Monthly Archives: March 2013

oyster mushrooms with pasta


This morning at the farmers’ market a lovely young chap from Raglan was selling oyster mushrooms, both fresh & dried. I asked about cooking them & he made them sound so delicious that I just had to buy a bag of fresh mushrooms (about 100g) & put them in my saddlebags, to be joined by all manner of other nice things (including cherry tomatoes, dwarf beans (our runner beans are still going, but the dwarf ones we put in were a bit of a disappointment), Purple Heart spuds, peppers, blueberries, & Guide biscuits). And as I biked home, I considered dinner…

… and decided on pasta with mushrooms, roast tomatoes, & beans.

First, I put the cherry tomatoes into an oven dish & tossed them with salt, pepper & a little olive oil before leaving them to roast at 200 degrees Celsius. Next I sliced the beans (using my nifty little bean-slicer-thingy) & put a big pot of water on to boil for the spaghetti. Because I was using the bought, dried variety I figured the pasta should be cooked at the same time as the beans (this is important as the husband doesn’t like his beans ‘squeaky’).

Once the beans were also set on the heat, I melted 50g butter in a heavy frying pan & – as instructed by the grower 🙂 – tore the mushrooms into smaller pieces: you tear along the line of the gills so that the texture is retained. They softened quite quickly, at which point I added 125g sour cream and the leaves from 3-4 sprigs of lemon thyme; the mix needed thinning with a little water.

Everything was done at the same time (doesn’t always happen!). I drained the pasta & returned it to the pan, then poured in the creamy oyster sauce & mixed everything together quickly before dividing it between 4 plates (along with the drained beans) & topping each mound of pasta with some cherry tomatoes, the juice from the tomato dish, & a goodly helping of finely grated parmesan.

Delightful! I’ll be buying more of those mushrooms sometime Real Soon!!



what to do with a duck?


“You really must do something with that duck,” said the husband. We don’t keep ducks ourselves, but one of his workmates had presented him with a plucked & dressed duck, a month or so back, & it had been sitting in the freezer ever since. A Muscovy duck – in other words, a Very Big Quacker indeed. So I took it out to defrost overnight, & considered what to do with it.

Because I wasn’t too sure how old the bird had been when it met its maker, I was already leaning towards slow cooking, rather than the roast the husband fancied. And when I inspected the body I found very little fat on it, so that settled things – dinner was definitely going to be slow-cooked duck.

Now, I have a large oval slow-cooker, but this duck was too big to fit in whole (which was one of the options I’d considered). So I jointed it: 2 legs, 2 big meaty wings, 2 biiiiig breasts – each cut into two pieces, & a few bits & pieces. But before I began wrestling with the bird, I sliced 2 onions thinly & set them to cook gently in a little butter in a heavy-based pan. Once they’d begun to go translucent I spread them over the base of the cooker bowl and covered them with a layer of sliced oranges (skin on), added a bit more butter to the pan, & browned the portions of duck, a few pieces at a time.

I arranged the meat on top of the onion/orange layers, and in among the pieces of duck I tucked a dozen whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks (broken in half), & 3 bay leaves off the tree in our courtyard. The rest of the orange slices – I used 3 oranges in all – went around and atop the meat. Because meat that’s touching the sides of the cooker bowl can be a bit overdone if you don’t watch it, I made sure to tuck some of the slices twixt duck & bowl. And then I poured 500ml of chicken stock over everything, put the lid on the cooker, & set it to low before leaving it to simmer gently for 6-7 hours.

It smelled divine!

In the last hour of cooking, I roasted some spuds and pumpkins (yes, plural – we grew a small variety of pumpkin this year) & made a salad with thinly-sliced red onion, another orange (ditto) & lettuce. The final step before serving was to remove the meat from the cooker & strain the juices to remove all the bits & pieces, before thickening them with a little cornflour to make a sauce.

The husband has been asked if there might be another duck in the offing 🙂

sweetcorn salsa


Recently we’ve been trying to eat our sweetcorn crop before the drought dealt to it. (Sweetcorn sucks through the water & we feel there’s a limit to how much hosing we should do.) We usually just boil it & eat with a littlebittabutter, but casting about for something different, I came up with this. You could vary the quantities & the other ingredients too; I really don’t think it would matter 🙂

I husked and removed the silk from 5 largish ears of corn before popping them in a large pan of boiling water. While they simmered for 5 minutes before being cooled in a sink of cold water, I de-seeded a couple of our long red peppers & cut them into small dice (about the size of corn kernels; funny, that), then added them to a bowl along with 3 finely-sliced spring onions.

When the corn was cool enough to handle, I used a sharp knife to slice the kernels from each cob, & tipped those into the bowl too – stir everything up as this will help to separate the kernels.

The final step was to slosh in some sweet chilli sauce (as much as you like, really) & add salt & pepper to taste.

And the salsa went down a treat as a side dish for a barbecue dinner.

a very nice risotto


This morning I got a pack (around 600g) of rump steak out of the freezer to defrost, before heading off to work. I’d originally intended a warm salad (there are still a lot of lettuces in the garden & some tomatoes too), but by the end of a trying day I was thinking “comfort food!” So I stopped off at the supermarket – we needed milk anyway – & picked up some button mushrooms & a 200g packet of marscapone. And although I’d been contemplating beef stroganoff (my version of it, anyway), this is what I came up with.

