The Overly Developed Imagination of the Only Child

bluemushSo, to herald my recent departure from unemployment, pajamas, self loathing and day time television is a recipe 100% guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart. If hearts have cockles, which I happen to highly doubt. For one thing, this recipe is a slight adaptation from one on the BBC good food website. For those who don’t know me very well BBC good food is to me what cute, captioned pictures of anthropomorphic cats are to most people. The internet equivalent of a sanctuary; a safe, unbreachable, harmonious haven.

RECIPE:

  • 4 portobello mushrooms
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 400g baby spinach
  • frozen puff pastry (block or sheets) defrosted
  • 140g stilton (or other blue cheese) sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat your oven to 200’C.

Put the oil in a frying pan and let it heat. Sizzle the mushrooms for a few minutes each side, just until they begin to darken and soften up a little. Put them to the side.

Turn the heat low and using the same frying pan and oil, add the chopped garlic and let it cook for a few seconds. Toasty, golden garlic may be delicious but burnt garlic tastes like the innermost circles of hell. Add the spinach and stir it until it’s wilted to about a millionth of it’s former size. Season the spinach and garlic with salt and pepper and pop it in a sieve to drain. You can use the back of a spoon as a squishing device to speed the process along a little. You want to squeeze out as much liquid as possible or the pastry will be soggy. Which is, as we know, completely unacceptable.

MaryBerryRoll out your pastry (about a £1 thickness) on a lightly floured surface. Using a bowl or plate that is much bigger than the mushrooms as a template cut out 8 circles from the pastry for the tops and bottoms.

On 4 pastry discs, spoon a quarter of the spinach mix, a couple of slices of cheese and add the mushroom (smooth side up) and top with a little more cheese until it kind of looks like a little pixie house (I was an only child, alright? Drop it.) Repeat this for the other 3 mushrooms.

100_1154Brush some beaten egg around the edge of the mushrooms and drape the 4 remaining pastry discs over the top. Use your fingers to press the edges of the pastry together. The bottom disc will be much wider than the top so I like to fold it over in a pretty sort of star pattern. This also seems to seal the pastry better, making the cheese much less likely to leak out of the sides.

100_1165You can also use the left over pastry to make some highly unnecessary but pretty decorations. Glaze the tops with a generous amount of egg and pop them in the oven for around 40mins or until they are very puffed up and golden-brown.

100_1172How sweet are they? Little golden parcels of deliciousness. The blue-cheese tanginess is so good with the meatiness of the mushrooms. They have the added benefit of looking kind of posh as well, so dinner party it up! Impress your in-laws. Or just foil your friends into bringing round copious bottles of wine. It’s a win-win either way!

100_1176

footmubl

Mary Berry Goes Commando

muI love cooking with pastry – it just makes meal times feel that bit more fancy. Even if your pastry was very cheap, very un home-made and, in fact, very much bought from the frozen section of the supermarket. I will admit there’s something almost fur coat and no knickers about shop-bought pastry but who honestly gives a damn? Going commando can be liberating.

The trick with filo pastry is not to let it dry out. If you buy frozen let it defrost beneath a slightly damp tea towel and leave the bulk of it under the tea towel while you work with individual sheets. If it dries out it will pretty much turn to ashes as soon as you touch it, like some kind of melodramatic emo song lyric (vaguely embarrassing and to be avoided).

RECIPE: (serves 4)

  • 500g leeks, thinly sliced
  • 150ml hot vegetable stock
  • 175g button/chestnut mushrooms, chopped
  • 4 large sheets filo pastry
  • olive oil
  • 85g goats cheese
  • 1tsp toasted sesame seeds/poppy seeds

Heat the oven to 200’C/180’C fan and line a baking tray with baking paper. Put the leeks and the stock into a saucepan and cook for about 8 minutes until the leeks are starting to soften, add the mushrooms and cook together for 5-8 mins until most of the stock has evaporated. Squeeze out the rest of the liquid of the liquid with a fork. You don’t want to end up with a soggy strudel. Mary Berry will hunt you down like a stern, mildly threatening, overly lip-sticked grandmother.

imagesLightly brush a sheet of filo pastry with olive oil and then fold it in half so that the un-oiled side is facing upwards. Brush the edges with more oil and then spoon a quarter of the veg along one edge. Crumble a quarter of the goats cheese over the top, fold over the edges and then roll up. Lather, Rinse and Repeat for each strudel.

