Tag Archives: dinner

O’Gourmet Food Hall Vegetarian Tartiflette

22 Apr

Sometimes, inspiration comes from the most surprising sources. I was wandering the halls of O’Gourmet recently, wondering what I could make for a tantalising, delectable meal. I saw M. Seb (the cheese and wine maestro) … and stopped to have a chat. We walked into the cheese cave, and I started asking him to tell me about his favourite dishes – something that I (as a vegetarian) could make and enjoy. “Tartiflette!” he said, with great enthusiasm and excitement. This traditional Savoie dish is a layered potato gratin, given unctuousness and warmth from Reblochon cheese, cream, onions and lardons. Hmmmm. Lardons are pork fat, fried until crisp on the outside and melting on the inside .. and decidedly un-vegetarian! (But M. Seb is French, so I forgive him for being confused!) … However, Reblochon is a gorgeous, creamy raw-milk soft cheese made from the day’s second milking (when the milk is said to be creamier and richer). It is nutty and velvety, and has a soft lusciousness that is hauntingly beautiful.

So, I was definitely interested, and I decided to try and think of a new take on tartiflette that would keep all that rich depth of flavour, and at the same time elevate it to new heights. I had some black truffles (also from O’Gourmet) that I decided to use in place of the lardons, and instead of onions (which would overwhelm the truffles), I used delicate and yet sturdy leeks. This is not a vegan dish – it just cannot be – but it is warming, full of love, easy to make, and joyous. You should serve it with a sharp green salad – arugula or young spinach – simply dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. You need the balance of something clean and bright to offset the richness of this meal. But oh, its worth it. Smooth and comforting, imbued with the scent of truffles, this vegetarian tartiflette is an instant classic.

Its as good cold as it is warm, and can easily be assembled the day before, covered, refrigerated and baked a few hours before you want to serve it. Do try and let it sit for at least 20 minutes before serving – this allows the bubbling cream and cheese to solidify a bit and sink into the potatoes. Bake in a large ceramic ramekin or pot, and enjoy. It soothes the soul while pleasuring the senses. Such a wonderful combination!

Serves 6 – 8 (and wonderful as leftovers!)

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, sliced thinly (white and light green stalk only)
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I used a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 4 – 6 large waxy potatoes
  • 1 Reblochon cheese, refrigerated (or even frozen for a few minutes), rind removed
  • 2 – 3 black truffles, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • Salt and pepper

You can prepare the leeks up to two days in advance. In a large frying pan, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat. Slice the leeks thinly, and rinse them under running water to remove any grit. Saute the leeks in the melted butter until they just begin to sweat and soften. Pour over the 1/4 cup white wine, and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Allow the leeks to simmer / saute, stirring every so often, until they just begin to colour. Raise the heat to medium high, and brown the leeks for a few minutes. Transfer the leeks to a small bowl, and allow to come to room temperature. You can refrigerate the leeks, covered for up to two days.

Peel the potatoes, and slice thinly. Submerge in water as you work so the potatoes do not brown. Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and quickly drain the potatoes from their water bath, and tip into the boiling water. Allow the potatoes to soften (but not fully cook) – about 10 – 15 minutes. Drain, and let cool for a few minutes.

If you are baking the tartiflette immediately, preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F, and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Place your large ceramic ramekin or pot on top of the baking sheet (this will protect your oven should the cheese/cream bubble over – and it will!). Whisk the creme fraiche and cream together, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Ladle about a tablespoon or two of the cream mixture into the bottom of the ramekin. Place a layer of potatoes over this, a scattering of sliced truffles, a few thin slices of Reblochon cheese, and a sprinkling of leeks. Over all, spoon about 2 tablespoons of cream. Repeat these layers until you run out of ingredients – or reach the top of the ramekin – whichever comes first! Reserve about 5 – 6 thin slices of Reblochon to scatter over the top of the dish.

Do note that you can cover the ramekin at this point and refrigerate up to 24 hours. I would highly suggest that you bake the tartiflette at least 2 hours before serving. This will give it sufficient time to set up.

Bake the tartiflette in the hot oven for at least 1 hour, and up to 1 1/2 hours. The tartiflette is ready when the top is bronzed and bubbling, and the potatoes are soft and yielding to a knife. Do not be alarmed if there seems to be an inordinate amount of liquid and cream bubbling up. Remove the tartiflette from the oven, and allow to rest for about 20 minutes (and even up to an hour) before serving. The cream and cheese will settle, and you will have a wonderfully solid potato gratin.

Serve with a bright, sharp salad for a wonderful and loving meal.

Comfort Food

5 Dec

Angel Kitten has taken a 1 month vow of vegetarianism. I am so proud of her, I just cant even begin to tell you. She was so moved by information she found on the PETA website, that she took a pledge to be a vegetarian for a month. I think thats amazing, and I truly believe she will feel wonderful after that month is over – so much so, that may be it will inspire her to eat vegetarian once a week or so. We have had several discussions about the choice to live a vegetarian life. I dont really try and “convert” people, but I do strongly believe that living a life of love and gentleness often includes making a choice not to eat animals.

However, I also believe strongly that if one chooses a carnivorous life, then thats OK too — especially if the choices about what meats one eats are made with care and forethought. For example, choosing to eat at the Golden Arches or the like, where the meat and chicken have lived largely painful lives, and been processed in a way that is wholesale, rather than respectful, is very different from choosing to occasionally eat meat that is free range and fed organic, non steriod, non hormone food. I would posit that the latter is much more delicious, even if much more expensive. I think if one wants to or has to eat a carnivorous diet, the logical, kind and respectful choice is to eat meat that has been treated with kindness and respect. May be not as often as highly processed meats and chickens, unless one is rich beyond the need to consider such things, but with much more satisfaction and enjoyment.

