Pea and Mushroom Risotto

I love garden peas and presently it’s their moment. I love the way they squeak between my fingers after I’ve washed them. Each time I split open a waxy shiny pod, I feel like I’m discovering treasure. Theirs is also, in my opinion, the most soothing shade of pale green.

While I love to eat them in a salad, I really enjoy them in a rich mushroomy risotto. Spring peas have such a sweet, clean, bright taste, they lift the flavour of what can be an otherwise heavy earthy dish. It’s the perfect counterbalance that brings sunshine to the forest floor.

Below is my recipe. Feel free to swap the rice for farro which is actually what I intended to use, but didn’t have enough of for last night’s supper. The nuttiness is delicious, but either way it’s a tasty dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do listening to The Three Tenors. 

Ingredients:

150 g garden peas, shelled

150 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced

50 g dried porcini mushrooms

750 ml chicken stock

250 ml boiling water

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 c Carnaroli rice or farro

1/2 c dry Oloroso sherry (or a light dry white wine if you don’t want such a rich taste)

a bunch of thyme, chopped

flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tbsp grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

olive oil

unsalted butter

 

Method: 

Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in the boiling water. I place mine in a large mug and cover them with a plate. Leave them for at least 30 minutes to fully rehydrate.

Blanche the peas in salted water for 3 minutes. Rinse them under cold water to stop their cooking and to keep their color. Drain them and set them aside.

Heat some olive oil and butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Saute the sliced chestnut mushrooms. When they are almost done, add a tablespoon of chopped thyme. Set them aside.

Drain the porcini mushrooms, but save the liquid. Put this mushroom liquor into a small saucepan with the chicken stock. Simmer on low.

Add a bit more olive oil and butter to the saucepan to saute the onion. When the onion becomes translucent, add the minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme.

Add the 1 1/2 cups of rice or farro to the onion. Allow it to toast for a few minutes, before pouring over the sherry. Stir to avoid sticking. When the liquid has evaporated, add a ladleful of stock. Stir and cook until the liquid disappears. Repeat this until the stock has been used up and the risotto is ready. If you need more liquid, use dry white wine.

When the risotto is finished, take it off the heat. Season to taste. Then stir in the mushrooms, peas, cheese and a tablespoon of parsley. Pour yourself a glass of your favourite wine and you’re all set for supper.

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Sausage Rolls

There are two things that almost always make me feel better–Neil Young and sausage rolls. Before I moved to the U.K., I rarely ate pork. I grew up in Los Angeles where turkey bacon and chicken sausage were the norm. It’s not that I never ate pork, I just rarely did. For me, it was something to be enjoyed but once a year, usually covered in a spicy vinegary Carolina barbecue sauce on the fourth of July.

My first year in London, I went pork crazy. A fact I attribute to our flat’s proximity to The Ginger Pig. I wanted bacon every weekend and pork chops most nights. Fish? Sure. Just cook it with some chorizo. Then I discovered sausage rolls. Which can be horrible, but when done right are divine.

For a long time I stayed away as my only reference was the pre-packaged kind I saw in the refrigerator aisles of supermarkets. The pastry looked sad. The meat inside seemed a better fit for house pet consumption than human.

Eventually, it was a sausage roll from a local cafe that changed my mind.

Sausage rolls are amazing because they are made with humble ingredients but yield a taste that is all luxury. They are the ultimate bar snack or perfect picnic food. Or in our house, my daughter’s favourite for weekend tea.

Below is my recipe. It doesn’t call for homemade puff pastry because at 35, I cannot be bothered. Father Time is robbing me blind and I have got to get on with other things. But if you have it on hand or like to make it, please do.

Ingredients:

1 sheet of puff pastry

700 grams of sausage (I use my favourite sausages instead of plain minced pork because I like the way they’re seasoned)

6 rashers of pancetta or bacon

1 small tart apple (I use a cox)

1 small bulb of fennel and its fronds, chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon Tio Pepe sherry or dry white wine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon toasted fennel seeds, ground

1 piece of toast put through a food processor and turned into breadcrumbs

2 eggs

salt/pepper

fennel pollen (optional)

nigella/sesame seeds

 

Method: 

Pre-heat the oven to Gas 4/350°F/177°C.

Fry the pancetta in a skillet. When it’s done, remove the rashers but keep the grease. Roughly chop the pancetta and place it in a large bowl.

