09 October 2016

Mushroom Stew, Stifatho inspired

This is not exactly a fast dish, but one well worth the effort. I found a number of Greek stifatho recipes that use meat, beef, rabbit, hare, etc, but the suggestions to use mushrooms came from a cookery book with Middle Eastern vegetarian dishes although that version was not quite as daring on the spices front, leaving them out except for salt and pepper and substituting sugar for honey. In some recipes there is also the suggestion to use orange zest (to be removed before serving). Sadly, I didn’t have any oranges, but my sense of imagined taste tells me that it would seem well worth the effort. Like all stews it tastes just as good or even better warmed up, so it is a good bet for guests as you can do it in advance.   

What you need

  • 500 gr mushrooms of various kinds (I used button mushrooms and chanterelles) cut into mouth-sized pieces (smaller if mouth sizes are big…)
  • 500 gr shallots or small onions peeled
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 5-8 cloves of garlic
  • 5-7 cm cinnamon stick
  • 6 tbsp good vinegar
  • 150 ml red wine (we didn’t because of our Afghan guest and friend)
  • 1-2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1-2 tsp cumin powder
  • 5 cloves or a 1 tsp of clove powder
  • 400 g diced tomatoes, passata or tinned (not pictured)
  • 1-2 good tbsp. tomato purée
  • 1 medium tbsp honey
  • dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

What you do

  1. Fry the mushrooms in olive oil till they take colour, season with part of the garlic crushed, salt and pepper.
  2. Add the pepper and continue to sauté until the desired level of tenderness in the pepper is reached. Put aside for adding to the stew later unless you don’t mind limp mushrooms and pepper.
  3. Sauté the shallots/onions in generous olive oil until they begin to brown, then add the remaining cloves of garlic, whole or halfed.(about 10 mins).
  4. Add the spices and stir until they begin to brown as well. (Sorry about the picture quality)
    At this point you can stir in the mushrooms and the pepper. (alternatively see last point)
  5. Pour in the vinegar and wine, if using, otherwise add a little water and the honey.
  6. Add the tomato and the tomato paste, the oregano and the honey and leave to simmer for as long "as you can" (an hour is actually a good start) The mixture should just about cover the bits already in the pan.
  7. Mix in the mushrooms and peppers about 5 minutes before serving (unless you go for the option of adding them to the onions) and leave to simmer until everything is heated through.

I serve this with roast rosemary potatoes, potatoes cut into wedges, roasting in a baking tin with plenty of olive oil and some sprigs of rosemary, seasoned with sea salt and more crushed garlic, turned occasionally. Easy and really rather tasty.

10 July 2016

Vin’d Orange

I learnt about this drink from a book by Hervè This-Benckhard, which my brother, a fantastic cook and an engineer, with a very scientific approach to cooking, gave me as a present. This-Benckhard uses science to explain how cooking works, and this recipe was a way to illustrate osmosis. It is strictly speaking a winter recipe because you need bitter/Seville oranges, which one gets in January, but it reaches the point at which it has matured enough to be really tasty in June and July. Apparently it improves with age, but it rarely is given time to reach it. It is a lovely summery drink, slightly deceptive because it is rather alcoholic, and it combines the bitterness of the oranges with the sourness of lemon and dry white wine and the sweetness of brown sugar. The perfect summer aperitif!

What you need

  • 4-5 Seville (bitter) oranges, ideally organic (usually these are available in January and February; alternatively normal oranges can be used, but fewer)
  • 1 lemon (also organic; 2 if there are no Seville oranges)
  • 2 vanilla pods (one to be used later on!)
  • 1 l of vodka or a similarly neutral fruit schnapps, ideally 45% or over
  • 500+ g brown sugar
  • 4+ l dry white wine

What you do

  1. Place the citrus fruit in a large glass container, either whole or quartered (according to This-Benckhard osmosis will take place just as successfully if the fruit are left whole).
  2. Add one of the vanilla pods and leave in a cool, dark place for at least three months.
  3. After that period, strain the schnapps off and resist the temptation to squeeze out the citrus fruit (osmosis will have ensured that the flavour molecules have diffused into the schnapps) and discard the fruit and vanilla pod.
  4. Add the sugar and the white wine to the schnapps, starting with 5 bottles and 500 g sugar. Include the second vanilla pod (or a piece of untreated oak wood, the effect is about the same).
  5. Leave the mixture to sit until late June or July, longer if you have the patience, but if made in January the Vin d’Orange is ready for drinking as of mid-May.
  6. Bottle and keep in a cool, dark place. 


01 April 2016

Wild Garlic and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

At the moment forest hillsides once again are covered in wild garlic, one of my favourite wild herbs. Collecting enough for this dish is a matter of minutes, as is making it. In a jar it keeps for some time in the fridge. We’ve never had it long enough to figure out if and when it goes off.
It works well with pasta, but tastes lovely on crostini as well, and on baked potatoes.





What you need

  • 1 or 2 handfuls of wild garlic
  • 500g pumpkin seeds
  • olive oil or, if you fancy something more pumpkiney, pumpkin seed oil (more expensive, though)
  • salt to taste

What you do

  1. Wash the wild garlic and make sure that it is reasonably dry.
  2. In a frying pan or on a skillet roast the pumpkin seeds until the delicate smell reaches your nose; they should be slightly browned and start making a crackely sound.
  3. Meanwhile chop the wild garlic roughly, then put it in the blender with the roasted seeds.
  4. Blend to your liking (some like a pesto to be smooth, others like the bits in it) adding oil to get the right consistency.
  5. Salt to taste.