Tag Archives: mushrooms

beef cheeks (& even the doubter liked them)

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Well, this has been a rather occasional diary lately, hasn’t it? It’s not that I’ve not been cooking, but rather than I’ve had so much else on my (metaphorical) plate that this blog slipped to the back. But anyway, here we are again 🙂

A few days ago I called into a new butcher’s shop on the way home (‘new’ in the sense of  ‘new to me’; they’ve been there fora while but I’ve never stopped before). Into my basket went lamb sausages, a couple of nice bones for the dog, and 6 beef cheeks. I’d not cooked this particular cut before I thought I’d experiment.

So yesterday morning I turned on the slow cooker & got to work. First up, & sliced & gently fried 2 medium-sized brown onions in a bit of olive oil – I know most slow cooker recipes say to just put them in the pot, but I’ve found the flavours are better if the onions are at least partly-cooked before they go in there. Dunno why. After about 5 minutes I added 6 big cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced, and gave them all another 5 minutes in the pan.

At about the same time I put a cup of dried mushrooms – several different kinds – into a bowl & covered them with boiling water.

The onions & garlic went into the bottom of the slow cooker dish. I put a bit more oil into my frying pan, coated the beef cheeks in cornmeal, and browned each in turn before arranging them on top of the onions. A couple of largish carrots, peeled & diced, joined the meat, & I tucked 3 bay leaves in among them. (One of the things I love about our current house is that all my herbs are in the garden, or in pots, in the courtyard – just a few steps from the kitchen.)

Then I opened a bottle of pinot noir & used a cup of that to deglaze the pan. (My brother – the one that does a lot of cooking – would say that at this point I should have made personal inroads on the remaining wine, but I’ll confess to not particularly liking reds.) I added the leaves from several sprigs of thyme, 500 mL of beef stock, the rehydrated mushrooms (having cut the big ones into smaller pieces), and some of the water from the mushrooms, & brought all that to the simmer before pouring it over the meat & veges in the slow cooker. And left it all to cook on ‘low’ for 8 hours – I turned the meat occasionally but it could have been left entirely to its own devices. By the end of that time it smelled divine & the sauce/gravy was delicious 😀

We’d invited friends to dinner (one of whom loves beef cheeks, but the other was decidedly suspicious). To accompany the casserole, we had beans (frozen in the summer when we had a distinct surplus), roast butternut pumpkin (also from the garden) & baked potatoes, based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe I saw on TV recently.

For this, I used 3 large Agria spuds – they are yellow & floury & wonderful when baked. They needed an hour at 180 C. About 15 minutes before the potatoes were done, I finely shredded 1/4 of a drumhead cabbage and cooked it gently in a little butter until it was tender. Then I cut each spud in half lengthways & carefully scooped out the flesh into a bowl, arranging the skins in a baking dish. I mashed the flesh with a little butter & a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, seasoned it with salt & ground black pepper, and then mixed in the cabbage. And then mixed in about 75g of crumbled blue vein cheese – it really lifted the dish out of the ordinary – before popping back in the oven to heat through.

That was such a nice meal – & I think the doubter is converted.

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a most memorable dinner at our favourite cafe

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The daughter & I have been going to Scotts Epicurean pretty much since it opened back in 2000. Sometimes we drag the husband along as well. The friendly, welcoming service & the great food just keep us coming back – usually for Saturday brunch. However, every now & then they put on a dinner: 4-5 small, perfectly formed courses with accompanying wines, & we’ve thoroughly enjoyed those too. (Although the husband did feel that perhaps he should have dressed for the occasion when we went along for a meal the night Hamilton’s Riff-Raff statue was unveiled. It was a cold night, but somehow he felt somewhat overdressed in his polar fleece 🙂 ) So, when I saw the flyer for their latest dinner, I bought a couple of tickets on the spot! (The daughter never wants to come to these; she is never quite sure that she’ll want to eat everything on offer.)

And as usual, we were not disappointed. (I am not going to talk about the wines here as a) I didn’t try them all & b) I can’t remember the names anyway. Suffice it to say that all those I sipped complemented the food rather well.)

First up, polenta chips with a lovely thick garlicy aoli. I rather like polenta & the last time I made it I did keep some over for chips, but couldn’t get them crispy enough. Will have to have another go, for those we ate on Friday were rather fine.

Next, kingfish, pan-fried & served with saffron rice, finely diced chorizo & red pepper, & ‘crackling’ of chicken skin. Which worked well & was apt, given that I’ve often heard kingfish described as the chicken of the sea. I’m not huge on fish but I cleaned my plate up.

The soup – served in a glass – was a creamy carrot soup made special by the use of star anise. It had a little scoop of what the menu described as black olive sorbet on the top, which was visually attractive. Being not a fan of olives (you can see where the daughter gets her fussiness from) I passed most of mine across the table to the husband; in retrospect this was perhaps foolish as the little bit left behind showed me that the flavours went together extremely well.

This was followed by Angus steak (fillet, I think), served medium rare on kohlrabi puree with smoked leeks & several types of mushroom. The husband, who also has his little food foibles, originally said that I could have his mushrooms, but I noticed sadly that he changed his mind after sampling them. The only part of this course we had reservations about was the leeks; the smoking led them to present as slightly fibrous, although they tasted good. The rest was scrumptious.

After this I have to say we were feeling comfortably full, although not over-so – which was just as well as dessert was still to come. This was a delightful free-form pie (on the menu, aka crostada) of feijoas on a bed of ground hazelnuts, served with a citrus-y cream. I enjoyed working out the ingredients as I savoured it, & checked with Jason Scott (owner/chef) afterwards that I’d got them all. “Yes,” he said “- & you can find the recipe on-line, on my sister’s blog.” So I did – & made it myself for friends the following evening.

All in all, a great evening 😀

oyster mushrooms with pasta

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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!!

 

a very nice risotto

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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 🙂