Anyway, thats me off my hobbyhorse 😉 As part of my support of AngelKitten’s choice, I really wanted to make her food that will encourage her to see how satisfying eating a vegetarian diet is. This meal is one of her all time favourites, and we often order it in restaurants together, as a conglomeration of side dishes which we share. It could be completely vegan if you mashed the potatoes with olive oil instead of butter and cream… but I leave that choice to you 😉 For us, we used organic cream and butter and were very happy with that choice.

For dinner last night, we had sauteed spinach and french beans with garlic, roasted broccoli with soy and balsamic (which Ezril said tasted meaty and immensely satisfying), and mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. It was sublime. So simple, so easy, so delicious. It was ultimate comfort food for us, and got me to thinking about what comfort food really is. Its not fancy, overly thought through, complex food. Rather, its simple, well cooked, well sourced ingredients that are cooked so their essential deliciousness shines through. We used organic spinach, french beans and broccoli – and organic milk and cream in the potatoes. If you wanted more protein in this meal, you could add some toasted almonds to the vegetables, but I dont think its necessary. I think that if you eat a balance of food through a week or so, high in protein sometimes, high in greens others, youre fine. Balance is as much about listening to what your body wants and needs at a given time as following strictures and formulas.

And by the way, these are not so much recipes, as memories of what we ate that night, in celebration of AngelKitten’s pledge. We love the juxtaposition of the clean bright freshness of the spinach and beans, the roasted dark stickiness of the broccoli, and the pure decadence of the potatoes. Its all about balance isnt it? 🙂 So here are the three recipes we put together for our comfort dinner. I am glad to say that AngelKitten took the leftovers home, and hopefully, they will nurture her and feed her for a few days more to come 🙂

Serves 4 – 6 people (with leftovers of the potatoes, most definitely)

with Garlic!

Sauteed Spinach and French Beans

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter (or additional olive oil for vegan)
  • 3 + 3 minced garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 cups washed, topped and tailed and chopped French beans
  • 2 – 3 cups washed and roughly chopped spinach

In a large saucepan or frying pan, over medium low heat, combine the olive oil and butter, and gently heat until the butter melts. Add 3 minced garlic cloves, and cook, stirring gently, until the garlic releases its unique scent, and goes glossy and soft. Add a bit of salt and pepper to the garlic, and toss in your prepared French beans.

Stir the beans until completely coated with garlic and oil, and continue cooking until the beans change colour – they will go bright green. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Throw in the spinach. Its OK if a little water still clings to the leaves, but you dont want the spinach to be soaking wet. I usually squeeze it to dry it, then chop it and add it to the pan.

Stir until the spinach wilts and turns bright green, which should finish cooking the beans perfectly. Add the remaining 3 cloves of minced garlic, stir and taste for salt and pepper.

Place in a large serving bowl, and set aside. Can be served hot or at room temperature. Its even delicious, in large spoonfuls, straight from the fridge.

Mmmmmmm

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs or herbes de Provence
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cloves from 3 heads of garlic (about 30 – 35 cloves)
  • 8 – 10 large potatoes (I usually use a mix)
  • 1 stick of butter (or 4 – 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Place olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper to taste and garlic cloves in a bowl. Toss to combine.

Place the garlic on the baking sheet in a single layer, and pour over any remaining liquid.

Roast the garlic in the oven until it is soft, burnt, glossy and slightly caramelised, about 20 minutes or so. Remove from the oven, and set aside.

Peel and chop the potatoes roughly. Place in a large saucepan or pot, and just cover with water. Over medium high heat, bring the water to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Depending on your potatoes, and how small the chop is, this will take between 20 – 40 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, and place back in the pot. Slice butter over the potatoes, and pour over cream. Using a hand masher, ricer, or immersion blender (as I do), mash the potatoes. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust.

Add all the garlic, and mash into the potatoes. Use a spoon or spatula to combine thoroughly, and taste and adjust for seasonings.

This can be prepared a few hours ahead, and reheated over a very low flame. It can keep warm, covered for an hour or two.

Sticky Green Goodness

Roasted Broccoli

  • 3 – 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 – 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp roasted sesame oil (or olive oil if you dont have it)
  • Pepper (and salt if you wish to taste, but the soy should make it salty enough)
  • 1 head of broccoli, broken down into small florets, with the larger stalk peeled and chopped into batons – about 3 – 4 cups total

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Combine the soy, balsamic, oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Toss in the prepared broccoli, and using your hands, toss well to combine. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings if you wish.

Place the broccoli in an even layer on the baking sheet and reserve any additional liquid for later. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove, and flip each piece of broccoli over, dipping the broccoli in the remaining liquid. Pour over any additional liquid and continue roasting in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes or until the broccoli is sticky, browny-green and delicious.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Maple Soy Roasted Butternut

27 Nov

MmmmmMy friend GoldenOro once prepared roasted butternut by slicing it thin, leaving the skin on, and putting it in a high oven. It was gorgeous – caramelised from the butternut’s own sugars, sweet, soft, sticky, stunning. When making Thanksgiving dinner, I decided I wanted to prepare the butternut like that too – but of course, I wanted to put my own little spin on it.

I decided to marinated the sliced butternut for a few minutes in a lovely mixture of maple syrup, sesame oil and soy (and a few other things!), before roasting it in a hot oven. It turned out beautifully, and could easily be a component of an amazing salad – think sweet sticky butternut, crisp bitter arugula leaves, and salty creamy feta. A perfect lunch salad any time of the year! But of course, this butternut is gorgeous served as is – as a side dish it perfectly complements savoury dishes by adding a golden sweet counterpoint.

I also love this side dish because it can easily be prepared a day or two before hand – just cover it up, refrigerate, and bring to room temperature an hour or so before serving. It doesnt need to be hot – in fact, I think that room temperature brings out its complexities of flavour. If you want, pour a little olive oil over just before serving to bring out the orange glow of the butternut. Superb!

Serves between 8 – 10 as a side dish (or more depending on how many dishes you are serving!)

