Tag Archives: mushroom

A Meal to Remember @ Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio

13 Dec

Sometimes a meal is a symphony of taste and texture and colour … and sometimes, its even more than that. A divine merging of friends and loved ones, family and comfort, intermingled with sublime food, cooked by an artist, with a sense of love and presence and drama. Last Friday night at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio was like that – just pure joy. With Adi, Goddess, GoddessSpouse, AngelKitten, GoldenOro and Bubby, and MsTina… laughter flowed around us, wrapped us in warmth and happiness, and the food was a beautiful counterpoint to the joy in the room.

You cannot plan that kind of a night, you cant buy it or make it happen by force of will. It is an alchemical merging of all that is good and joyous. Thank you to Goddess + GoddessSpouse for hosting us. And thank you for Nathalie for welcoming us, yet again, with open arms and brilliant skill. We will be back next month! Meanwhile, feast on our memories 🙂

Joy

A potato galette with sauteed mushrooms, and a porcini foam. Simple, sensuous, lively flavours. Not too much, not too little. Just right to start with. This was the vegetarian choice and it made me happy.

A new take on duck liver with brioche – the brioche made into an apple tart tatin. A clever merging of two very French tastes.

Tuna Tartare with blini and chive cream… and a fresh green salad.

Snail napoleon – earthy, rich, beautifully presented. I tasted the accompanying sauces, and they were beautiful. Balanced, imbued with vegetable essence, gorgeous.

The vegetarian main course. Home made egg tagliatelle with green capsicum and a perfect parmesan porcini foam. Subtle and luxurious, elegant and beautiful. Incredibly satisfying.

The duck main course. According to those who ate it, it tasted truly of duck … gamey and wild and delicious. Served with a stunning hazelnut polenta and a blueberry stuffing. Clever and thoughtful all in one go.

Steak. Apparently, it was perfectly cooked. With a stuffed potato on the side. I like how this looks, the juxtaposition of the meat and the potato… Smart.

An intense caramel custard creme brulee – perfectly burnt crispy sugar crust, with a lime and thyme sorbet. What an interesting combination.

Trio of desserts – a pineapple foam, an incandescently good salted caramel macaroon, and a vanilla spoon biscuit, holding chocolate mousse, and a chocolate truffle. Mine!

Frozen chocolate mousse “gift” with a liquid river of raspberries running through it. So so so good. I could have buried myself in this plate and just whuffled.

A dramatic and architectural Mont Blanc – pureed chestnuts, whipped cream and crisp meringue. So beautiful!

Dried fruit croquant – crisp, caramelised, sticky, delectable.

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!

Spinach Croquettes with Tomato Garlic Mushroom Sauce

18 Sep

With Tomato Garlic Mushroom SauceThe Tiny Queen Z (M’s baby) was having a tough day today. She is teething AND has a cold! Poor thing! But it also meant that my sister was completely exhausted, having been up every hour on the hour with the baby last night, and having to be with her all day today. I wanted to make dinner that would really feel like an indulgence, but be easy to eat, quick and extremely tasty. First I thought of a simple tomato and garlic pasta, but pasta can sometimes be too heavy. We have huge amounts of spinach in the fridge (and its so good for energy and strength) – so I thought spinach croquettes!

These arent the “traditional” croquette, made with mashed potato and rolled in breadcrumbs. To be honest, thats quite an involved recipe, and I wanted to get dinner on the table in under an hour. This actually took about 30 minutes all told, and it was really good. Simple, bold flavours, hot and comforting, the indulgence of fried foods, and yet the healthiness of spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes – simply cooked, without too much fuss.

This is easily convertible to a vegan dish. In the croquettes, substitute almond meal or ground almonds for the parmesan (they give the same wonderfully nutty hit) and a few tablespoons of soy milk to bring it all together instead of the eggs. In the sauce, you could either leave the vegetables clean, or you could substitute wine or soy or coconut milk for the sour cream. Any which way, this is a wonderful meal — it makes people feel comforted and happy. We needed that today!

Serves 4 people. Makes approximately 10 croquettes / patties.

