27 January 2014

Celery and Mascarpone Soup with Noilly Prat Mushrooms on Toast

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This was cobbled together for a latish Sunday lunch, when Caroline and I were alone at home. It is an ideal winter dish, rich (perhaps too rich from a weight-watchers point of view) and warming -- and quick to make. 

What you need

  • 1 celery cut into small cubes (save some of the central leaves for garnish)
  • 1 medium sized potato, in small cubes
  • vegetable broth
  • 150-200 ml Mascarpone or fresh cream
  • 1 punnet of button mushrooms, cleaned and cut into thin slices
  • 1 medium to large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 or more cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 roughly thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • salt, pepper, nutmeg, paprika and fresh herbs (thyme, rosmary, sage, flat-leaved parsley)
  • 80 – 100 ml Noilly Prat (or dryish Wermuth, not quite the same though)
  • one slice of toast (Caroline’s whole meal nut bread loaves are best!) per person

What you do

  1. Sauté half the onions in a nob of butter, then add the celery and some garlic, stirring to prevent browning.
  2. When the celery leaves start looking  wilted, add the potatoes and the broth and simmer until all the ingredients are soft.
  3. In the meantime sauté the remaining onions, garlic and the ginger, then add the mushrooms and fry them until they are brown, stirring pretty constantly.
  4. Add the Noilly Prat and reduce, then season to taste with salt, pepper and the rest of the spices.
  5. Add the Mascarpone (or cream) to the celery soup and put in the blender. At this stage you can add a couple of table spoons of the fried mushrooms to the soup as well. (It’s a matter of personal taste how you like the soup. If you want the soup really smooth, strain it after blending; I normally don’t bother, though), season to taste.
  6. Add the herbs to the mushrooms, some celery leaves if you have kept any, and warm again briefly. The mushroom mix should be reasonably dry.   
  7. In each plate, place a slice of toast, heap the mushroom mix on top, garnish with herbs, then ladle the soup around the mushrooms and toast and serve immediately (otherwise the toast will be soggy).

06 January 2014

Chestnut and Buckwheat Pizokel with Veggies

I had these pizokels, a kind of pasta looking a little like crude noodles, in a restaurant near my office, which specialises in the cuisine of the Grison part of Switzerland. Massimo, who runs the place, has connections to the Italian Valtellino, but also to the Valley of Poschiavo in the Grisons. In December I ate at the restaurant with a friend and the speciality of the day was this dish. I loved the slightly sweet taste of the pizokel, and Massimo was so generous as to give me his recipe. 
So here is my take (actually, the topping) on his dish. We had it on Christmas eve and the kids seemed to like it too.
One last thing: the recipe as suggested in the picture makes enough for two very good sized meals for a family of four.

What you need

  • 150 g wheat or spelt flour
  • 150 g buckwheat flour
  • 150 g chestnut flower (or purée , but then you need to adjust the liquid)
  • 300 – 400 ml milk
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 10 g salt
  • a bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1nob of butter for frying
  • one good-sized onion chopped
  • for carnivores, thin slices of streaky bacon, cut into mouth-sized pieces
  • 1 – 2 largish leeks, cut into 1cm slices
  • ½ cabbage (any kind, perhaps except red cabbage), cut into 1cm strips
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (not in the picture) in thin slices
  • 3-4 carrots, sliced
  • 80 ml of white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 200-300 g mature cheese, an Alp cheese preferably, grated

What you do

  1. Mix the flours, milk, eggs and salt into a fairly thick batter (I made it a bit too thin) and beat with a wooden spoon until bubbles rise to the top if you stop beating it.
  2. Add the parsley and leave to sit for about 20 minutes.
  3. Bring a large pot of salt water to the boil.
  4. On a wet chopping board spread some of the batter, which you then cut with a large knife into noodle width and wipe into the boiling water. Traditionally the batter is run over a wet board into boiling water (you can see how this is done very briefly, 1:20 – 1:28 in this video. I was lazy and used a special contraption for making “Spätzli”, which are small dumplings instead of the flat, thickish noodley things)
  5. When the pizokels, come to the top they are done. They are skimmed off and cooled in a sieve with ice-cold water running over them (to keep them firm and allow the excess to be frozen).
  6. Place them in an ovenproof dish, about 3 cm deep. (Add butter flakes if you like and don’t mind the calories…)

  7. In a large frying pan melt the butter, add the onion, the garlic (the bacon now if you are using any) and the vegetables. Stir vigorously as if stir-frying.
  8. Add the wine and a little veggie broth if it looks too dry.
  9. When the vegetables are done to the level of bite you like, distribute them over the pizokels and cover with the grated cheese.
  10. Bake in the oven or under the grill, making sure the pizokels are hot and the cheese is melted.