Hazelnuts

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

mushroom and spinachh korma.jpg

Believe me this tastes better than it looks.

I’m rather enjoying being a temporary vegetarian and am not really missing meat and fish at all. I did waver slightly when my son was pushing the battered fish from his takeaway around his plate – my ‘just’ chips hadn’t really hit the spot and I was tempted to eat it all up for him. There was also a stab of jealousy over my husband’s sausages, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. I can just about put up with veggie sausages but vegetarian gravy just doesn’t compare with the meat version.

The hardest thing is eating out. Vegetarians get a rough deal here unless they dine at specifically vegetarian restaurants which is tricky to do when you are mainly friends with meat eaters.

All too often restaurants offer very limited options for vegetarians and the lack of originality is astounding. If you don’t like goats cheese (like me) then you’re pretty much stuffed – goat’s cheese tart being an almost permanent fixture on menus. You must like risotto or you’re in serious trouble. Soup is also popular as restaurants try to kill two birds with one stone by making the obligatory soup option also the vegetarian one. My sister (who lives in a family of vegetarians) jokes about the ubiquitous and bland ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’. She will not eat anywhere unless she can order a bowl of chips if the vegetarian option fails her.

I bought some mushrooms for dinner in the week without a plan. A google recipe search placed the before mentioned ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’ in pole position and I nearly made it for a laugh. But then my head was turned by this Nigel Slater korma from his fabulous ‘Real Food’ book.

It doesn’t sound very exciting (probably the fault of the word ‘korma’) and I wasn’t expecting much (except a disappointed, meat deprived husband). But  it was actually very delicious. The addition of roasted hazelnuts and sultanas is genius  (so do not be tempted to leave these out). Ben ate it very, very happily.

This is not a difficult dish to make once you have prepped and lined up all the ingredients (there are quite a few and they are all important, I’m learning this about vegetarian cookery – vegetables need a lot more help to make them taste ‘special’).

Unfortunately my permanently(?) vegetarian daughter does not like mushrooms. Eating out with her is going to be a nightmare!

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite and how much rice you serve with it)

  • 50g of butter (I used ghee)
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and finely sliced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 15 cardamom pods, husks removed and seeds crushed
  • ½ a teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ a teaspoon of chilli powder (I used flakes)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 650g of assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I only had 500g which were a mixture of chestnut and some dried Chinese mushrooms which I found in the back of the cupboard and rehydrated in water first)
  • 50g of hazelnuts, toasted and shelled (I toasted mine in a 180oC oven for 10 minutes and then removed the shells by rolling between some kitchen roll)
  • 350g of leaf spinach (I used 6 cubes of frozen spinach as this was all I had)
  • 50g of sultanas (Nigel uses ‘golden’ ones but then he would)
  • 150g of thick natural yoghurt
  • 150g of crème fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt

Melt the butter (or ghee) in a deep pan (over a medium heat) and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for about 5 minutes until golden (turn the heat down if the butter starts to burn).

Then add the spices and bay leaves and cooked for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.

Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes until they soften.

Then add 225ml of water and the hazelnuts (I also added my frozen spinach here which I hadn’t bothered to defrost first and used slightly less water – because of the excess in the frozen spinach). Bring the water to a boil turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes with a lid on.

If you are using fresh spinach, wash the leaves and cook them (still wet) in a saucepan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes with a lid on (they will cook in their own steam). Drain, squeeze out the water and add to the mushrooms after they have finished simmering for 15 minutes.

Then add the sultanas and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and add in the yoghurt and crème fraiche. Heat gently but don’t boil or the mixture will curdle.

Finally stir in the chopped coriander and season well with salt (I needed two large pinches).

I served the curry with rice but it would be amazing with homemade naan.

 

Wild garlic pesto

pesto 1

Wild garlic is in season right now and I’m like a woman possessed scouring verges and wooded areas for this completely free food. I’ve even trained my children to be on the lookout. It’s not hard to identify as the garlicky smell is unmistakable (but do check because it does look similar to Lilly of the Valley – which is poisonous). Not a great photo but this is what it looks like.

wildgarlicgrowing

My son Edgar likes to eat it raw in huge handfuls as soon as he’s picked it. I’m sure this is fine for his health  (wild garlic is said to have antibacterial, antibiotic and antiseptic properties) but it doesn’t do much for his breath.

If you live in Nottingham there’s a healthy blanket of wild garlic at Clifton Wood, and on a recent trip to Scarborough I discovered a great bit patch among the walking paths in South Cliff Gardens.

This wild garlic pesto recipe (from a recipe for gluttony) is brilliant. It uses roasted hazelnuts which provide texture. I just added a little lemon juice to cut through the intense garlic flavour. Toss it with some pasta for a quick and easy dinner.

Wild garlic pesto

1/2 of this amount makes enough to generously cover 500g of dried pasta to feed a family of four

  • 100g of wild garlic leaves
  • 75g of hazelnuts (roasted in the oven at 160oC for about 10 minutes and then crushed with a pestle and mortar)
  • 50g of Parmesan cheese (plus more on top if you’re mixing the pesto with pasta)
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 150ml of good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Put all the ingredients above in a blender and whizz up. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if necessary.