  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp roasted sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • Good grinding of pepper
  • 1 tbsp ginger powder
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 large butternut (about 1 1/2 kg – 3 lbs)

Preheat your oven to 400F (210C). Line a large baking tray with parchment/baking paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, roasted sesame oil, soy sauce, molasses, pepper, ginger powder, olive oil, balsamic and fresh sage. Whisk together, and taste. Adjust the flavours as you prefer – may be some more soy for a bit more saltiness? A touch more sesame oil for that rounded nutty taste? Its up to you – follow your own sense of taste and balance.

Prepare your butternut. Wash the skin exceedingly well, scrubbing off any dirt. Pat dry. Halve the butternut from top to tail and scoop out the seeds. Slice the butternut finely (about 1/4 inch) and place the slices into the bowl with the marinade. Once all the butternut has been prepared, use your hands to toss the butternut in the marinade and leave to soak for about ten minutes.

Take the butternut out of the marinade, and place in a single layer on your baking sheet. Use a brush, and coat the top of the butternut with the left over marinade. Reserve the rest of the marinade for later, and roast the butternut for about 15 – 20 minutes. It will start to smell absolutely delicious!

Remove the butternut from the oven, and flip over every piece. It should be pretty well cooked – the flesh will yield to a fork. Brush the now flipped butternut slices with more marinade, and reserve any additional marinade for later. Roast the butternut for a further 15 – 20 minutes or until darkly burnished, with crispy bits, and edible skin. Watch it closely because you dont want it to burn, just turn almost into a sticky candy caramelised butternut.

Remove from the oven, and let cool on the baking tray for at least 10 – 15 minutes. Serve at once, with the remainder of the marinade drizzled over, or place in a container, covered, with the remainder of the marinade drizzled over, and refrigerate for up to 2 days before serving at room temperature.

Thoughts on Cooking + Celebrating

27 Nov

YUM!Yesterday was our Thanksgiving. What a wonderful night – and all my favourite F’s in one place: friends, family and food! We had a great time, and it was truly a moment to sit, laugh, love, eat and be thankful. And it was a day to truly indulge in the pleasures of cooking. I was thinking about it, and while some of the dishes were specific to an autumn feast, most of the guidelines and the menu structure are applicable to just about any celebration.

When making a big meal for a group of people, I like to think about what I will cook, and then go shopping. I try and shop and cook according to these few guidelines:

  • I try and make sure that I wont be completely bound by my initial menu ideas. If something at the shops strikes me as being particularly beautiful and fresh, then I adjust, change tack, re-imagine. Flexibility is all. If I want to make a raspberry tart, but the blueberries or strawberries look much better, well then, I just change the recipe!
  • I look for a certain flavour and richness balance when I am cooking many dishes – sweet, savoury, light, creamy, indulgent, healthy. Making everything with cream and butter for example just makes a meal in which people cant really enjoy it all – too rich everything cancels out the pleasure. But a few really rich dishes counterpointed by sharp, savoury, fresh – now thats something special!
  • I try and find a colour balance – browns and beiges need to be tempered with green, red, purple, orange. Fruit and vegetables come in such a gorgeous array of colours and texture. Big meals are the perfect time to take advantage of such variety.
  • I make sure to make enough – but not too much. One of my biggest problems as a cook is that I used to make such immense amounts of food that people got overwhelmed. Now, I try and make enough so that people can go back for seconds, but not enough so they will be uninterested in dessert. We had about 15 people at dinner. I made garlic mashed potatoes with 9 large spuds instead of 15 – because there were so many dishes, each person had a good amount of the mash, but there wasnt a huge amount left over.
  • I like to have what I consider a taste thread running through the meal. This might mean one component which I add to most dishes – sometimes as a highlight, other times as a flavour enhancer. Most of the time people dont spot the taste thread, but I know its there, and I know that it really connects all the disparate elements of the meal. In the case of our Thanksgiving Dinner menu, I caramelise-roasted about 7 heads of garlic. And I used that garlic in just about everything! I also added maple syrup to quite a few dishes as a sweetener, but also as a secondary taste thread. It worked for me!
  • I pay attention to where I am – when cooking here in Malaysia, I look to make some things with a little nod to our Asian tastes. So the cranberries were made into a chutney with a healthy dose of chili. And the butternut was roasted in a soy sauce-sesame oil marinade tempered with maple syrup. Context is important.
  • And finally, for me, the number of dishes is important. I always try and present an odd number of dishes. I dont know why this is important to me, but it is. Its part of how I imagine a meal and I always try and cook an odd number of things. May be its Malaysian custom – I know when making traditional meals with rice and curry and accompaniments, we always try and make an odd number of dishes. When getting married, the gifts the bride and groom give each other have to have an odd number. Whatever it is, wherever it comes from, it works for me!

So given those guidelines, here is what I prepared for Thanksgiving Dinner.

  • Mushroom pot pie – three different kinds of mushrooms, parsnips, leeks, caramelised garlic, red wine, quark/cream, covered with a home made puff pastry
  • Wasabi mustard cream – a savoury whipped cream with wasabi, mustard, and spring onions instead of a gravy – the sharpness and brightness of the wasabi and mustard giving a kick to the rest of the meal, and was inspired by my amazing horseradish quenelle with the mushroom pot pie at Per Se
  • Roasted Butternut – a whole butternut, skin on, halved and sliced thinly, and tossed in a marinade of soy sauce, maple syrup, sesame oil, fresh sage and olive oil. Roasted until darkly caramelised and gorgeous.
  • Rocket Salad – A fresh simple green salad of rocket leaves and avocado. A refreshing breath of clean green.
  • Cranberry Chili Chutney – cranberries cooked thick and jewel like with chutney spices, a touch of maple syrup, an onion, and a few caramelised garlic cloves
  • Braised brussels sprouts – from my earlier recipe – I used 5 cups of brussels sprouts, halved, with 1/2 cup of cream and a tablespoon of maple syrup. The sweetness of the maple syrup elevated the rich creamy nuttiness of the brussels sprouts beautifully!
  • Caramelised Garlic Mashed Potatoes – unabashedly rich and creamy – a stick of butter, cream, half a cup of caramelised garlic, creamed with three different kinds of potato. Lots of salt and pepper, and the final dish was probably the best mash I have ever made!
  • Cornbread Stuffing – the cornbread was made with maple syrup instead of sugar, and combined with sauteed leeks and spinach, toasted pine nuts and a small handful of chopped caramelised garlic. Combined with eggs, milk and grated parmesan and baked in a large shallow pan. The gold green combination was very pretty.
  • Cheddar Cheese Scones – because I love them so much, and couldnt resist. Such a quick delicious bread.
  • Passion Fruit Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream – refreshing and yet creamy – a wonderful end to the meal
  • Raspberry Tart – gorgeous lush tart with a pistachio crust, bittersweet chocolate cream, raspberries and a vanilla whipped cream. Decorated with pretty purple edible flowers. It was, if I may say so myself, really stunning

