Friday, 29 August 2014

Stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

I know Shirley Conran said some years back “Life is too short to stuff a mushroom”, but I thought it was about time I proved her wrong. Well, I’m definitely no Superwoman and I could be about forty years too late, but better late than never.

We had these nutty, veggie stuffed mushrooms for dinner on Monday, really needing something to cheer us up; it was a Bank Holiday here and it absolutely poured with rain the entire day. I felt so sorry for all those people who had outdoor plans for their day off. Great British weather…don’t you just love it?

Having decided to make these lovely mush I hit a bit of a brick wall over what to serve them with – I ummed and ahhed about creamy mashed potato but I finally came down on the side of lemony herb couscous. Nothing new there, I’d happily eat couscous every day.

Incidentally, I always thought these mushrooms were called Portobello, but it seems they’re now called ‘Portabella’. Amazing…you learn something new every day.

1 medium red onion, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, cored and diced
olive oil
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
50g pine nuts
½ tsp dried oregano
1 crushed clove of garlic
125g grated mozzarella
1 thick slice wholemeal bread, blitzed into crumbs
4 large Portabella mushrooms
1 tbsp pesto

Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and chop finely; sauté the stalks together with the onion and red pepper in a tablespoon of olive oil until lightly coloured; add the sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, oregano and garlic and cook for another minute then scoop into a large bowl and mix in the breadcrumbs and half the cheese.

Turn the oven on to 180C.

Brush the outside of the mushrooms liberally with olive oil and smear the pesto over the insides; place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and, using your hands, (it’s easier than a spoon - trust me!) put a quarter of the stuffing into each mushroom.

Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes then take them out of the oven and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes until golden.

Serves 2

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Beetroot and Ginger Chutney

This is a great time of year in the garden and it’s been such a good year for growing.

Our carrots are doing really well and the onions and shallots have been pulled and are all lying out in the sun to dry for a day or two. The plum tree is laden with fruit which is ripening nicely, but sadly the damson hasn’t been so lucky – some beasties have been munching on the fruit and it’s looking a bit sorry for itself. Plenty of fruit on the tomatoes, though, after a slow start; we’re just waiting for them to turn red.

And last but not least, I give you….drum roll please....beetroot! This is the fabulous bunch of little beauties I pulled on Friday – how gorgeous are they?

I'm chuffed to little mint balls with them - they’re the best we’ve ever grown and there are plenty more to come. I think I can feel lots of lovely beetroot, feta and walnut salads coming on.

Given that we’re so well endowed with beetroot I started looking for a chutney recipe to play around with, although I could quite happily eat the entire crop in salads. I based this Beetroot and Ginger chutney on Nigella's but I changed the proportions a little and added a couple of extras in the way of spicing as well as a splash of balsamic to perk things up a bit. It’s a stunning colour and sort of sweet but sharp; I think it'll make a great addition to a toasted cheese sarnie when it’s had time to mature for a few weeks.

Looks like chutney-making season has started early this year – I’m now on a quest for carrot chutney. Wish me luck.

600g beetroot
300g red onions
600g Bramley apples
25g fresh root ginger
60g preserved ginger
250g soft brown sugar
375ml red wine vinegar
25ml balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp mixed spice
⅛ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger

Turn the oven on to 200C. Wrap the beetroots individually in foil, place directly on the oven rack and roast for 30-40 minutes until tender then set aside to cool.

Peel and chop the onions and the cooking apples, place in a deep wide pan or preserving pan. Finely dice the cooled beetroot and add to the pan. Blitz both the gingers with a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar then add to the pan along with all the other ingredients. Give everything a really good stir, bring to the boil then turn down the heat a bit and allow to bubble for about an hour or so, stirring occasionally, until it's nicely thick.

Draw a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and if it doesn’t fill up with liquid you can pot up your chutney into hot sterilised jars. Cook for a little longer if it's still too runny.

Makes seven 190g jars.