Devilled mushrooms

Basing a sauce on English mustard always makes me think of Stoppard’s Arcadia. Frankly, I’d recommend seeing it regardless of what you do or do not propose to do with the ground seeds of sinapis alba,  but in particular I remember Thomasina’s exhortation:

“When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backwards, the jam will not come together again.”

Devilled mushroomsThis is an extraordinarily round-about way of saying that you can proper fuck up balance with mustard, and you won’t be able to stir it back out again. Too little and it’s mild heat and boredom. Too much, and it’s an acrid horrorshow, like a mouthful of hops and wasabi.

For all that, I love devilled kidneys. My dad used to make them as a breakfast treat, quick and dirty the way he picked up in the army. He’d thicken with breadcrumbs and dump in a bucket of ketchup. The sauce was pulpy and fiery, perfect for the savoury of the offal.

Veguary precludes that a bit, but here’s a fine brunch of spicy mushrooms.

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Cauliflower fritters with sage and parmesan

This was a quick Veguary lunch that got out of hand. The original idea was to start with a pakora recipe, and pack in the flavour of those big, heavy parmesan/anchovy/garlic meatballs from Kitchen Diaries. But the idea drifted a bit, and they came out lighter, more subtle. You get these wonderful little bursts of slightly astringent flavour where the cauliflower sears and the batter’s crispy, too.

Cauliflower parmesan frittersEven if they hadn’t shaken out gentle, I’ll wager it would have worked – gram flour is basically magic.

This is a bit of an off the cuff one, and you may want to experiment with it.

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Mushroom peposo

So, I’m doing “Veguary” again. It’s what it sounds like: a horrifying portmanteau, and 28 days off the meat. It’s great fun, more about shaking up my cooking habits than any kind of health-nut hand-wringing. I am, as a friend put it, “in it for the pies not the piety”.

Mushroom peposoAccordingly, I like to use Veguary to do two things: explore exciting vegetable flavours, and work up veggie hacks of meat dishes to see what I can get away with. This is the latter.

Peposo is a Tuscan beef stew I first had cooked from Jamie’s Italy years ago by a friend. It’s stuck with me – feisty and warming, and so satisfying. It takes balck pepper, and punches it up to curry levels of spicy impact.

But at its core, it’s a simple stew. You can do it with just wine, beef, pepper, and about four hours. There’s a pretty good recipe here. For the mushroom version, I’ve had to cheat a bit and nudge some flavors around for body.

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Mexican style smoky corn soup

Winter isn’t the most fun, and the foods that get you through it tend to attract words like “hearty”. Big one-pot stews, heaps of potatoes. It’s pretty great. But sometimes you want something with all the warming body, but a bit less of the stodgy heft. Vegetable soups, you’re up.

IMG_5754One of my favourites is the Mexican bean soup from the River Cottage veg book. You can squint at that and just about see the heritage for this I suppose. But it’s been on a little trip via Authentic Mexican, my enthusiasm for sweet corn, and the fact that I really really hate photographing soup.

Seriously, it’s just no fun. Which is probably why this goes in quite so hard on the corn, roasted corn, and peppers. Quite apart from tasting nice, that gives us something to look at, and a nice mix of colours. So yes, it’s both a little sweet and a little focused on corn. It’s like a nursery-tastes remix of a classic pozole soup, I suppose, and it won’t be for everyone. I  do like the hot sweet and sour of it, and the bit of bite.

 

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Shawarma-style roasted spicy cabbage

Hot damn, that title’s a mouthful. But what do you do with this one? There’s no meat to be seen and it’s not on a skewer. But it is a big old heap of brassica that really packs that savoury Levantine punch.  Saying “shawarma spiced” would be a world of seasonal latte bullshit, so here we are.

Roasted cabbage shawarmaIt’s a roasted cabbage, it’s a bit like shawarma, and it’s worth your time.

My affection for leafy greens is a matter of some record, so claiming you can make passable kebabs with cabbage (cabbabs?) is well within the understood scope of my nonsense. But I am not shitting you here. It’s got the big earthy savoury to carry the spice, and retains a bit of crunch and body.

Trust me.

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Fava with butternut squash

Fava is a greek dip or appetiser, somewhere between dal and hummus, and two weeks ago I had some at The Olive Grove. I’d forgotten how tasty it was: thick and soft and simple and savoury. So of course I wanted to make some. It’s dead easy, after all – just yellow split peas (not broad beans, ignore the name) boiled with some onion and herbs for flavour. A bit of oil to serve.

Then last week my friend Niall made a rather excellent lentil and squash dip for a party. It was quite rich, a bit sweet, and heavily loaded with smoked paprika.

Butternut fava

What a good idea.

Now, I haven’t just nicked it, despite having morals only fractionally more robust than a carrion crow. But if you can cook and you’ve read the intro, you may not actually need a recipe.

Meh. Here’s a fava recipe anyway.

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Dolcelatte lentils with seared cauliflower (or chicken, I guess)

Like a gentler, more subtle Gorgonzola, Dolcelatte is one of those creamy-sharp soft blue cheeses, but with a bit of sweetness that lets it be a flavour enhancer as well as a big main kick.

Still though – lentils with cheese? Yeah, I know, but stay with me on this one. It’s all about the creamy savoury.

Dolcelatte lentils with seared cauliflowerThere are plenty of dairy-backed lentil dishes, often sausage casseroles or general piggy constructions. In fact, there’s a sensational one in Pork and Sons. But I wanted something that would be a big veggie umami fest, with a sharp hit to go through what can otherwise be a bit of a cloying set of flavours.

You could think of it as a kind of cockeyed dal makhani, but then you could do a lot of things.

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Egg yolk ravioli (Uova da Raviolo)

Egg yolk ravioli are rich and creamy and incredibly simple. They’re just what they look like – large, round or square pasta parcels encasing a runny, just-cooked egg yolk, and a little soft cheese. You can add a few flavours (here, pecorino because it’s delicious), but the core idea is to foreground the eggs.

Egg yolk ravioli (Uova da Raviolo)

They’re surprisingly easy to make, but not all that quick. I won’t lie to you – this is a horrendous parade of buggering about. It’s fresh pasta, what else would it be? But if you’re careful with the yolks, these are simple, reliable, tasty, and kind of impressive.

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Celeriac rosti

I don’t go in for brunch in a big way. It’s nice to have some things standing between you and the long slide to egregious self-parody, after all. That said, I’m unlikely to be out of bed before 10 am on a sunday, and so the first food into the face hole is, accordingly, Brunch By Default.

When I can be bothered faffing about a bit, rather than just clawing bacon into my seething, hungover maw, these celeriac and potato rosti are just the ticket.

Stick a poached egg and a little hollandaise on top for maximum bourgeois brownie points:

The celeriac makes what is basically a posh hash brown a little unusual, adding a depth and sweetness that really works.

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Puy lentil & broccoli salad with roast garlic dressing

On Tuesday I nipped down to the Tate Modern, and ended up having lunch there. The current show on Kazimir Malevich is fantastic, incidentally, and the accompanying book is a beautiful thing.

The members room (some friends kindly got me a membership for Christmas. Thanks, guys) is a reasonably quiet place to have an only fractionally overpriced lunch with an amazing view over London. In this case, lunch was a genuinely fantastic lentil salad, bursting with garlic and richness. And I forgot to take notes. Bugger.

Lentil & broccoli salad with peppers and garlic

So this isn’t that. It’s a kind of from-memory analog, accounting for the head of broccoli I had left in, that wouldn’t keep much longer. It is also absolutely a keeper – deep and satisfying. This being me, it involves a whole bulb of roast garlic.

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