And there you have it… 11 dishes, prepared over the course of two days. A wonderful feast for beloved friends. I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving too. Much love x

 

Stuffed Mushrooms

8 Nov

Cheesy GloriousnessSo, now that I am re-inspired, what do I cook? I thought about it last night, and I knew that some beloved people were coming over for a spot of watching BBC’s Sherlock. We needed some good, hearty hungry people food. And I remembered… one of the first things I ever “made up” inside my head were these stuffed mushrooms. A little twee, I know, and very, very retro. However, classic dishes never ever go out of style, and at the time I first created these, I was on a second hand cookbook kick, and reading books from the 50’s and 60’s – jellied avocado salad and things like that.

The section in these old school cookbooks that really tweaked my interest was the hors d’oeuvres – wonderful things like  puff pastry cheese twists, sour cream onion dip, and mushrooms in just about every form possible. Mushrooms on toast, pickled mushrooms, grilled mushrooms, mushroom jellies. And of course, stuffed mushrooms. Stuffed with everything from spinach to simple breadcrumbs. I have to say here, I adore mushrooms. I think they are fantastic, delicious, easy and incredibly varied. Mushrooms are definitely amongst my favourite things to eat in the world. And I love love love this recipe because it, like mushrooms, is so infinitely adaptable.

I am giving you a basic infrastructure here. This recipe will make 8 large stuffed mushroom caps. If you only have small mushrooms, adapt. If you want larger still – like a big beefy portobello, adapt. If you want to add a certain ingredient (spinach, oven dried tomatoes, roasted peppers, for example), then do so by all means! I would hazard to guess that 8 largish mushrooms might serve 4 rather polite people as a main course – and they are definitely main course material. My nephew turned to me and said, “I wouldnt need meat if I could eat these all the time!” Music to a vegetarian’s ears 😉

Stuffed mushrooms are also fantastic as part of a feast or larger spread – they would be great as a side dish, or the stuffing part of a vegetarian Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Years – or any other big celebratory party. They can be made in advance, held up to 2 days in the fridge, and brought to room temperature to serve. You could even warm them up a bit in the oven if you like. The stuffing must be cooked before refrigerating though because it has raw egg in it – and raw egg mixed with bread and mushrooms and other good things, sitting in the fridge, is a bad accident waiting to happen.

To be honest, I usually prep the mushrooms, saute the duxelles, and refrigerate that and prepare fresh on the day. Otherwise, I would be way too tempted to eat them all up before the party! They are that good. And leftovers (if youre lucky) make a sublime breakfast, cold from the fridge even, the next day.

Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a side dish

  • 12 large mushrooms (Swiss brown or portobello) – very fresh and firm. About 2kg (1lb) or so
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or olive oil and truffle oil if you have it) plus additional for mushroom caps
  • 3 – 4 minced garlic cloves (or minced shallots if you prefer)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar or white wine
  • 2 – 3 tbsp + 1 – 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs – I use Panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs, but use what you like – brown bread is really gorgeous and rustic in this recipe
  • 1/2 – 1 cup roughly grated parmesan plus additional for topping if you want (and I always do!)
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs, minced – I used Italian parsley, rosemary and oregano – but you could add basil, rocket, thyme – whatever you feel like
  • 2 eggs

First comes the preparation of the mushrooms, and you really need to focus here. Examine all your mushrooms, and put aside your favourite eight. These will be the mushroom caps that will be stuffed. Peel and finely chop the remaining four mushrooms and stems. Place finely chopped mushrooms in a large bowl.

Peel your remaining eight mushrooms and stem them. Chop the stems finely and add to the bowl. Slice a thin slice off the top of the mushroom so that it will lay flat on the baking pan. Using a melon baller, scoop out as much mushroom flesh from the interior of the mushroom as you wish. With Swiss browns this tends to be quite a lot. Finely dice the scooped and sliced flesh. Place the scooped out mushroom caps in a small bowl, cover with a cloth and set aside.

You should have about 5 – 6 cups of diced mushrooms. Take a large non-stick frying pan, over medium high heat, and warm the olive and truffle oils. Saute the garlic lightly until it just softens. Add the diced mushrooms in three lots of about 2 cups each. You dont want to crowd the mushrooms in the pan – otherwise they will begin to steam, and wont saute well. Add one lot of mushrooms, and stir well, coating the mushrooms with the oil and garlic. Add salt and pepper, and allow the mushrooms to saute until lightly browned.

Only then should you add the second lot of mushrooms. Stir well, add a little more salt and pepper, and allow to saute again. They will begin to let go of some liquid. This is good. Each lot may take up to five minutes or more to cook through. Once the second lot has been sauteed to your liking, add the final lot of diced mushrooms, stir well to combine, and slice the butter thinly over all the mushrooms. Allow the heat of the mushrooms to melt the butter – this will flavour the mushrooms, encourage a little sauce to form, and add a bit of oil to the pan.

Let the mushrooms cook for a few minutes, and then pour over the balsamic vinegar. Stir well to combine, and then add the cream and Dijon. Stir, taste and adjust salt and pepper. You should have a pile of gorgeously sauteed mushrooms, with a little bit of thick mushroomy sauce.

