Mushrooms

Lockdown lunch – easy flatbreads with mushroom and lentil soup

mushroom soup flatbreads

Lockdown continues with no end in sight in terms of the children going back to school. I’ve grown quite used to having them around but I feel as though I am morphing into a 1950s housewife. All meals are served on the dot at set times and my brain is clogged up with thinking about where the next one will come from and how I can mix up the random ingredients in the cupboard to form some sort of presentable family meal. Putting all my feminist principles to one side, it’s a part that I’m rather enjoying playing. PS. I do not look like a 1950s housewife. No pretty tea dresses here but rather tracksuit bottoms, no makeup and grey roots scrapped back into a rough ponytail.

We’ve now completely run out of bread and plain flour and our supply of out-of-date yeast (begged and borrowed from friends and family) is dwindling away dangerously. Luckily, we have still been able to buy self-raising flour locally so I searched the internet for a bread recipe that would make use of this. I was really delighted with the results of this flatbread recipe – loosely based on one from Jamie Oliver’s website. The dough was very forgiving and soft and it could be shaped easily without the aid of a rolling pin. It’s definitely one that you could get the kids to help with (dress it up as a home economics lesson!). My husband Ben said that they tasted a bit like crumpets which can never be a bad thing in my opinion.

The mushroom and lentil soup comes from the no-nonsense ‘New Complete Vegetarian’ by Rose Eliiot. It is rather reminiscent of healthy vegetarian cafes circa 1990, but with a few embellishments it made a perfectly respectable weekday lunch. It tasted earthy and wholesome and handily made use of store cupboard ingredients and some on-the-turn mushrooms. Weirdly my son ate it happily – despite claiming to hate both mushrooms and lentils (I didn’t tell him what was in it until the end).

The flatbreads were the star of the show though and I really recommend trying them.

Quick flatbreads (with self-raising flour)

Makes 8

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 350g plain yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A slug of rapeseed or olive oil
  • Optional flavourings – I added a little fenugreek and some black mustard seeds

In a large bowl mix together all of the above ingredients with your hands and mix until it all comes together into a smooth dough (use a little more flour if it’s too sticky, I needed a couple of extra sprinkles). Cover the bowl with cling film or a tea towel and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to cook, divide the dough into 8. Roll each portion into a ball and flatten out until it is about 20 cm in diameter. Use a rolling pin if you need to.

Heat a frying pan until very hot – do not add any oil. Cook each flatbread for a 1-2 minutes on either side. They’ll bubble up a bit and go nice a brown in places. You may need to reduce the heat a little if the pan gets too hot – I like it though if they catch a little in places.

Keep warm in a very low oven (around 100oC) on a plate covered with a damp tea towel while you cook the rest (the tea towel will prevent them from drying out).

Mushrooms and lentil soup

Serves 4

  • 200g pack of mushrooms (I used chestnut), chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter (approximately 15g)
  • 125g green (or Puy) lentils
  • 850ml water
  • A stock cube (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • To serve, dill or parsley, cream or grated Parmesan

Take a large frying pan and cook the onions, garlic and mushrooms in the olive oil and butter until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the lentils and the water and simmer with a lid on for 45 minutes until soft. Do not add any salt or salted stock cube until the lentils are soft as the salt prevents them from cooking.

If you are using a stock cube add this in once the lentils are soft and cook for a couple of minutes more.

Blend the soup until smooth. This will make a very thick soup. I thinned mine down with a bit more water, or you can use milk if you wish. Check the seasoning and add pepper and a little more salt if necessary.

Serve topped with dill, parsley, a drizzle of cream or olive oil, or perhaps some grated cheese.

 

Espresso mushroom pasta

expressomushroompasta

Not a great photo I’m afraid but I was far too hungry to faff around with the lighting and make it look better.

I would rather do a few more press ups and walk a bit more than give up carbs – I love them and they make me happy.

Pasta has always been my go-to for a quick, mid-week meal when life is busy but it can get a bit boring.

To spice things up a bit here is an interesting idea which mixes mushrooms and coffee for a very unique and earthy pasta sauce. I stole the concept from Rachel De Thample’s book ‘FIVE’. You don’t necessary need to be a coffee fan to appreciate this dish but you do need to like mushrooms.