Spinach Croquettes

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (plus a drizzle of truffle oil or roasted sesame oil if you have it for depth of flavour – but not neccessary) plus more for the frying
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar or red wine or vegetable stock
  • 4 – 6 cups raw baby spinach, rinsed, and then chopped fine
  • 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs (I used Panko crumbs, but you can really use anything – whole wheat would be lovely, as would sour dough)
  • 2 eggs (vegan substitution: 2 – 4 tbsp soy milk or coconut milk)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan (vegan substitution: ground almonds)

In a medium saucepan, over medium high heat, saute the onion until it is soft and glossy, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and dried basil, and mix to combine. Add the balsamic or wine to the onions, and mix well. This will just soften the onions a little bit more, and add even more flavour to the dish.

Add the baby spinach in 2 batches, stirring until the spinach is just wilted, a few minutes. There will be some liquid in the bottom of the pan – this is great! You want it 🙂

Once all the spinach has been added, and lightly cooked, transfer the entire contents of the pan to a heatproof bowl.

Tip in the breadcrumbs and eggs and stir very gently just to combine. The mixture should come together easily. If not, add water, a tablespoon at a time. You want the mixture to bind together, but lightly – you dont want it mushy and wet.

Add the parmesan or ground almonds and mix lightly.

Put in the fridge to firm up while you make the sauce.

Once you are ready to eat (about 10 – 15 minutes before hand), preheat your oven to 100C (200F), and place a pan in the oven. Sprinkle a medium to large non stick frying pan with a touch of olive oil and place on medium heat. Make palm sized patties of the spinach mixture, and saute for about 4 – 5 minutes on the first side. You should be able to get 3 – 4 croquettes in a frying pan.

Flip the croquettes and saute for about 3 – 4 minutes on the second side. As you make the croquettes in batches, transfer the cooked croquettes to the pan in the oven to keep warm. Otherwise, place on serving platter, and cover with a dishtowel or paper napkin.

Tomato Garlic Mushroom Sauce

This is wonderful with the spinach croquettes. It is wonderfully tomato-ey, sweet and slightly gooey. The mushrooms give it depth of flavour too … I use this sauce on everything – on toasted bread for bruschetta, with pasta, as a filling for a decadent omelette. Its a great sauce to have on hand and it gets put together in a matter of minutes.

  • 1 1/2  tbsp olive oil
  • 5 – 7 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 cup mushrooms (I used portabello), peeled and sliced thinly
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 cups baby tomatoes (I used a mix of baby heirloom tomatoes which were amazing!), chopped
  • 2 tbsp sour cream or soy milk (optional)
  • Pinch of sugar (optional)

In a small frying pan, over medium low heat, saute the sliced garlic cloves in the olive oil. Let the garlic saute for about 5 minutes or so. You want it to get soft and slightly sticky, and lose its bitterness. This extended cooking time really allows the garlic flavours to bloom and soften. Its critical. Be patient. Everything else goes quite quickly.

Bring up the heat, and add the mushrooms in two batches. You want to encourage the mushrooms to lose their liquid, and just start to brown a little on the edges. They will go slightly caramel and sticky in the pan. They wont do this if you put too many in at the same time, which is why you are doing this in two batches. This should be the work of minutes, and watch carefully – you dont want the mushrooms to burn, but rather to brown.

Once the mushrooms have browned, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the baby tomatoes all at once. They will immediately start to melt in the high heat, and their liquid will bubble and start forming a lovely sauce. Mix everything together well and taste. Add sour cream or soy milk if you want a creamier sauce, and add a tiny pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are not very sweet, to bring out their tomato essence.

Serve the sauce over the spinach croquettes. YUMMY.

Mushroom, Leek + Zucchini with Spinach Couscous

15 Sep

mushrooms leeks and zucchiniI dont know what it is, but the last couple of days I have been completely enveloped by colour when I cook… Yesterday, I made a green spinach pie, before that a green pasta, and a few days before a bright pink-fuschia raspberry pie. Today, I was also thinking about colour, but I wanted something bright and sunny because all of us were sad to say goodbye to Essia. I came up with a quick and easy meal that tastes amazing – sauteed leeks, mushrooms and zucchini, all tinged yellow with turmeric, and couscous, its sunniness modified by the addition of bright green spinach.

It was a happy meal – and its flavours while mellow, had a slight zing to palate. This combination can easily be made into a vegan dish by the exclusion of the sour cream (or substitution with some soy milk). I was looking for spices and herbs to accent the dark notes of the mushrooms and the roasted sweetness of the leeks – turmeric has an earthy quality, and paprika a mild sweetness. Combined with the tang of basil and the rounded richness of dijon mustard, they added layers of flavour to this meal that elevated it into specialness.