First I put some dried mushrooms (what the husband calls ‘fancy’ mushrooms, ie porcini, shiitake & so on) to soak in a bowl, covered with boiling water. While they softened, I started 50g of butter melting in one of my stockpots and added a peeled, thinly-sliced brown onion &, after that had been cooking for a few minutes over a low heat, several cloves of minced garlic. (I have a garlic crusher but I usually can’t be bothered with using it; it’s so fiddly to clean afterwards!)

Next, I added 2 c of arborio rice to the pan & stirred everything so that all the rice grains glistened with melted oniony butter. Once the edges of the grains had started to go translucent I poured in the first cup of liquid. Usually I use white wine for this (a glass for the risotto, a glass for me…) but we’d none opened. For some reason the husband wasn’t interested in opening one; “aha!” he said, “what about your cider?” I thought, hmmmm, & used a cup of apple cider, then stirred everything & left the rice to absorb all the liquid while I went on to the next step: draining the mushrooms – don’t discard the liquid! you’ll need it – & slicing them (not too thinly).

By this time the first lot of liquid had disappeared, so I tipped in the mushroom liquor, opened a 1 litre tetrapak of vegetable stock & put a cup of that into the microwave to heat, & started cutting up the little button mushrooms from New World. And also one of the long ‘sweet point’ red peppers from the garden. And in went the next cup of hot stock, followed by mushrooms & pepper. It’ll take another couple of rounds of heating stock, adding it, stirring well & leaving to cook on a very low heat before the stock is all absorbed.

After the 2nd cup of stock sloshed into the pan,  I trotted off outside & fired up the barbecue, then brushed the steak with a little oil & put it on the grill – 2-3 minutes on each side – before taking it back to the kitchen, serving the risotto another helping of stock, & then slicing the meat thinly across the grain. It was still quite rare, but I knew the heat of the rice would get the meat to a state that the rest of the family would tolerate 🙂

Finally, I opened the marscapone, stirred that into the risotto, then added the meat & stirred again before checking the flavour & adding a good slosh of soy sauce. And served the meal with a bowl of finely-grated parmesan & a side of what I suspect are just about the last of the season’s runner beans, finely-sliced & steamed.

And yes! even after everyone had had seconds, there will be leftovers for lunch 🙂

i think you’d call it a flan…


Zucchini. We’ve had them steamed. We’ve had them stir-fried. We’ve had them marinated in a salad, cooked up in tomato sauces, or in fritters. Today I saw a recipe for spiced zucchini with tahini dressing that I must try soon (thank you, Ruth Pretty). But recently I wanted a more substantial vegetarian main course, so I did this:

In a bowl, I mixed 1/2 c plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, & 1/2 tsp salt. Then I whisked in 4 eggs, 1/2 c of grated tasty cheese, & a rather large amount of finely chopped basil.

The next step was to top & tail, & then grate, 4 medium-sized zucchini** before adding them to the bowl & mixing everything together – it was a reasonably sloppy batter. I poured this into my large (pre-greased) pyrex pie dish & decorated the top with sliced tomatoes & a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, before putting the dish in the oven at 180 degrees until well-risen, firm to the touch, & golden on top.

With a potato salad & a corn salsa, it was a very nice meal indeed.

** I’m never quite sure what marks the boundary between courgettes & zucchini, although I know a marrow when I see one! Mum used to do this thing that involved de-seeding a marrow & stuffing it with a mince mixture; it was not a gastronomic success.

red pepper sauce for pasta & the like


Well, I guess I’ve been living up to the ‘occasional diary’ party lately 😦 Apologies for this; my life has been hectic & while I’ve still been cooking, finding the time/motivation to sit down & write about it has been difficult. Hopefully things are looking up 🙂

Anyway, we’ve managed to keep our vege garden going through the drought (so far, anyway) with some judicious hand-held hosing. One result has been an abundance of red peppers, so this morning I thought I’d turn the latest pickings into sauce. Not least because a friend of ours is allergic to tomatoes – this way I can still put a red sauce on pizza when he visits.

First up I put 50g butter & 3-4t Tsp of olive oil in a heavy frypan over a low heat, & while that was warming up I peeled 3 onions – 2 red & one brown, as it happens, because that’s what came to hand – and sliced them thinly before adding them to the pan. Kept the heat low because I wanted them to soften & begin to caramelise but definitely not to burn. While they cooked I peeled & sliced half a dozen large cloves of garlic & put them to one side – I don’t like to add the garlic too soon as it can sometimes catch & burn.

Then I turned to the dozen or so lovely ripe red peppers I’d picked. (These are the long pointed ones, not the more common short fat kind.) I cut off the stem end, sliced the peppers in half lengthwise, & picked out & discarded pith & seeds before slicing them into thin strips. A dozen peppers gave a rather large pile!

Next the garlic went into the pan, together with 1/4 tsp ground chilli (I don’t like sauces to be too fiery; I just wanted a bit of ‘bite’), 1&1/2 tsp smoked paprika, & 1 tsp salt. I stirred this around for a couple of minutes, then added the peppers & mixed everything well. Then I covered the pan with a lid & left everything to cook down for about 20 minutes, on a very low heat. On tasting the mix I decided to add a couple of tsp of brown sugar, just to give a slightly richer flavour.

And now the sauce is cooling, awaiting a quick tryst with the blender before I freeze it for later use. And the kitchen smells like summer.