Espresso mushroom pasta

Serves 2 greedy adults or 3-4 with a regular appetite

  • 200ml of freshly brewed strong black coffee
  • 15g of dried mushrooms
  • 250g of chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced
  • A good splash of olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 300g of pasta of your choosing (this is the dried weight)
  • A heaped tablespoon of mascarpone, cream cheese or thick cream
  • A handful of walnuts, toasted quickly in a hot dry frying pan and roughly chopped
  • A handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Brew the coffee and add the dried mushrooms to the hot coffee. Leave to soak for at least 30 mins (or longer).

Put a large pan of water on the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions or to your liking. Reserve a cup full of the cooking water for later.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and saute the mushrooms and garlic for a few minutes until they start to colour and wilt.

Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the coffee and chop finely. Then add both the dried mushrooms and the coffee to the frying pan.

Let the chestnut mushrooms absorb the coffee and cook away until there is barely any liquid left in the pan. Mix in the mascarpone, cream cheese or cream and stir to combine. Let it bubble away until you have a sauce the thickness of single cream (you can always add a bit of the reserved pasta water if it gets too thick).

Drain the pasta and tip into the mushrooms. Stir to coat and season well with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately garnished with toasted walnuts and fresh chopped parsley.

 

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.

 

Tom Kerridge’s chicken, bacon and pistachio pie (made with pork)

pork and pistachio pie 2

I don’t believe in Valentine’s Day, but if I did this is what I’d make for my husband.

Our very good friends Jonny and Becca cooked this wonderful pie for us recently and I was so impressed that I had to buy the book (Tom Kerridge’s ‘Best ever dishes’) so that I could try it for myself.

The recipe requires a few special ingredients which are probably not on your usual shopping list (brined peppercorns, pistachios, filo pastry) but I promise that it’s well worth the effort.

The original recipe uses chicken mince but Tom does say that you can also use pork. This is what I did because chicken mince is not that easy to come by (my butcher could have minced some chicken especially for me but it would have been very expensive).

Tom Kerridge’s chicken, bacon and pistachio pie (made with pork)

Serves 4

  • 250g of smoked bacon, diced
  • 400g of good quality pork mince
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 200g of button mushroom, finely sliced
  • 500ml of chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of brined green peppercorns, drained (they sell these in the ‘ingredients’ section of Tesco or Waitrose)
  • 100g of shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh oregano
  • 2 tablespoons of dried oregano
  • 150g butter melted (I actually used about 100g)
  • 1 x 250g packet of ready-made filo pastry

Warm a saucepan over a medium heat, add a little oil and add the bacon. Cook until brown and then add the pork mince and cook until golden brown.

If a lot of fat has come out of the meat then drain the mince over a colander over a bowl. Add the fat back to the pan, turn the heat down to low, then add the onion and garlic and cook until brown (about 10 minutes). If your meat is very lean then remove the meat from the pan and add a little more oil before frying the garlic and onion.

Once the onion and garlic are soft, tip in the mushrooms, cooked mince and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and add the green peppercorns, most of the pistachios and the fresh oregano. Check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Leave to cool.

Take a 20cm diameter cast-iron dish or oven proof frying pan and brush with melted butter. Take a sheet of filo pastry and brush with a little melted butter. Sprinkle on a little dried oregano then cover with the next layer of filo. Brush that with butter and sprinkle with oregano and then continue until you have 7 layers of pastry. Don’t be scared if the filo cracks a bit but work quickly so that it doesn’t dry out too much.

Put the filo layers into the dish/frying pan and then spoon in the filling pushing it right up to the edges. Then bring the overlapping pieces up over the top of the filling.

Take another sheet of filo pastry and place over the top, brush with butter and sprinkle with oregano and repeat until you have 5 layers. I crinkled the ones that ended up over the edge of the pan back on to the top of the pie. I then brushed the whole top liberally with butter and sprinkled over the remaining pistachios.

Bake for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 200oC until the top is crisp and golden.

I served with steamed greens but I think it would also taste great with a simple green salad.