I added a few sliced tomatoes right at the end for their spark of colour and their finishing sweetness. Please do as you wish, though if you do have some beautiful small tomatoes around, they are a summery addition to this perfect stew. I also minced and added about a cup of raw spinach to the couscous. You cant really taste it, but it is so good for you that sliding it into the buttery perfection of couscous is a good idea – getting some raw green vegetables into the system without any fuss or effort at all.

This recipe will serve 4 people

Leek, Mushroom + Zucchini Stew

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (if you want added flavour, add a few drops of your favourite oil to the olive oil base)
  • 3 – 5 cloves of garlic, sliced fine
  • 1 medium leek, chopped
  • 1 small to medium zucchini, halved and sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pistachios (or cashews or almonds – pistachios just worked in this for me, but go with what you like!)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar or wine
  • 1 cup mushrooms (I used portobello), peeled, sliced and chopped
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 – 3 tbsp sour cream or soy creamer/milk OR about 1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable stock or wine
  • 1  cup baby roma tomatoes, sliced

In a large, non stick pan, over medium high heat, saute the garlic until just softened. Add the leek, and lower the heat. Sautee for about 5 minutes, or until the leek has turned glossy and softened quite a bit. Add the zucchini and sauté until softened. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, turmeric and basil, and stir well to combine. Scute for another few minutes to enable the spices and herbs to bloom.

Add the pistachios (or other nut) and stir well. Saute for another minute or two. Add the balsamic and allow the mixture to simmer down.

Add the mushrooms, and stir well. Cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms have let go of their liquid. Add the dijon mustard, and the sour cream (or vegetable stock), and simmer for at least 5 minutes, or until the liquid has bubbled down and reduced to a thick coating over the vegetables.

Take off heat, and add the sliced tomatoes, and mix well. The tomatoes will soften in the heat of the stew, but will not cook down and become mushy.

Taste for seasonings, and adjust.

Set aside while you make the couscous.

Spinach Couscous

  • 10 oz (about 280 g) box of couscous
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 cup raw baby spinach, minced

In a saucepan, with a tight fitting lid, heat water, butter or olive oil and salt until the water comes to a full boil. Stir in the couscous, and take the saucepan off the heat. Cover with lid, and allow to sit for five minutes.

Mince the spinach very fine.

Remove the lid from the saucepan, and using a fork, fluff the couscous. Add the spinach all at once and mix thoroughly to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To serve, plate the couscous in a large bowl. Ladle the stew over. Eat and be comforted 🙂

Sticky Fingers Bakery + Fried Rice

5 Sep

Today was a totally vegan day. We planned it that way, but to be honest, no one ever even vaguely missed the dairy! For brunch, we went to Sticky Fingers Bakery – a Washington DC vegan institution. M and I had been talking about it for ages … when she got married, I thought of getting her a cake from Sticky Fingers, but I couldnt get my act together! Finally, we went and ate there. It was a bit of a mission to get to, but thank Goddess for GPS, she found it fine!

Sticky Fingers is a really cool, relaxed place. There were families, teenagers, a young woman studying for her LSATS, guys drinking coffee and Skyping, and a man who came in and bought himself a huge sundae, and sat all by himself and ate it with great relish. As you walk in, there is a cold case with pre-made food: everything from TLT’s (tomato, lettuce and tofu bacon sandwiches) to pasta to gyros. Straight in front of you is the bakery section with cookies, cakes, brownies, cupcakes. Everything is home made, fresh and looks incredibly tempting. There is a menu on a chalkboard above the payment counter, and drinks from a cooler or you can order coffee and tea. You can choose between take out and eat in, and because we were with the baby, we sat and ate. There are a few tables (one big communal and 6 smaller tables) inside, and a few outside.

I had the iced vanilla latte, and it was absolutely superb. The coffee itself was brilliant, and I couldnt tell the difference between the soy they used and regular milk. I think they used Silk, which we have tried, and its great. M suggested we have the breakfast sandwich. It came from the pre-made cooler, and it was sublime. Sooooo bloody good! Two english muffins sandwiched a tofu egg omelette (coloured with tumeric and creamy and delicious), with soy protein sausage, and a yeast vegannaise. It was one of the most delicious things I have had in a long time.

M and B had seconds, and I decided to be adventurous by ordering the biscuits and gravy, with scrambled tofu and roasted potatoes. To be honest, I should have stuck with the breakfast sandwich. The biscuits were bland, the gravy was this floury white sauce that was completely tasteless, the scrambled tofu was just ok, and the roasted potatoes had no flavour to them at all. We were all quite disappointed after the delights of the sandwich.

