Mushroom Heaven for One

IMG_1946I realised the other day that mushrooms haven’t really taken centre stage on the blog so far, which is something that needs to be remedied asap. Because mushrooms are the new chicken. Well, they are to me, anyway. I love any type of mushroom with the same passion I once had for chicken. There are some similarities; both are incredibly versatile and lend themselves well to a good marinating but also have enough flavour to stand on their own with only a sprinkling of salt and pepper. For me, the added bonus of the fungi is that no animals were harmed, obviously.

So my love of mushrooms runs deep, and Nigella Lawson’s linguine with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms, which I’ve reworked slightly here, is a celebration of that love. As far as I’m concerned, it is the best recipe in her Express book, which has quite a few gems in it. I don’t keep track but I think that if I had to name the dish I make most often (with the exception of staples like spag bol or potatoes, veg and some sort of protein) this could very well be it. Nigella writes in her book that ‘this dish had to be forcibly taken away from me during the photo shoot for this book, otherwise I’d have eaten it all before it could even have its picture taken’. Well, let’s just say that you are also very lucky that this post includes photos. 😉IMG_1934

The reason why this is mushroom heaven for one is that the Eastender is squeamish when it comes to certain types of mushroom, which means it is a solitary pleasure for me. And as such, it is perfect. I don’t mind cooking an elaborate meal for just myself (at all) but this dish possesses the minimum-fuss-maximum-satisfaction factor you sometimes want a meal for one to have. Having said that, you could easily stretch this recipe to feed a crowd. And without the pasta it’s simply gorgeously marinated mushrooms you could serve with drinks or as a side dish.IMG_1939

I have fiddled with the original recipe a bit, which is no surprise as I eat this on my own instead of surrounded by the small crowd Nigella suggests. Surprisingly (or maybe not) I use a few more chestnut mushrooms but I do lower the salt and oil content and leave out the parmesan. Partly because I cut out animal-based ingredients whenever I can but mainly because I don’t want any creaminess to interfere with the zingy, sharp flavours of the garlic and lemon. Oh, and I sprinkle over chopped chives, not parsley, simply because I don’t really care for parsley.
Also, as the mushrooms are basically served raw, I like to give the marinade a chance to ‘cook’ the mushrooms, which is why I assemble the mushrooms before I boil the water for the pasta. By the way, if you don’t like the idea of eating raw cultivated mushrooms, the manure they are grown in is in fact pasteurised, so no worries there.IMG_1940

Finally, this may seem like quite a large portion for one person, but it also makes a perfect mid-morning snack, eaten cold the next day. But to be perfectly honest, I usually just finish the lot.


 

Ingredients
250 g chestnut mushroom, sliced neither finely nor thickly
½ tbsp (about 40 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 scant tsp Maldon sea salt flakes (less than half of that if you are using free-flowing salt)
1 small clove of garlic, finely grated
zest of 1 lemon (preferably organic) and juice of half of one
1 tsp dried thyme
125 gr linguine

2 tbsp chives, finely chopped

Preparation
– Put the mushrooms in a wide bowl (the one you will be serving the dish in) and add the oil, salt, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and thyme. Mix well and leave to stand.
– Bring water to the boil in a large pot and cook the linguine according to packet instructions.
– Drain in a sieve or colander (but not too thoroughly, you’ll want some of the water clinging to the linguine to end up in the finished dish) and add to the mushrooms in the bowl.
– Toss (I use salad cutlery), sprinkle with the chives and eat ‘with joy in your heart’ as Nigella says. She is so right.

 

 

 

 

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Fresh and Zesty Spinach, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto

IMG_1324When I cooked my first risotto about seven years ago (a Nigella one, if I remember correctly) I was prepared not to like it. I am not a fan of rice pudding and Dutch rijstevlaai (rice flan), so making a risotto seemed almost pointless. I am so glad I did decide to get over my hang-up, because I loved it and I have been trying out risotto recipes ever since. So far my favourite was a simple mushroom risotto but this spinach, mushroom and lemon one is well on its way to become my new numero uno.