Pop the strudels on the baking tray, brush the tops with oil and scatter on the seeds. I think toasted sesame taste lovely with the goats cheese but the black of the poppy seeds also look pretty striking. The choice is yours.

Bake for 25 mins until crisp and goldeny-brown.

100_1038These are crunchy and filled with deliciously melt-y cheese. The best thing is that they aren’t too bad for you either. Filo pastry is the healthiest and probably about a billion times better for you than puff pastry, so all in all they aren’t too fatty either! Serve them with some green salad and you have a fabulous lunch… dahlings.

100_1041Gratuitous close-up of melting, gooey innards. Possibly NSFW.

mushfoot

Cheesus Christ

cheesyI’ve always, to the dismay and confusion of my sweet-toothed mother, been something of a savoury kid. I’m serious. I’ve eaten salt and vinegar crisps until I have lost all feeling in my lips and tongue. Once, when I was a child, I stole a huge jar of gherkins from the fridge and ate the entire lot while sitting on my swing set. Trust me, unorthodox amount of pickles + swings will result in a phenomenal, earth-shattering heartburn, don’t try it at home. Anyway, what I am trying to say is that surprisingly, from the age of around three, I have in fact had the cravings and habits of your average pregnant woman.

And if you like savoury things, well, cheese is pretty much the God of savoury isn’t it? The Just and Wise Ruler of the Salty Kingdom. And we should worship him in all his many incarnations, soft, crumbly, firm, vintage, blue and… scone-y. So say we all.

These scones are ridiculously easy. If you can stir and operate an oven then you should be pretty much okay. They also taste SO GOOD, super light and cheesy and delicious.

RECIPE:

  • 420g self raising flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp grated black pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 50g butter, chilled
  • big bunch of fresh herbs (I used thyme, but most things will work, basil, oregano, chives etc)
  • 1 spring onion, chopped
  • 50g strong cheddar, grated
  • 250ml milk

Preheat your oven to 220’C/200’C fan and line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.

Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, pepper and cayenne and mix it all together. Add the butter and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour mix. You use exactly the same motion as you would if you were a gangster ominously motioning someone to pay up, just the other way round. Carry on gangster-ing up your kitchen until there are no mega lumps of butter left.

Add your grated cheese and tear in your herbs. Thyme is my favourite, but you could use pretty much anything. Herbs with bigger leaves will need to be chopped finely or they look kind of swampy. Add the milk and stir it all together. The mixture will be a little bit on the dry side but if it seems excessively floury add a tiny drop more milk.

Put some flour on a work surface and gently knead the dough together. Don’t over do it, just make sure the mixture is holding together.

Pat the dough flat, it should be about 2cm high and then cut it into approx 5cm rounds. You don’t need a cutter for this, use anything, a small cup, a bowl, a wine glass… or even just roughly with a knife. You should get around 10-12 little discs.

Pop them on the baking tray and into the oven for about 12mins. Give them plenty of space above them in the oven because they should rise nicely.

And there you go (almost) instant cheese gratification. Amen.

100_0796These would be really nice with a hot bowl of soup. Or, as the boyfriend informed me, with some “chive creme fraiche”. Because yes, he is the campest straight man on the planet.

cheesus

Mariachi Madness and the Majestic Cactus

mexicanaAs members of the human race we are constantly searching for new distractions. Art can take you places. Music can lift your soul. A good book can be liberating, capable of opening up a whole new world of possibilities – whether it be a world of magic and the epic struggle between good and evil or merely a world of gratuitous S&M as portrayed in the undisputed masterpiece Fifty Shades of Grey. In a similar manner some foods just transcend their own foody limitations. They have a story to tell, a new world to show us. This soup is one. Imagine, ladies and gentlemen, the edible equivalent to a one night stand with a Mexican millionaire; the setting sun pouring in through the windows (through which you can see the silhouette of a mighty cactus), the smoky taste of tequila on his mustachioed lips. This soup is hot, spicy, luxurious and undoubtedly over much sooner than one would like.