To make up for it, I ordered a sweet and salty cookie which was really good! A chocolate chip and raisin cookie, baked with a sprinkle of salt over it. Really lovely, wonderful juxtaposition of tastes. I would have those again and again! M had a peanut butter fudge cupcake for dessert and B had an oreo cupcake. They were delicious (I think B had seconds on that too!)…. Not too sweet, velvety, moist, and very chocolaty. Even Baby Z got into the fudge cupcake. But when everything is vegan, cholesterol free, lower in saturated fats and sweetened with evaporated cane juice … its actually kind of okay 😉

I also ordered, and took home, a sticky cinnamon bun. How can you not when they are the bakery’s name inspiration? They were good, if a bit doughy…I should have gotten another sweet and salty cookie instead. Though this bakery is not cheap, it is very much worth the trek to find it, and the expense. I wish I could say everything was delicious, but what was good, was phenomenal! We were so busy eating, I didnt even have time to take photos 😉

Sticky Fingers Bakery
1370 Park Road, NW Washington DC, 20010
1 block north from Columbia Heights Metro
Tel: 202.299.9700

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vegan!We had a busy afternoon, walking around downtown, shopping, playing… When it was time for dinner, we wanted something really light and yet satisfying. Fried rice was the perfect solution. I made it really quickly and very simply, with a few ingredients.

Because we had rice, curry and rendang potatoes for dinner last night, I had left over rice – this, as any Malaysian will tell you, is the key to good fried rice – cold rice! Once rice has been cooked and refrigerated, the starches solidify over each grain. When you apply heat again, the grains of rice remain intact, firm and rice-y. If you try and fry hot just cooked rice, it will turn to mush!

I used what was in the fridge for this dish, and heated up the remains of the rendang potatoes (mmmmmmm) to serve as a side dish. It was a delectable vegan dinner! You could use any manner of vegetable in this dish – peas are wonderful, as is spinach. Toasted cashew nuts would be great too.

Serves 4

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons oil (I used 1 tablespoon each of olive, truffle and toasted sesame oil – use what you have – peanut oil is good too – it gives a nutty smoky flavour) plus additional if needed
  • 1 cup sliced and chopped red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus extra soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 cups button mushrooms, peeled and sliced
  • 3 – 4 cups cold rice (at least overnight in the fridge)
  • 1/2 cup baby roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup baked seasoned tofu, cubed
  • 2 tbsp chili sauce (I used Lingam’s)

In a large, non stick frying pan, over medium high heat, saute the onions, garlic and ginger in the oil. This is the longest part of the dish – you need to get the onions past the soft stage to the slightly burnt and sticky stage. Adjust your heat accordingly so they dont over burn, but keep stirring and let them really cook down so they are soft and brown at the edges. Salt and pepper well.

Pour over the soy and balsamic vinegar, and let the onion mixture cook for several minutes more. Peel and slice the mushrooms, and add them to the onions. Encourage them to burn a bit too – you want them to lose all their moisture, and cook well. Once the mushrooms have coloured, add the rice all at once, and mix the rice into the pan ingredients. Fold over and over again, using a spatula or wooden spoon. Incorporate everything, and then taste. Pour over a bit more soy so that the rice colours a little. Taste again.

Add the tomatoes and tofu, and stir to incorporate. Taste. Adjust. Add the chili sauce and taste again. Adjust to your liking, and serve hot. M and I love scraping the pan from fried rice – its where the best bits hide!

Potato Gratin with Artichoke, Mushroom + Spinach

2 Sep

With VegetablesToday was full on all the time. It never let up and it never stopped. M came home at 6, after a crazy work day, and the beautiful baby Z was done. M went up to put her to bed, and I knew that she would be downstairs within an hour, ready to eat something before falling into bed herself. I wanted to cook something that would be simple, warm and most of all, give us all some comfort. I came up with this potato gratin, using baby fingerling potatoes, with artichoke hearts, mushroom and spinach. It was good and simple, easy going down, and felt like a big hug.

Just note that if you want, you can use coconut milk or almond milk, though Im not too positive that they will be great substitutions for a vegan diet. I read in a book the O sisters gave me for my birthday about whizzing up raw cashews and using their milky goodness in place of cream, but to be honest, tonight was one of those nights where I just couldnt think of vegan … we needed the proteins from the milk and cheese, and I needed to be able to pull it all together in under an hour.