Take the pan off the heat and transfer the mushrooms back to the large bowl. You should have about 2 – 3 cups of cooked duxelles.

Stir the mushrooms well and add the breadcrumbs immediately. Stir well, and allow the breadcrumbs to soak up all the wonderful mushroom juices.

Add the parmesan and stir well again. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Mince your herbs of choice very fine, and add to the bowl, mix to combine.

Whisk together the eggs and a further tablespoon or two of heavy cream. Pour this mixture over the mushrooms and stir lightly to create a stuffing. You really dont want to make a dense stuffing – just use the eggs and cream as a binder to get everything nice and cohesive. If you want to add anything else (a bit of spinach, some roasted peppers, a few shards of sun dried tomatoes), you can do so now. Set the stuffing aside for a moment while you prepare the mushroom caps.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Prepare a large baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.

Take the mushroom caps, and pour a teaspoon or so of olive oil into your hands. Using your hands, rub each mushroom cap well, and place it on the baking sheet. This will ensure the mushroom caps bake through and dont dry out in the heat of the oven. You may need to add a bit more oil to your hands to really oil all eight mushroom caps.

Still using your hands, divide the stuffing between the eight prepared mushroom caps. Dont over stuff, and dont let the stuffing overflow too much. As the mushrooms bake, the caps will shrink, and the stuffing will fluff up – you dont want a huge difference between the two in the end product!

Grate a bit of parmesan and sprinkle over the stuffing – I used about half a cup in total. Bake the mushrooms in the hot oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking pan about 15 minutes into the baking.

Allow the mushrooms to cool down a little bit once removed from the oven, or serve at room temperature.

Beyond delicious. Enjoy!

Savoury Polenta Tart Tatin

3 Nov

Tart TatinOne of the things I love about reading great recipes is that they inspire me to create unique dishes of my own. For a long time now, I have been fascinated by tart tatin, the great French creation where you pour caramel into the bottom of a cake tin, layer over caramelised apples, and then top it all off with puff pastry. The pastry bakes at the top, becoming crispy and light, and the apples caramelise even further. When the tart is done, you flip it out of the cake pan, et voila! A perfectly crisp bottom, and sensuously caramelised apple.

I have always wanted to make a tart tatin that was savoury… but part of the trick is that sweet caramel sauce that you pour in first. How to make something savoury with that? And then… I read Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for a caramelised garlic tart – with goats cheese and puff pastry. I read the actual recipe for the caramelised garlic and realised that there is a sweet savoury caramelised sauce that coats those gorgeous garlic pieces. And then… I read a recipe for polenta with sauteed mushrooms. I do love mushrooms, and polenta is another obsession of mine. I fell asleep last night daydreaming of a perfect dish… and this morning, when I woke up, I knew what I needed to make a savoury polenta tart tatin.

I cant tell you how happy this makes me. Its like I have figured out some remarkable puzzle. It may have been made before (after all, in cooking, relatively little is new), but I have never read a recipe like this. I loved it from the moment it popped into my head, and I was determined to make it!

It took me more than 3 hours to make this today. Its a hell of a recipe, but … you could definitely do it in stages. Almost everything (even the polenta) can be made in advance and refrigerated until needed (though I would make the spinach mixture on the day). If you spend a day or two caramelising garlic, sauteeing some mushrooms and burnishing them with old thick balsamic, preparing some polenta, thickened with parmesan and butter … well, then this recipe would probably take you about 40 minutes from assembly to final stages of cooking.

And I am here to tell you… Its damn worth it! It is so good. Outrageously good. Celebration, birthday, vegetarian Thanksgiving, dinner party good. Its gorgeous and dramatic, and the layers of flavour are unbelievable. Fluffy yet creamy and cheesy polenta, with a crisp crust, is topped with creamy spinach, which in turn is topped with balsamic mushrooms and caramelised garlic. Its a beautiful tart, and very dramatic. If you want to add a bit of flair, you could probably decorate it with a few sliced cherry tomatoes stuffed strategically into place, but it really does not need it. This tart is a tour de force of flavours and textures … It is sublime, if I say so myself.

Feeds 6 – 8

Caramelised Garlic (from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty)

  • 3 medium heads of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 220 ml (about 1 1/4 cup) water
  • 3/4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme (I did not have any fresh thyme, so I used about 1/2 tsp dried herbes de Provence)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Break the heads of garlic up, and peel the cloves. I realised I had many different sizes of garlic cloves, so I chopped the larger pieces in half to make them all approximately the same size.

Place the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and cover with water. Place over medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Lower heat so the water is simmering, and blanch the garlic for 3 minutes. Drain well.

Wipe out the saucepan (make sure you do this well – oil and water sputter badly), and place the olive oil in the saucepan. Over high heat, saute the garlic for 2 – 3 minutes. You want the garlic just to begin to brown around the edges.

Add the balsamic and the water (be careful, it will spit and spew at you as the water hits the hot oil), and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then add the sugar, rosemary, thyme and salt, and mix well. Simmer on medium heat for a further 10 – 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated, and you have a thick  dark caramel sauce and deep dark soft garlic.

Take off heat and set aside. If you are only cooking the tart in the next day or so, transfer to a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before assembly.

Balsamic Mushrooms

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp truffle oil (if you have it – if not, use olive oil or any other flavouring oil that you like)
  • About 8 medium to small portobello mushrooms (about 250 g – 1/2 lb) peeled and sliced thickly
  • About 3 – 4 Swiss brown mushrooms, peeled and sliced thickly
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp butter

In a large non stick frying pan, heat the olive oil and truffle oil over medium high heat. Add all the portobello mushrooms, and stir well to combine, and to ensure that most of the mushrooms have been slicked with a little oil. Leave the mushrooms in the pan, not stirring, and allow them to brown and caramelise on their own. The heat and the olive oil will do the trick – you just have to NOT stir! Once you start smelling a wonderful mushroomy smell (about 3 – 5 minutes – possibly longer if your heat isnt that high), flip the mushrooms over. You should see that the bottom side is well browned.