To store, decant into a sterilised jar and drizzle a thin layer of olive oil evenly over the surface (this will help preserve the colour). Keep in the fridge until needed.

pesto 2

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic 2

It’s half term and we’ve been in Scarborough eating lots of gluttonous seaside food. Amazing fish & chips at the Magpie Cafe and giant ice cream sundaes at the Harbour Bar, but also things I’m a bit ashamed of, like ready-made pizzas from Sainsburys Local and my first McDonald’s hamburger in about five years (which, after a fair amount of rose wine, I declared was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten!!!).

So for most of the week I’ve entered the kitchen only to turn on the oven and remove packaging. And on our return yesterday I was still in holiday  ‘I can’t be bothered to cook’ mode but we had to have something for dinner so I made this super quick pasta dish.

I tried the recipe for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to become a staple in our house. It’s easy to make but a bit different to your usual pasta and sauce.

The original recipe (by Olia Hercules for the Guardian) is made with spaetzle (tiny egg dumplings that you make by pushing batter through a colander) but these are a faff to make and I’m not a huge fan of the texture so I make it with linguine instead.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

For two

  • 200-300g of linguine (depending on appetite)
  • 70g of hazelnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a little sea salt
  • 50g of parmesan cheese, grated
  • Two good handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling
  • Some sea salt

First toast the hazelnuts in an oven heated to 180oC for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Roughly crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar or chop finely with a knife. I buy my hazelnuts unblanched from Lidl (where they’re cheapest) and find that once roasted the skins come off really easily.

Put the nuts, garlic, parsley, oil and parmesan in a large bowl and mix.

Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, then drain and toss into the bowl with the other ingredients and stir until well coated. Serve immediately with a little extra olive oil drizzled over the top and a good sprinkling of  sea salt (although these are optional and can be left out if you’re watching your fat/salt content).

Serve with a green salad on the side if you’re worried about the absence of greens, and a large glass of crisp, white wine if you like.

Courgettes, courgettes, courgettes

I so look forward to the very first courgettes of the season but then, after a month or so when they just keep coming and coming, I scrabble around desperate for new recipes to try. Here are two of my favourite recipes but please do contact me (details on the ‘about me’ page) if you have any other good ones (aside from the usual ratatouille and stuffed courgettes which get a bit tedious). As much as I absolutely hate waste it’s got to the point now where we can’t even give them away. We are currently decorating our garden with some of the larger ones and in past years they have ended up as door stops and baby playthings.

courgettes edited Eddie with courgette edited 2

Courgette and basil soup

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 8 medium courgettes roughly chopped into chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • A good handful of parmesan
  • A good handful of basil leaves (or you can use pesto if the basil has dried up)
  • 1 1/2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is best but packet is also fine)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the courgettes and garlic. Turn the heat down low. The key here is to sweat the courgettes down slowly (for at least 30 minutes) without browning. The smell at this point is just wonderful. Then pour in the stock and bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. I let the mixture cool now for a bit before whizzing up (because I’m prone to liquidiser accidents) but if you’re in a hurry, and you’re careful it’s not really necessary.

Pour the mixture into a liquidiser and add the basil. Whizz for about 30 seconds or until smooth. The original recipe recommended a coarse texture but I personally prefer a finer one.

I then pour the mixture back into the pan and season well with salt and a little pepper. I don’t add the parmesan until the soup is ready to serve and I stir this in at the end once it’s heated through. I always have it in my head that soup is a little boring (this probably comes from my Dad who has never classed soup as a proper meal) so I like to work the presentation. With this recipe I save a little parmesan to sprinkle over the top and then add a drizzle of good olive oil and a few torn up basil leaves.

Any leftover soup keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge as long as you don’t add the parmesan.

Courgette and hazelnut cake

This recipe was passed to me by a former colleague Glenis. It’s taken from her vast collection of recipes cut out of magazines, I have no idea how old it is or which magazine it came from. I promise that it is much nicer than it sounds. In the past, when I was working, I have taken it into the office and everyone has devoured it (as long as the secret ingredient isn’t disclosed until the end).

This is a large cake that should easily divide into 10-12 large pieces.

  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 200ml sunflower oil
  • 25ml walnut oil
  • 225g grated unpeeled courgettes, patted dry with kitchen towel
  • 275g self-raising flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180oC fan, and prepare a 23cm spring form tin by lightly oiling and lining with greaseproof paper.

Roast the hazelnuts for 5-10 minutes on a tray in the oven. Watch them carefully to make sure that they don’t burn, you want a golden colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray before chopping roughly.

Place the sugar, eggs and two oils in a large mixing bowl and whisk until thick (you can do this by hand but it’s really, really hard work so I always use an electric mix). Add the courgettes to the oily, sugary mixture and stir until combined. Combine the flour, salt and cinnamon in a bowl and then add to the courgette mixture, folding in very gently. Then fold in the roasted hazelnuts, again use a gentle action here so that you don’t overbeat the mixture.

Tip the mixture into the tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Leave the cake in the tin to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Then remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely before icing.

The original recipe decorates the cake with ripe peaches before serving but I prefer a more gluttonous, carrot cake style cream cheese topping which I make by mixing a small tub of full fat cream cheese (200g) with an equal amount of icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence.