stall selling their own cheeses, and various cheese products and accompaniments – chutney, cheesecake, soft cheese, and curd tarts.  I bought some of their ewes cheese which was incredibly delicious.

brunch

This is my perfect lazy Saturday (or Sunday!) brunch. 

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Lightly toasted bread smeared with butter.  Crisp salty bacon.  Sweet cherry tomatoes.  Deep earthy mushrooms.  And golden yolked eggs.  Oh, and a big mug of hot chocolate.

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How to create my perfect brunch

For me, creating the perfect brunch is about excellent ingredients and careful planning of how and when you cook each item.

Firstly, turn you oven onto a low heat and pop in two plates to warm.

In one, large cast iron frying pan I start off the bacon first.  Meanwhile, I chopped my mushrooms and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. 

Once the bacon starts to crisp, I add the mushrooms and let them start to cook.  When the bacon is to cooked to your taste, remove and place in the oven.

Move the mushrooms to one side of the pan, drizzle a little olive oil onto the other side of the pan and add the cherry tomatoes – they should sizzle and spit.  Season both the mushrooms and cherry tomatoes with salt and pepper.

Heat another smaller frying pan and add some oil – this will be your egg pan.  As you crack in your eggs and start to fry them, instruct your boyfriend to pop some bread into the toast.

Just before your eggs are ready, remove the warmed plates and bacon from the oven.  Butter your toast, divide the bacon between your plates, slide the fried eggs onto the toast, and spoon over some mushrooms and tomatoes.

Eat!

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My ingredients:

foodmemoriesloire

I thought it was about time that I told you about my lovely food memories from my holidays in the Loire Valley in France.  The Loire is about five hours drive south into France and slightly to the west side.  It hugs ‘The Loire’ a stunning river that is the longest in France.  The part where we stay near Saumur is dotted with chateaux and vineyards, and chalky white buildings.

As a child I used to go to the south of France with my family every May half term, but the Loire is a relatively new discovery and N and I have been twice.  I never thought I would want to return to the same place, what with holidays being so rare and costly, and there being so many places to visit, but last summer we knew that we wanted to go back for a second time.  We ended up in the Loire after I found this pretty little campsite on an internet search – Le Chant D’Oiseau

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Many of our holidays are chosen by beautiful places to stay – we find somewhere that we think “we’d really like to stay there” and then we look at what the areas like, then off we go.  We are now good friends with the English family that run Le Chant D’Oiseau and would highly recommend it if you are looking for a home-away-from-home; a relaxing retreat; or a safe, family-friendly site.  They also have really nice gites if you want a few more luxuries.

N and I camp.  I am currently of the mind that France is the only place I’m really happy to camp, as the weather is pretty much guaranteed to be nice during the summer hols.  A fair weather camper, is me. 

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Going back for a second year meant that we knew quite a few places that we liked, and it was nice to know that we sort of knew our way around a bit.  However, since the first time we went my passion for all things edible has increased so now most of the holiday was based around food – markets, lunch, dinner, local food production etc.  I have to remind myself that it’s N’s holiday too and that he might like to do something other than trek round France looking for a small village that produces poires tapées…

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Poires tapées is a unique way of preparing pears (and apples – pommes tapées) from a village called Rivarennes.  The pears are scalded and peeled before they are cleaned and put into a furnace.  From my understanding, the furnace is there to dry the pears out, not cook them.  A couple of days later the pears are pressed using an unusually wooden device called a ‘platissoire’ that presses them flat, hence the ‘tapées’ part. 

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In Rivarennes we went to a small cottage where they used to make poires tapées and watched a short video on its history, and then got to try some of the products they make with the pears.  We were given a whole pear that had been rehydrated in red wine…blimey it was strong and I only managed to nibble at mine (I’m not a red wine drinker).  Then they gave us these little bowls with diced dry pear – each bowl had a different variety of pear and it was really interesting to taste the differences between the varieties.  My favourite was the funny sounding Queue de Rat.

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So where else did our food travels in the Loire take us…  Well, we fell in love with two pretty towns right on the banks of the Loire – Montsoreau…

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…and Candes-Saint-Martin. 

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We ended up spending a large part of our holiday here, whether it be wandering the quiet streets of Candes-Saint-Martin and dreaming of living in some of the stunning houses, or sitting up on top of the huge hill that overlooked the towns and the Loire with stunning views. 

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Many a cheese and saucisson picnic was eaten in the dappled shade on this hill.

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In Montsoreau we found a popular little cafe that was full of locals and therefore bound to be pretty decent food.  We ate here twice in the end, because the food was honest and tasty, and the waitress was extremely friendly and tolerant of our attempts to order in French (we’re not that bad I don’t think…).  If I remember correctly, I think we ate the same food both times – very adventurous of us, I know.  I had Croque Monsieur (yum, yum, yum) and N finished off a big plate of Steak Frites.  It was some of the best cooked steak he’s ever had, almost mooing on the plate! 

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We also had starters of locally-grown mushrooms in a simple vinaigrette sauce (can’t remember the details of it which is a shame), but it was really good.  There are lots of caves along the banks of the Loire, some were used as dwellings (troglodytes) and others are now used to grow mushrooms in.  Lots of mushrooms.

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We went into the mushroom caves on our first visit to the Loire, which was back in 2006, so I can’t remember the types of mushrooms.  But this is how they grow shitake type mushrooms…

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I’ve realised that on two trips to the Loire there is quite a lot of lovely food experiences to share.  For now I shall leave it here, and will post Part 2 in a couple of days, and I shall tell you about possibly my favourite place to eat ever.  The place I would go back to for my last meal.

Have a great weekend!

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The second asparagus recipe of the season, but one that doesn’t feature asparagus in its naked glory.  Usually I only eat asparagus on its own, with delicious extras that enhance its earthy flavours, so putting it into pasta was a first.  It was delicious, and I would definitely do it again.

Asparagus and mushroom pasta

Serves 2

Pasta (enough for two)
Bundle of asparagus
200g chestnut mushrooms
Spoonful of mascarpone cheese
Handful of grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 180-200°C.

Cook the pasta as you normally would or according to the packet.

Prepare the asparagus by gently bending the stems until they naturally snap – discard the woody stem.  Pour a little olive oil into a roasting dish and add the asparagus.  Add a little salt and pepper and mix well before shoving in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the asparagus is tender.

Meanwhile, roughly chop the mushrooms and heat a knob of butter in a frying pan.  Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook on a high heat until they start to crisp and turn golden.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and return to the pan.  Stir in a spoonful of mascarpone cheese, some salt and pepper, and a little extra virgin olive.  Tip in the cooked mushrooms.  Spoon the pasta onto your warm plates.

Cut the roasted asparagus into pieces – I used a pair of tongs and scissors.  Add the asparagus to the pasta, and top with some grated Parmesan and a drizzle of oil.

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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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