Add the Swiss browns, mix again, and allow to saute, undisturbed for another few minutes. Salt and pepper well, stir, and then add the balsamic all at once. It will immediately begin to bubble and coat the mushrooms completely. Slice the butter directly over the mushrooms, and allow it to melt into the mixture. The butter will flavour the mushrooms as well as adding a bit of needed oil to the balsamic coating.

Taste, adjust seasonings, and once you are happy with the mushrooms (they should be slightly burnt, sticky, gooey, balsamic-y and intensely mushroom flavoured), tip out into a bowl and set aside. Transfer to a bowl or container if you are making the tart in a day or two, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before assembly.

Creamed spinach

  • 2 cups baby spinach, tightly packed
  • 2 heaping tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Lots of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (or more, depending on your cheesiness) grated cheddar – I used an organic white cheddar which was phenomenal here

Wash the baby spinach very well, and then roughly chop it. Add the spinach to a large non stick pan over medium heat. You still want a bit of the water to be clinging to the leaves – this will help it cook. Saute the spinach briefly – a minute or two will do it – until it turns dark green. Remove the spinach from the heat, and place it in a sieve to drain the liquid from it. Allow to cool a little.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, cream and egg. Add the spinach (squeeze it with your hands before adding to the mix to make sure youve gotten rid of as much moisture as possible). Using an immersion blender (or you could transfer the lot to a blender or food processor), cream the spinach until it has completely integrated into the cream cheese mixture. Add salt and pepper, and mix well.

Add the grated cheddar, and mix well. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside until ready to assemble the tart.

Cheesy Polenta

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (low-fat will do, but its better with whole milk)
  • 1 cup polenta (cornmeal grits)
  • 1/2 cup mixed water and milk if you are making as below (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Loads of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp butter

Polenta is usually made in a saucepan, but I actually like the quickness and control I get from making it in a large, non stick, frying pan. You need a good spatula or wide flat wooden spoon.

Place a large non stick frying pan over medium heat and pour in the water and milk. Bring just to the boil, and once it boils, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream, mixing constantly as you do so. This will ensure that the polenta is smooth and creamy and without lumps.

Keep stirring, the polenta should begin to thicken almost immediately. I usually use an almost scooping motion – circular, and right at the end, I scoop some polenta, and flip it over itself. Almost like folding egg whites gently into cake batter. Keep stirring and scooping for about 5 – 10 minutes. If the polenta gets too thick, add the water and milk mixture in gentle dribs and drabs.

Taste the polenta – it should be uniformly creamy. Any grittiness, and you need to continue cooking.

Once the polenta has reached a creamy consistency of thick oatmeal, and there is no grittiness, add the salt and tons of black pepper. Stir well and combine. Add the parmesan and butter, and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Set the polenta aside (in the pan if you like) until it comes to room temperature. The polenta will firm up quite a bit but this is fine. Refrigerate if you are not making the tart immediately, but bring to room temperature when you assemble.

Polenta Tart Tatin – Assembly

  • Caramelised Garlic
  • Balsamic Mushrooms
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Cheesy Polenta
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • Butter for the cake pan

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), and prepare a 9 – 10 inch round cake tin. Butter the cake tin, and place a circle of grease proof wax paper in the bottom. Butter this as well.

Pour the syrup from the caramelised garlic, and cover the entire bottom of the cake tin with the sauce. Tilt to make sure you coat the wax paper completely. Arrange about half (or all if youre greedy – I like to keep some back for other uses!) of the garlic on the syrup, and arrange the balsamic mushrooms over the garlic. With the garlic and mushrooms, you will cover the entire bottom of the pan. Dont mix them up though, they should remain quite insular.

Pour over the creamed spinach, and use a spatula or knife to ensure that the spinach completely covers the garlic and mushrooms.

Bake the tart in the oven for about ten minutes, or until the spinach has firmed up and puffed a little – it will bronze a bit. Take out of the oven and allow to cool for about ten minutes or so.

Prepare the polenta. Sccop up a handful of polenta, and flatten it between your hands. It should be less than 1/2 inch thick. You will have a polenta patty – place this gently onto the baked spinach in the tin. Keep doing this until the spinach is completely covered. You can patch up the polenta if there are small holes or bits youve missed.

Grate the parmesan over the polenta, and bake again in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the parmesan has burnished and become a gorgeous burnt mass on top of the polenta.

YumRemove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes, in the pan, on a cake rack.

Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan to make sure that nothing is sticking to the sides. Place a serving plate over the cake pan, and using oven gloves (as the pan may still be hot), flip the tart over in one smooth move. Remove the cake pan, and the wax paper, and adjust any bits of garlic or mushroom that may have fallen off.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or even cold the next day. Any which way, its mind-blowing-ly deeeeeee-licious!

Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato Tart

18 Oct

Tart!Tonight’s dinner was a work in progress during the day. It was one of those meals that you find a bit of time for, leave, and then come back to. Slow roasting the tomatoes for the tart took a while, and they really benefitted from being left in a hot oven (that I turned off) when we went out for the day.

I also roasted butternut for a soup – but that one was so simple, a recipe is kind of silly. I basically peeled and seeded a butternut, chopped it up, added a few tablespoons of olive oil and some spice – paprika, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg – salt and pepper, and roasted it in a hot oven (225 C / 450 F) until it was soft. I mashed it, put it in a pot, poured a cup of water over, and brought to the boil. Blended it to a puree, and added a touch of milk and adjusted spices. Pure butternut heaven!