I put no spices, garlic, onions or flavourings into this dish. I wanted the vegetables to speak for themselves, and I wanted it to be a calming, tasty but not aggressive dish, because sometimes, during very tiring days, we just want softness and stillness.

I succeeded, and the best compliment was my sister, hugging me, and telling me how happy she was to come back, from such a hard day, and have a home cooked meal waiting for her. This is what cooking is about – loving and supporting and comforting your family and friends, in a way that is fleeting but whose sayang is always remembered.

This will serve 4 as a main course. Leftovers are really good the next day, chopped up, pan fried and served with an egg for breakfast!

  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs baby potatoes (I used baby fingerlings), chopped
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp truffle oil
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms (I used 1 large portobello), peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh baby spinach, sliced fine
  • 1 cup milk (I used low fat)
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts (or asparagus or peas – something green is good)
  • 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup grated parmesan (or other cheese to your liking)

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Slice the potatoes into a large pot, cover with water, add salt, and bring to the boil. Keep simmering until the potatoes break when crushed by the times of a fork – about 25 – 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are simmering, heat the oils in a frying pan, and saute the mushroom until it starts to colour a bit and burn around the edges. Add the spinach all at once, and allow it to wilt. Once the spinach has softened, add the milk, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes, or until the milk has just thickened a bit. Add the artichoke hearts and mix well, and then add 1/4 cup parmesan. Set aside.

Once the potatoes are done, drain them, and then tumble them into a small baking pan. Pour in the sauce and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust.Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over.

Bake in oven for at least 10 – 15 minutes. You will see the liquid becoming absorbed by the potatoes. Switch your oven to broil, and allow the gratin to brown for a few minutes before serving.

Enjoy the love and hug of this complete comfort meal.

Birthday Dinner!

23 Aug

Tonight was my beloved sister’s birthday dinner. It was a feast of feasts. I am so full I can barely type, let alone remember all the recipes! So am going to let the pictures do the talking. I will post recipes soon, I promise! Happy Birthday beloved MZ!

By the way, I decided that everything was going to be served cold or at room temperature except for the mushroom pie, which came hot from the oven. It is a hot humid summer’s day, and it was just so much nicer to eat things that were not burning hot. I also found that this really enhanced flavour… things just taste better, in my opinion, when they are not at extremes of temperature (the only exception to this is of course ice cream)… room temperature lets the full flavour come out undisturbed.

Hope you enjoy these pictures as much as we enjoyed the meal – family, friends, laughter and a whole lot of love.

Broccolini with lemon and almonds

Broccolini – very easy, and astoundingly delicious. Toasted almonds. Broccolini (basically baby broccoli with little flowers) given a boiling water bath for a mere minute or two until just tender. Cooled for a moment in ice water. Then dunked into about 1/3 cup olive oil + juice + grated rind of a lemon. Bit of salt and pepper. Toss with almonds and refrigerate overnight. The almonds make this dish really nutty and beautiful, and the lemon makes it bright and sparkly.

Roasted Butternut + Arugula

Roasted butternut on a bed of arugula. A simple olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper dressing sparingly poured over the top. Strewn with sprouts, which I dislike, but which the birthday girl adores!

Parsnip Mash with Truffle Oil

Parsnip mash with truffle oil and cracked black pepper…. easy peasy. Peeled, sliced parsnips, simmered in milk. When soft, drained, mashed with a bit of the reserved milk, some butter, salt and cracked black pepper. About a tablespoon of white truffle oil mixed in at the end. Sublime and silken.

Honey glazed carrots

Gorgeous organic carrots – honey glazed, with a touch of cinnamon and a heap of butter. A little burnt, and a lot delicious. Our Mum’s recipe…

Heirloom tomatoes

Chopped heirloom tomatoes, slicked with olive oil, salt + pepper, and chopped parsley and basil from the garden. So goood!

Fig, ricotta + goat's cheese tart

A fig tart from my imagination that turned out beautifully! A walnut crust, with a ricotta + mascarpone base. Sweet wine poached figs, sliced and stuffed with goat’s cheese. It was REALLY good. I will post the recipe tomorrow!

For the Birthday Woman!

Personalised mushroom pie 😉 Portobello, white button, shiitake, and truffle oil, bound with a bit of sour cream, panko and fresh parmesan, baked in a puff pastry crust.