IMG_1317I got the idea of using spinach from a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for risotto I tried recently. Normally I like spinach just wilted but adding the leaves at the beginning works so well in this dish. I realise garlic oil is becoming a bit of a theme on the blog (it’s liquid gold, imo) but in this case I really recommend using it. The mellow garlic flavour of the oil works really well here and there is no danger of the garlic burning, as tends to happen to me when I fry finely grated garlic in a Le Creuset pan unless I use more oil than I want to. I used a ‘summer melange’ of mushrooms and some shiitakes here. You could use any mushrooms, from everyday fo fancy in this risotto, just don’t cut them too small and do fry them before adding them to the rice.IMG_1315

As far as I’m concerned, two things are important when making a risotto: your stock should be hot and you have to start tasting your rice from about 15 minutes. How cooked you like the rice is a matter of personal preference but you won’t know how done it is unless you try it.


 

Ingredients

250 g mushrooms, chopped chunkily or not at all (depending on shape and size)
garlic oil
3 shallots, chopped finely
300 g fresh spinach, shredded
150 g risotto rice (I use arborio)
750 ml hot mushroom stock (I use stock cubes)
zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½ a lemon
salt and pepper
splash of chilli oil

Preparation

– Fry the mushrooms in garlic oil until they are almost cooked but still have bite left. Set aside.
– In a heavy-bottomed pan (not a low one, because of the bulky spinach), fry the shallots in the garlic oil for a few minutes until translucent.
– Add the spinach, stir until it’s wilted and then cook for a few minutes longer until most of the moisture has evaporated.
– Stir in the rice and cook for a few minutes, until the grains turn translucent (in places).
– Add a ladleful of hot mushroom stock and stir gently until it has been absorbed by the rice, add another ladleful, repeat, etc.
– When there are about five minutes of cooking time left, add the mushrooms and keep doing what you were doing, stirring gently.
– When the rice is done, add a good squeeze of lemon juice (go easy, you can add more later). Stir and turn off the heat.
– Stir in the lemon zest and taste to check if it needs more lemon juice.
– Season to taste and add the chilli oil. Serve.

 

 

 

Thanh’s Amazing Lemon Drizzle Friands

20140622-163838-59918489.jpgThese little cakes achieved almost legendary status in an online foodie group I am part of. And with reason: these beauties are the stuff of dreams. They have a (deceptively) light texture, a perfect, delicate lemon flavour, and even though they look and taste like someting Marie-Antionette herself would not have sniffed at, they are not hard to make. The basic ingredients are ground almonds, egg whites, butter and icing sugar, in this case flavoured with lemon zest and lemon icing.

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Before my friend Thanh posted the recipe for these almond cakes on her gorgeous blog I had never heard of friands. That all changed, because after making these once I knew I had to have the baking equivalent of the Holy Grail, a ‘proper’ friand tin. Of course you could easily make these in a muffin tin but the oval, flower-emblazoned tins (individual or as a 12-hole tin) are the real deal. Although they are French in origin, for some reason friands are very popular in Australia, which means the tins are widely available over there, as opposed to over here, where they are more of a lucky find.

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The reason I am posting about these friands now is that I was given 6 individual friand tins (avec flower) by my lovely friend Kelly-Jane last week, and I have a 12-hole tin winging its way to me all the way from Adelaide, sent by my equally lovely aunt and uncle. I did not plan it like this, I am just surrounded by great people. 🙂

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The first time I made lemon friands I baked them in a silicon financier ‘tin’, which turned them into rectangular bars, and they were gorgeous even then. Baking them in a metal tin makes all the difference, though. Now that I have these tins, and more on the way, I am going to have to get creative with friands but I am sure these lemon drizzle friands will remain a firm favourite.

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You cand find the recipe here. I follow it pretty much to the letter, but I do add the zest of two whole lemons to the batter for extra zing.