I must admit, I used Whole Foods bought puff pastry (from Dufour – amazing stuff!) for the tart. You could use best quality puff pastry, or make a cheese pastry as per the spinach pie I did the other day. Either way, you want a flat pie – almost a pizza but better 😉

I roasted these tomatoes in a very hot oven for about 20 – 25 minutes – until they were very soft, slightly burnt and caramelised, but still holding their shape and size. I then flipped them over, turned the oven off, and went out – and when we got back home, the tomatoes were slightly dried – almost like semi-sun-dried tomatoes. They had intensified in colour and flavour, without losing their shape or size. Absolutely gorgeous. I recommend this if you can – roast for half an hour in the morning, and then just leave them there. When you get home, you will have an amazing tomato dinner waiting for you! These are soooo good in pasta, in a grilled cheese, in salad, soup, just about anywhere you need a pure shot of tomato flavour.

Roasted Semi Dried Tomatoes

You will definitely have extra left over. Seems a shame to roast these tomatoes for just the one tart! Anoint your extras with a bit of olive oil and save in the fridge.

  • 10 – 12 juicy red tomatoes
  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Basil (fresh or dried)
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 8 – 10 garlic cloves, sliced

Preheat oven to 225C (450F). Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash and dry the tomatoes. Slice them thickly (about 3 – 4 slices per fruit), destem if you feel the need, and arrange in a single layer on your baking sheet. Sprinkle olive oil judiciously over all.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil and sugar. Add sliced garlic (I usually stick one or two on top of each tomato slice).

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the tomatoes are oozing juice, blistered a bit, but still holding their shape and size.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven, switch off the oven, and flip the tomatoes over. Put back into oven and leave for at least 2 hours if not the whole day.

Roasted Tomato Tart

  • 1 large sheet puff pastry (or cheese crust pastry to line a baking sheet)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tbsp ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 + 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • Roasted tomatoes

Preheat oven to 180C (375F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Remove parchment paper from the baking pan, and place flat on table. Place a sheet of puff pastry (or a square of your own made cheese pastry) onto the parchment.

Roll out the pastry to to a rectangle about 18″ by 12″ and then fold over the edges by about 2 inches all around. Pinch to make sure the folded over edges stick, and using a fork, prick holes in the centre of the pastry. Slide onto your baking sheet or pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up and is a light golden brown.

If you are using puff pastry, remove from the oven, and dig out about half of the centre layers. You will have very puffed edges, and a crisp centre.

Beat together the sour cream, ricotta, cream cheese, garlic, egg, salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of grated cheese. Pour into the centre of the pastry.

Arrange the roasted tomatoes on top of the mixture, and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, making sure you dont cover the tomatoes completely.

Bake in the oven for a further 20 minutes or so, or until the centre is puffed and browned.

Slice into pieces and enjoy! This can be served at room temperature, or even from the fridge the next day and is still very scrummy.

 

Spinach and Cheddar Tart

16 Oct

TartI made a spinach pie for Essia when she left us to go to Germany, and have been mulling over the workings of that pie since then. I thought may be it could have been done purely spinach (the one I did had caramelised onions on the bottom for pleasure), but I wanted it to be substantial and warming. Spinach and cheddar cheese go extremely well together, and so when it came to dinner, I decided to make a spinach cheese pie – with the cheese everywhere I could get it!

Cheese in the crust, cheese mixed with the spinach… totally delectable. This pie/tart is best made in a small spring form tart pan – I used an 8 inch pan, and it was perfect and served 4 quite well. The tart is quite rich. Its lovely served with a chopped tomato and onion salad just for the juxtaposition. Its also really really good the next day, cold, for breakfast!

The crust was soooo good. I think its because I became shameless, and decided to make it with more cheese than flour. Flour only acts as a delicate connective marker to the crispy burnt cheese in this crust. I cant tell you how much I love burnt cheese, but this crust came close to nirvana for me.

I love spinach, and I love the deep green spinach taste of this tart. You almost cannot taste the cheese except as a support to the spinach, and in the way it makes the texture of the filling firm. I tried quite hard, but I couldnt come up with a good vegan version, Im afraid. This relies too heavily on cheese as one of its main structural ingredients! Speaking of which, you could probably also use feta in place of grated cheddar…

Enjoy a thin slice of this tart, and immerse yourself in the happiness of pure spinach joy.

For the crust

  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 – 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp / 1/2 stick butter, cold
  • 1 – 2 tbsp cold milk

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup of grated cheese with 1/2 cup flour. You may need more cheese or more flour as you knead the dough, so have some standing by.

Sprinkle over paprika and salt, and grate in the cold butter. Using your hands – just the tips of your fingers – mix in the butter with the flour cheese mixture. You should have an oatmealy mixture. Sprinkle over 1 tbsp milk, and combine until the dough comes together.

Now its up to you – sometimes I add more cheese, sometimes I add more flour – sometimes I add a bit more of both. You want a supple dough that tastes extremely cheesy, and yet has enough strength to be rolled and pressed and kneaded.

Once you are happy with your dough, roll it into a circle, and flatten with the palm of your hand. Centre in an 8-inch spring form tart pan, and using your fingers, press the dough out into the pan. You should have more than enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tart pan.

Refrigerate for 10 – 15 minutes, and then using the tines of a fork, poke multiple holes in the crust before baking for 15 minutes.

Spinach and Cheddar filling

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped frozen spinach or 4 – 6 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • Approximately 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

You want the taste of spinach to come out loud and clear here, so there is no distraction – no garlic, no herbs, nothing but a touch of dusky paprika to bring out the green of the spinach.

In a medium non stick frying pan, lightly saute the spinach in the olive oil until it is bright green, and has released most of its liquid.

Tip the spinach into a sieve, set over a bowl, and drain, pressing down, for at least 3 – 5 minutes. You want the spinach to be quite dry.

Put the dried spinach into a bowl with the paprika, salt and pepper generously, the sour cream, and eggs. Using an immersion blender, puree the spinach well. Once the spinach is a glowing smooth green mass, fold in the cheddar cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings, and add more cheese if you want (though it shouldnt overwhelm the spinach).

Pour the spinach mixture into the prebaked cheddar crust, and bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the filling is firm.

Serve warm or cold.