:)

And finally a blackout birthday cake, with lashings of fresh cream.

Happy Happy Birthday to my most beloved sister. You are my heart 🙂

Dinner @ Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio

20 Jul

I know, I have already written about Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio, but we got an email saying they were slowly opening for dinner on selected nights, so we had to go! We had dinner there tonight, and it was just tooooo delectable not to share. The food here is really phenomenal – and with a new menu out every month, the exploration of flavour and taste and texture and delight can just go on and on and on! I wont go into detail about the ambiance or the chairs, the drinks or the table settings … I did that in my first review. I will just highlight some of the scrumptious food we had this evening, and leave you to drool!

And just to let you know, yes, there were six of us, and yes, we ordered every dessert (5 in total) on the menu, and yes, amazingly, we finished them ALL. Unabashedly licking the plates were we.

Starters

There were 6 of us for dinner, and we shared 3 starters. As a vegetarian, they had several options, including a vegetarian quiche. However, we tried these three:

with hidden artichoke heart!

Pingaling ordered the Norwegian poached egg. The egg was wrapped in a gossamer thin, silky layer of smoked salmon with an extraordinary chive sauce. It sat atop a simple, delicious artichoke heart, and since Pingaling doesnt “do” vegetables, I had the pleasure of eating that whole artichoke heart myself! I swizzled it in the yolky bits and was in heaven.

No, its mushroom cream

The mushroom soup was beyond heavenly. As Nana said, “Most of these soups are cream of mushroom, this one is mushroom cream!” and it was dreamy. Thick, unctuous, tasting of the essence of mushroom. A light foam on top, and porcini dust in the centre. It covered a huge (and apparently very delectable) scallop, but I only tried the soup. It was the perfect mushroom soup. I cannot find the words to describe it, though I am trying. It was as if your every memory of mushroom had been condensed, refined, and re-defined. Silky smooth, sensational on the tongue. Perfect.

beautiful

This salad was so elegant, so refined, and yet retained the essence of tomato and mozzarella with basil salad. From the top – toasted pine nuts, a beautiful, clean, clear tasting basil cream, slightly bitter fresh greens, and lightly poached tomatoes, layered with the creamiest mozzarella. Drizzled with old balsamico. Such incredible textures. Such a perfect rendition of a salad we all know and love. Thoughtful, creative, delicious.

Main courses

Pingaling and Ezril had the children’s portion of bolognese with fresh buttered noodles. Small portions, delicious (they said) and a fine buffer between the superb starters and the stunning desserts. I had a bit of the noodles, without the sauce, buttered and fresh, and dreamed of a bowlful of that pasta, naked but for a slick of butter and a shaving of parmesan…

And a divine ratatouille

AngelKitten had wanted to try the reinvention of chicken nuggets the last time, but they had run out. She managed to get some tonight, and finished her plate like a very good girl!

White breast of chicken, breaded and fried. AngelKitten said it was scrummyyummy. She was literally savouring every bite. Served with a beautiful pile of ratatouille – perfection. I tasted the ratatouille, and loved it. Deep bold flavour, delicious and rich, and yet simple. Served with a parmesan dip.

buttered noodles

Ezril’s Abang had the beef cheeks bourguignon over fresh pasta. Oh that pasta again. Sublime. He said the beef was bright, rich, delicious and winey. Tender and beautifully cooked. I wouldnt know, but he finished the plate!

newburg sauce

Nana had the chicken breasts stuffed with king prawns, on a tangle of braised vegetables and a stunning, deeply flavoured newburg sauce. He said it was delectable. I believed him as I watched him polish it all off.

ricotta and herb ravioli

I had the vegetarian entree. Now let me say, when I eat at places that are focused on non-vegetarian food, the vegetarian entrees can often be disappointing. But this. Oh my good goddess. A carrot foam (which is all you can see in the above picture), with hints of spice and ginger, covered ravioli stuffed with creamydreamy ricotta and fresh herbs, dabbed with a carrot and ginger broth. Underneath it all, a puree of carrot and pumpkin, condensed, rich, and earthy. Sky and terre, light, and rich, so many flavours bursting through. I was going to take more photographs as I unearthed this splendid meal, but I didnt want to stop eating! The carnivores at the table tried bites of mine (small ones because that was all I would share) and one and all, they were delighted. So rich, so tasty, such a wonderful treat for a vegetarian. I was as shiny golden happy as this photograph.