RECIPE: (serves 2)

Soup

  • 250g cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • a sprinkling of dried chillies
  • 250ml hot vegetable stock
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Salsa and Croutons

  • 2tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • handful fresh coriander
  • handful fresh mint
  • a couple of pickled jalapenos
  • squirt of lime juice
  • 2 slices bread, diced
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat your oven to 200’C. Put the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put them in the oven for about 15/20 minutes or until they are splitting and blistering.

Cue a gratuitous and utterly unnecessary close-up of some tomatoes. Your welcome.

100_0637

Put them in a food processor with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, sugar, spices and stock and blend them together until they are smooth and a colour Duluxe would probably term something ridiculous like Terracotta Daydreams. Trust me on the sugar, in really brings out the taste of the tomatoes and the smokiness of the paprika. Pour this into a saucepan and add the rice, letting it cook at a gentle (but tremulously passionate) simmer.

Meanwhile, make the salsa by putting the coriander, mint, jalapenos, lime juice and olive oil in the blender. Pulse until smooth-ish. I call this colour Intense Swamp.

When the rice has absorbed the soup and is cooked but still slightly al dente (this means not rice crispies but not porridge either, a happy medium) make the croutons. Heat some olive oil in a small frying pan and add the bread. Season with salt and pepper and turn until they are golden-brown and crunchy. Take them off the heat and then add the grated cheese, allowing it to melt all over them in a sensuous manner.

Pour the soup into bowls and swirl over the salsa and top with the croutons. This soup is genuinely the dogs bollocks. The spicy, acidic salsa cuts through the smoky, sweetness of the soup. Intense flavour bomb. It would also really, really work with tortillas instead of croutons. Put some tortillas topped with the grated cheese under the grill. When the cheese is melted and bubbling put them on the soup and your ready to go…

100_0652Arriba!

footermex

When in doubt, blame your friends.

parmesan shortbread

So… I have a slightly embarrassing confession to make today. What I actually wanted to do my next post on was home-made pizza dough. There’s nothing better than home-made pizza. Unless, of course, you have a terrible hangover, are hiding in your duvet fort and crying about your evidently misspent youth. Then, obviously, the convenience of a delivery is preferable. But ONLY then.

Think about it, what’s not to love about DIY pizza? You get to pick your own toppings (however ridiculous, and I am talking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles here…) arrange them however you want, make a giant mess and generally indulge your inner child for the day. This was my plan. I had a couple of friends coming over for the evening and thought this might be a good opportunity. If only I had known how misguided I was…

It was all going well until the pizzas came out of the oven. My back must have been turned for about five minutes and then… the unimaginable happened, a complete and utter betrayal.

They ATE them.

No, seriously, they ate them INSTANTLY. There are no photographs, no evidence that these pizzas ever even existed in the first place other than a few crumbs, some lingering food babies and the distant memory of perfection.

At some point, I will have to do Dough 2 (The Rise of Dough) just to prove I am not going all Emperor’s New Clothes on you but for now I have decided to give you parmesan shortbread instead. Mostly because, on a gorgeous, sunny day like this, there is nothing better than wine and when there is wine there is nothing better than cheesy, melt-in-the-mouth yumminess to go with it.

RECIPE:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g parmesan, grated
  • 100g soft, unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • fresh thyme (optional)

Word to the wise here – please do not use pre-grated parmesan. Why? It tastes of sawdust.

Mix all the ingredients together, either by hand or in a food processor, until they start to come together in a clumpy mass (technical term). Tip this on to a slightly floured work surface and knead it for about 30 seconds or until the dough is smoother and less crumbly.

Half the mixture and roll each half into a long, sausage-like cylinder. Wrap tightly in cling-film and pop in the fridge for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180’C/160’C (fan assisted). The brief sojourn in the fridge should make the dough much easier to cut into little coin-shapes about 1/2 inch thick. Ladies might like to take this opportunity to relieve their innermost penis-envy. Freud eat your heart out.

blog 013

 

I like to press tiny thyme leaves onto them, more for prettiness than anything else, and then pop them in the oven on a baking sheet lined with baking paper for about 15-20 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes before eating them, if you can wait that long.

blog 019

There you have it! Tiny little morsels of yumminess and sophistication. The perfect wine-soaker-uppers. You could almost pretend you are a proper grown-up after making these. Almost.

footerwine