Cook the onion and fennel in the bacon dripping. Add the sherry and cook a minute more with the thyme.

Put the onions, fennel, thyme, and fennel fronds in the bowl with the pancetta. Add the bread crumbs. Squeeze the meat out of the sausage casings and add this as well, along with 1 egg, the apple, some seasoning, and a pinch of fennel pollen if you have it. Mix well with your hands.

filling

Unroll the puff pastry. Fill the center of it with the sausage mixture. Roll it up.

Lightly beat the 2nd egg and brush it on top of the pastry. Don’t use all of it. Just enough to lightly coat it. Sprinkle with seeds and cut into pieces. Usually 8 -10.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown.

While you can eat these hot, I think they taste better at room temperature and dipped in brown sauce or your favourite relish.

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sausage-rolls

Hello, Sailor! (A Navy Bean Recipe)

Navy Beans are good for you.  They are chock full of fiber, copper, protein, and zinc.  They are also known to lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease.  Their anti-oxidant properties fight wrinkles and boost collagen production.  But none of this is why I eat them.  I eat them because they’re delicious.  And okay maybe because I’m vain.

Who says looking good can’t taste good too?

Ingredients:

400 grams (about 14 ounces) navy beans, known as haricot beans in the U.K.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion diced

3 smashed garlic cloves

5 sprigs of fresh thyme

a bunch of fresh kale, washed and roughly chopped

chicken stock (about 4 cups)

1 tablespoon salt

Method:

Soak the beans for at least 8 hours in a large bowl of cold water.  Make sure the water covers the beans by about an inch.  Drain the beans and set aside.

In an ovenproof saucepan, sautée the onion and garlic in the olive oil.  When the onions start going translucent, add the beans and the thyme.  Stir for about five minutes.  Add the chicken stock and kale and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Now cover the saucepan with a lid and put in the oven for about two hours at 350F/180C.  Be sure to stir every 20 minutes or so.  Remove the lid the last 30 minutes and allow the liquid to reduce.

End of the Rainbow Ragù Rustico

rainbow

Cervantes said “Hunger is the best sauce in the world.”  That’s only because he never tasted my ragù.  This weekend, my family and I rendezvoused with Glossy and her mother, the Baroness Butterscotch von Leibniz.  Our destination was the Baroness’ French cottage which is so deep into the English woods that this is its exact address: Near-a-pot-of-gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow, Great Britain.

When we all arrived, we were famished.  I mean have you ever traveled to the end of  a rainbow?  It can take all day.  Ask Dorothy or any leprechaun.  That’s why after some champagne and potato chips, I left everyone hearthside to investigate the contents of the kitchen.  Let me share with you the goodness I found and the recipe for the ragù I created.  It’s porcine decadence and will make you feel like the most spoiled spaniel sleeping in front of the fire.

Ingredients:

olive oil

2 medium onions sliced into thin rounds

4 smashed garlic cloves

1 1/2 to 2 pounds of sausage (really porky but not too fatty)

1 cup Manzanilla sherry (divided into 1/4 cups)

3/4 to 1 cup chicken stock

a large bunch of fresh thyme taken off the stem and chopped (save a tablespoon)

1 tablespoon sea salt

a twist of pepper

500 grams of your favorite pasta (I like Rustichella d’Abruzzo linguine)

lots of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method:

First, brown the sausages and set them aside.  Next, caramelize the onions with some olive oil on medium-low heat for about five minutes.  Sir them with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking.  When the onions have gone all soft and sweet and caramelly, add the smashed garlic cloves and stir for a minute more.

Boil a large pot of water to make your pasta.  Tend to it as the manufacturer recommends.

Now, chop the sausages.  Add them to a saucepan with the onions and garlic.  Sauté for a minute or two with most of the thyme.  Make sure the sausage is cooked and no pink bits remain, but don’t let anything get crispy–use low heat.  Now add a 1/4 cup of sherry to the mix and continue stirring.  Cook down until it looks like a glaze.  Alternate a bit of chicken stock with 1/4 cup sherry until you’ve used up all the liquid called for in this recipe.  What you want is for the liquid to be more of a glaze than a soup.  When it’s done, take it off the heat and add the remaining thyme as well as the salt and pepper.  In a large bowl, mix this ragù over your favorite pasta and sprinkle liberally with cheese.