Oh and before I forget…

glorious bread

The bread was out of this world wonderful. Woman can live on bread alone, if it was this bread. Fresh out of the oven, chewy, crusty, sourdoughy, tasting of bread. With sweet butter and sprinkle of sea salt. We couldnt stop eating it. We mopped everything up with it, and ordered more. It was served with a smile, and received with gratefulness. Oh that bread.

Desserts

We ordered our desserts when we asked for our main courses. We couldnt decide, and so, the women at the table took an executive decision to order everything. The men just went along for the ride. And what a ride it was…

reinvented

Tarte tatin reinvented. Beautiful creamy apples on a puff pastry base. A gorgeous tuile. Caramel ice cream. Caramel toffee all around.

lime coconut sorbet

Pineapple and lime crumble with a coconut and lime sorbet. Such sharp clean Asian flavours, melded with classic baking techniques. Ezril’s Abang gravitated to this one. He adored it. He wanted to marry it 😉

chocolate chocolate chocolate

I would have married this one. All the elements I love. Tall, dark and handsome. And chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. A bitter frozen chocolate mousse, enrobed in a crisp chocolate shell, with a chocolate tuile. Though I think Ezril might have fought me for it, we managed to share (just).

teletubby ;)

This was Pingalings favourite, the one she wanted, and which she graciously shared with us. It was called a strawberry and raspberry surprise. Nana said it looked like a teletubby, but that didnt stop any of us from devouring it. A gorgeous meringue, crisp and crunchy, studded with vanilla, encasing a beautiful razzle of strawberry and raspberry chunks, topped with creme chantilly, and a raspberry sorbet. Check that colour out. It tasted as good as it looks. Such a wonderful textural combination, sharp brilliant fruits, creamy light meringue.

coffe, caramel, lemon

The dessert threesome. Coffee cream, with a lick of luscious burnt caramel at the bottom, topped with lightly whipped cream, a caramel macaron, and a perfect, miniature lemon meringue tarte. Such a clever juxtaposition of flavour and texture. Bright, dark, creamy, rich, so so so good.

Have I run out of superlatives? Here is the last picture because it encompasses how we felt about the food… a very happy, full family went home tonight to dream about Nathalie’s passionate, loving, delicious meal…

mmmmmmm

Thank you to everyone at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio for a wonderful meal. Join their mailing list, and go when you can! So gooooooooood.

Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio Unit 4-1-5  Solaris Dutamas, Jalan Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur Tel : 03.62 07.95 72

http://www.nathaliegourmetstudio.com

A Simple Vegetable Soup for a Tired Mummy

29 Jun

I loved the fresh fruit and vegetables we got at Whole Foods – what a feast for the senses! When MZ was exhausted and didnt really even have the energy to eat (thats what happens when you are at full time work and have a gorgeous babygirl), I would try and make her things that would taste good, but go down easy. This vegetable soup is really as simple as it reads – inspired by what was in the store, and flavoured by nothing more than a little rind of parmesan and salt and pepper. The vegetables were all organic, and their flavour and colour were vivid and vibrant. You dont really need spices or herbs when the veg are this good. Wonderful served with a simple grilled cheese sandwich, or even some bread and tomatoes.

Serves 4

  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 large portobello mushrooms, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 3 – 4 carrots, washed and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, washed and chopped
  • 1 small head of broccoli, washed and chopped
  • 1 small butternut, peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • Handful of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Rind of parmesan if you have it (omit for vegan)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and soften onion and garlic. Once they have softened, and are glistening happily, add the mushrooms, and stir to combine. As soon as the mushrooms release some of their liquid, add the carrots. Stir to combine.

Add the zucchini, and allow it to release its own liquid into the pan. Stir all together, and add the broccoli, butternut, spinach and water, and stir all well. Pop in the rind of parmesan (this will add a bit of salt, and a haunting dusky note that is just lovely), if you have it, and cover with a lid for about five minutes, lowering the heat.

Once you take the lid off, take out the parmesan, and think about your choices. You could mash and mush the vegetables by hand with a potato masher, or you could transfer cup by cup to a blender or food processor. Dont completely liquidise the soup – you want it chunky and thick. After you pulse gently, transfer back to pan, and take another cup of vegetables to puree. Do this until you have the consistency you prefer, and only now taste for salt and pepper. Sometimes the vegetables are so fresh and sweet, you dont need much addition.

Serve with plenty of love.