Monthly Archives: November 2013

a tasty mushroom salad


This is a recipe that has undoubtedly morphed over time, not least because I loaned someone the original recipe book & they Never Gave It Back 😦 I have fond memories of that book, too: it was Salad Days, a companion volume to the wonderful Use Your Loaf by Ursel & Derek Norman, which I still use a lot. (I can’t believe the price for a new hardcover edition on Amazon, though!)

Back to the salad – it’s a ridiculously easy recipe and very very tasty. I’ve found that often when you see mushroom salads on a buffet table, they’re the cooked variety, where the toothsome little fungi have been heated in a dressing of some sort. Personally I don’t think you should ever go there. Instead:

  • halve your mushrooms, if they are the little button sort, or slice them (about 5mm thick) if not, & place in a bowl.
  • shake together a pinch of salt, some good olive oil and some vinegar in a 2:1 ratio, until nicely emulsified. You don’t want too much – the mushrooms will soak it up to begin with, but then release a bit of liquid later, so you don’t want to drench them at the start. From memory the original recipe used a white wine vinegar but these days I use balsamic – I find the flavour complements the earthiness of the mushrooms beautifully.
  • pour the dressing over your mushrooms, add a sprinkling of fresh herbs (lemon thyme is good) , & set aside for an hour or two, stirring occasionally so all the mushrooms end up coated with dressing. They’ll soften, darken, & taste delicious.
  • serve & enjoy 🙂

macaroni cheese – but not as we knew it


Last night we spent a happy few hours having dinner – & watching youtube videos 🙂 – with friends. We were to have watched Cold Comfort Farm but when the time came it turned out someone else had borrowed it 😦 However, our friends had decided that in keeping with the film’s title, we’d have comfort food for dinner, & so we did. Macaroni cheese, in fact, but with a decided tweak to the recipe.

On enquiring, we found that along with the lovely creamy cheese sauce, there came… finely diced dried apricots and, ditto, gherkins. And some home-grown chili pepper. Yes, really, and it was very nice indeed, popped under the grill with sliced tomatoes on top and served with lashings of finely-grated parmesan. Everyone agreed that this recipe was a keeper.

And along with it we had a new take on broccoli – smallish florets blanched, tossed with olive oil, a little flaked chili, and lots of minced garlic, and then finished off under the grill. Very very tasty, and another recipe to add to the list of things to try at home.

And next time it’s our turn to visit, Cold Comfort Farm will be there ready 🙂

syrup cake with strawberries & blueberries


In the weekend we had Mum & my brother’s mother-in-law to lunch. Well, midday dinner, I guess. The main course was a butterflied leg of lamb, crusted with herbs and cooked on the barbecue. (Our first barbecue of the season!) Along with that we had roast potatoes & pumpkins (we’re still eating the wee ones we grew last summer), steamed green beans, fresh peas from the garden, and a minty hollandaise sauce. Once that had settled (& yes, we had leftovers for tea the next day) I served up this cake – I think the recipe was originally in the Viva section of the Wednesday morning Herald, but I’ve massaged it slightly.

Cream together 250g butter and 1 c sugar, before beating in 3 eggs. This time round I also added the zest of an orange. Then fold in 1/2 c fine polenta, 2 c ground almonds, & 1/2 c self-raising flour. Spoon the mix into a greased and lined square cake tin (or, in my case, a silicone ‘tin’) and smooth the top before putting it in the oven at 160 C. After 20 minutes cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil, then continue to bake for around 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven & cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before carefully inverting it onto a serving dish & removing the baking paper.

While the cake is cooking, prepare the fruit/syrup topping. The original recipe used summer stone-fruit such as nectarines and plums and added vanilla to the syrup, but I had a punnet of strawberries from the orchard shop near the kennels where the dog goes for ‘kindy’ (lol). So I sliced a couple of cups of strawberries into a saucepan & added 1/2 c sugar, the juice of the orange, and 2 sprigs of mint, before bringing it gently to the simmer. Trust me – mint works rather well with strawberries! I simmered it for only 10 minutes as I didn’t want the fruit to disintegrate, then cooled the mix for about 10 minutes before spooning it carefully over the top of the cake. The last step was to decorate with some more slices of strawberry & about 1/2 c of frozen blueberries – the residual heat from cake & sauce defrosted them before we got to the pudding stage.

Serve with vanilla icecream or whipped cream, or both, and wait for the compliments.