Kind-of-Ratatouille-a-la-Karo

14 Oct

with Spinach Couscous!Tonight’s dinner may not be much to look at but it sure was delicious! And it was an intersection of different food thoughts that have been running through my head in the last few weeks. Inspired by so many things – my friend Karo’s post about the grated courgettes (zucchini), the Medjool dates at Per Se, and Karo’s link to Ottolenghi’s website.

Dinner needed to be fast and yet different tonight. Suddenly, autumn is upon us. I think we had our last 80 degree day a few days back, and now the crisp chill of cold is in the air around us. So dinner needed to be a response to that – warm and hearty, yet with echoes of sunshiney places. I didnt really think I wanted to do a ratatouille (though that often speaks of sunshine and warmth), mainly because I didnt have enough tomatoes. And I wanted to do the zucchini grated, and see what happened.

I started cooking with the thought that I was going to grate everything – but it didnt work out that way. Im pretty glad about that because I think I would have had a dark brown looking sludge by the end of it! Some stuff was grated, some stayed basically intact. You could serve this kind-of-ratatouille with french bread, rice, pasta – or as I did, with spinach couscous for a lush hint of colour and raw spinach flavour.

This is an example of my favourite free-form cooking – starting with a few ideas, and some beautiful ingredients, and seeing what happens. The end result was pretty damn tasty, completely vegan, rich and complex. The spice choices leant a hint of sunshine to the dark cold night, and we all went to bed happy and satisfied. All is right with the world 🙂

Serves 4

  • 1 tbsp plus more as needed olive oil
  • 1 small onion grated (mostly liquid)
  • 2 cloves garlic (or more as is your preference), grated
  • 1 small eggplant (aubergine) – diced
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Pinch (or more) cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, peeled and minced
  • 1 zucchini (courgette) grated
  • 1 Medjool date, pitted and chopped very small
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped into rounds
  • 1/2 orange sweet pepper
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped tomatoes (I used baby heirloom)
  • 1/2 cup or so water
  • 1/2 cup cashew nuts (toasted)
  • Spinach couscous

First off, toast your cashew nuts if they are raw. Use a non stick frying pan, dont add any oil, and toast over a medium fire until lightly browned. Pour off into a small bowl and set aside.

Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to the frying pan. You might need to add more oil as you go through the various ingredients, but try to be miserly with the oil – you dont want an overly greasy end dish. Instead, use more or less heat (and eventually water) to control the cooking process.

Grate a small onion directly into the pan. The onion I grated ended up being quite watery – this is fine. If you have lovely little grated shards of onion, this is good too. Saute for a few minutes until the onion is glossy and soft. Grate in the garlic and stir to combine. Lower the heat and let the onion and garlic get acquainted.

While the onion and garlic are bubbling together gently, dice the eggplant into small cubes, keeping the skin intact. Bring the heat up a little (and add a touch of olive oil if you think it needs it), and add all the eggplant, mixing well.

Season the eggplant and onion mixture with the paprika, oregano, pepper, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust if needed.

Cook for about 5 minutes on high-ish heat. You want to burn the eggplant a little bit, and allow the onions to melt into the mix. When you start smelling that wonderful eggplant roasted burnt scent (its unmistakable) add the next part.

Add the mushrooms and mix extremely well. The mushrooms will let go of their liquid – encourage this by mixing thoroughly.

Lower the heat to medium, and let everything simmer together while you grate the zucchini. Squeeze most of the liquid out of the grated zucchini, and add to the pan. Sautee together, and mix very well. The zucchini will act as a paste and start to incorporate everything together. Taste and adjust for seasoning. add the minced date, and mix together. Allow everything to saute on medium heat for a few minutes.

Add carrots, sweet pepper and tomatoes to the pan, bring the heat to high, and stir to combine. As soon as everything starts to pop and sizzle, add the water, and allow the mixture to bubble. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Add the cashews, and taste everything to make sure its a singular whole. Serve over spinach couscous or a grain of your choice!

 

Gnocchi with Gorgonzola, Mushrooms and Tomatoes

8 Oct

It was cold and rainy and wet a few days ago. We needed a hot comforting meal so I decided to make a sauce for the potato gnocchi I had bought at Trader Joe’s. Gnocchi are wonderful springy little pillows of potato pasta – easy to make and very filling and delicious. Theyre great for a cold day because they really demand a hearty strong sauce as an accompaniment.

You can make them at home (and they really are quick and easy to make) but if youre in a rush, store bought gnocchi are quite good. Just follow the instructions on the packet – boil in salted olive oiled water until the gnocchi pop up and start floating. Taste, and if theyre still a bit undercooked, continue boiling for a minute or so. Remember that you will put the gnocchi in the sauce and heat them up so its OK if theyre a little undercooked.

Drain and set aside until youre ready with the sauce. It should take about ten minutes to put the sauce together, so make sure the gnocchi are well oiled or prepare them at the same time youre making the sauce – otherwise, if you ask them to sit and wait, they might start sticking together out of rebellion.

I started with a bit of olive oil and truffle oil, five or six white button mushrooms and a portobello mushroom. Sauteed the mushrooms in the oil until they had given off their liquid and started to brown a bit. Seasoned with dried basil, salt and pepper, and then a whooosh of aged balsamic vinegar. There is something about mushrooms and balsamic that is just beyond delicious – its the perfect pairing.

Once the balsamic had been absorbed into the mushrooms, and they looked all glistening and sticky gorgeous, I added about a cup of roughly chopped baby heirloom tomatoes. The tomatoes gave off a lot of liquid, and I squished them into the pan to encourage them. I added a teaspoon of whole grain dijon mustard, and a few tablespoons of sour cream. About half a cup of gorgonzola (mainly the white bits because I didnt want it to start tasting too blue). Let the mixture bubble together, tasted and adjusted for seasoning.

Tipped the cooked gnocchi into the sauce, and let it heat up – the gnocchi plumped up even more and absorbed some of the delicious pan juices.

Served 4 and was comfy as a loving hug. Definitely not haute cuisine, but something fast and infinitely loving.