Posts Tagged ‘porcini’

R is for…

R&R!

That’s right. Danda and I are leaving these wintery shores (well, not exactly wintery, it’s quite nice and sunny in England now) for warmer climes abroad (my weather app says there’ll be cloud but I’m hoping otherwise).

Yes, we’re off to Italy. To the beautiful island of Capri. To the coast. To the sea. To the pizzas of Naples. To the ash-preserved ruins of Pompeii. To the volcanic heights of Vesuvius. To the colossal sights of Capua. To the porcini mushrooms and fresh asparagus of the street markets. To the truffle laden plates of pasta. To the bowls piled high with homemade icecream. To the strong palate-cleansing espressos. To the mountains and the blue skies and bays of the Amalfi coast.

Off we go! Here’s hoping my phone works over there!

image

On mushrooms

Yesterday, I found an old skirt which had little pictures of mushrooms all over it and so I wrote about mushrooms for my Nanny Rhino. I am going to share my mushroom chat with you as I wrote ten thousand words yesterday catching up on the days I missed with Nanny Rhino so I am all written out for a day or so.

image

 

There are so many things to do and places to go with mushrooms that it’s hard to know where to start. I’d love to start in Rome, where any restaurant worth it’s salt would be proudly displaying a wooden crate of porcini mushrooms on one of its tables outside. Since this visit and my mass consumption of the fantastic porcini mushrooms, I am struggling with eating them here as they are all of the dried variety, which was fine and nice and lovely, until I saw the fresh ones in Italy. Now I feel differently about dried porcini. I feel a bit sad for them as they are trapped there on the shelf, in a little jar, moisture-less. Without any fresh porcini of my own, I am simply not eating porcini mushrooms. It is a sad state of affairs. Dried porcini are great for risottos though, as you can use the soaking liquids to hydrate your rice. It’s still not quite the same though, is it?

 

My next favourite mushroom is probably an oyster mushroom as I love their shape and texture. I love how wild and uncouth they look, all misshapen and not at all uniform like their little cousins, the button mushrooms. The problem with this could be that people may mistake your oyster mushrooms in your stir fry for a slab of fat off the meat (as happened to me when making a duck stir-fry), so it’s your decision whether you want to run the risk of being thought of as a ‘fat-cooker’.

 

Shiittake are my next favourite, for similar reasons to the oyster mushroom. It is kind of irregular and a dark mysterious colour. They have a great flavour that I love cooking with beef in a stir-fry.

 

Enoki mushrooms, so long and thin and tiny are great for throwing into dishes last minute, for an extra bit of flavour. Their size means they don’t need much cooking before they soften and taste lovely. I love putting them onto a pizza last minute before quickly oven baking it as it adds another element to something with relatively few ingredients.

 

Next we have the portobello and the chestnut mushrooms, larger, meatier and better for roasting than their smaller counterparts. They can also hold their own quite well in a pie or vegetarian lasagne with spinach and ricotta.

 

Lastly we have the humble button mushroom, great for general use, fabulous fried in a breakfast, but with less of the qualities that draw me so well to the other mushrooms.

 

Actually, I have a less-than-fantastic memory connected to a portobello mushroom. I was seeing a guy for a few months and we could both see that things were in steady decline. In the height of our excitement while things were great, though, we had booked tickets to go to a literature festival somewhere in the countryside. The ticket had been quite expensive and I had booked the day off work so I was reluctant to give it up. Also the gentleman in question didn’t seem that keen on letting the relationship go, although I knew he knew it was over.

 

He was all up for driving there and giving me a lift and acting like things were fine so I took the lift, slept all the way there and planned other similar tactics of avoidance once there. I thought I’d just potter off and get lost in the crowds. He wasn’t so easy to shake though. It took him hours to finally say he fancied seeing something he didn’t think I’d like and wandering off in the other direction.

 

I found the furthest away corner and went for a long walk among the trees, where none of the fun was happening. I saw a group of people open water swimming and got chatting and generally just soaked up the lovely day. I eventually got back into the foray of people and book stalls and performances and fun and watched an old work colleague doing performance poetry. Here, I had solace. Should the gentleman wander along and want to sit down, I could say I was busily engaged in supporting my friend and paying attention to his performance and apologies but I wasn’t able to have a chat right now. The gentleman did not appear though and the next performer was hilarious so I stayed there. At one of the food stands nearby, I ordered an amazing portobello mushroom burger with halloumi cheese and red pepper. I sat down with my burger, deep in thoughts about life and this tasty mushroom burger. It was such a great moment, there, sitting on the ground, with people milling about, books in hands, intelligent discussion being had all around me, a performer on a little stage not far away and these beautiful purple flowers lining a little garden wall to my left.

 

That’s when the gentleman came along, greeted me in surprise and sat down next to me, ruining my moment. My excuses for silence were none, apart from the tasty mushroom burger in my hands, which required all of my attention. We were stuck together again then, for the rest of the afternoon, until it all became too painfully obvious and, in a quiet late afternoon moment, sitting on the grass, he fell asleep and I sneaked away, got my bag and headed for the nearest main road to find a train station and scarper off back home, away from this awful awkwardness that I should never have embarked upon in the first place.

The big 200 and an Italian feast

So it’s my 200th post! Very exciting. I haven’t been swimming in a little while as I’ve had a cold so I’m going to try, from next week, to swim 200 lengths in honour of it. Not all at once. I’ll try a bit each day. I need to do 30 each day, right? Wish me luck!

I’ve got lots of birthdays and excitement this week so am going to give it til Monday to start the challenge. Thanks for staying with me or joining me along the way. It has been lots and lots of fun. To celebrate this milestone and to embrace my recent trip to Italy and in honour of seeing a friend for the first time in ages, I prepared an Italian feast!

I got a beautiful cookbook the other day. The most beautiful cookbook I’ve ever seen.

image

It’s full of Venetian recipes and the antipasti section is amazing. In an effort to impress, I insisted on making one of everything!

I finished work at 3pm and had timetabled in when to start everything so that I’d be ready by 7pm. I suddenly realised, at 3.35pm, that I didn’t have almonds for the cantuccini biscuits. I set my white wine and white wine vinegar and juniper berries to boil (for the pickled chicory) then I quickly grabbed my purse and ran down to the shop. I got the almonds and ran back to the house…. When I said ‘I quickly grabbed my purse’, that’s exactly what happened. I grabbed my purse AND NOTHING ELSE! I was locked out. There was no-one else with keys who would be back before 6pm. We had taken the spare key from the next door neighbour because it didn’t work anymore, it was always getting stuck. We kept meaning to get another cut, but didn’t. O no! The next door neighbour walked by and I explained my predicament. We went in her garden to see if I could climb over her fence into my garden and try and figure a way to get in. It’s not really a climb-over-able fence so I was stuck outside, pan boiling inside, on a tight schedule for preparing dinner, with no way into the house.

We eventually got in but another neighbour played a very risky game of almost falling through a roof to do so and it all took about an hour. I was VERY behind schedule.

When I was back in the kitchen, I pickled my chicory, made my duck stock, grilled my aubergines and dressed my rocket. I was back on track. As I was whizzing the almonds in my food processor for the cantuccini, it popped and stopped working! This was NOT on my schedule! It wouldn’t have been a very big deal had I not needed to whizz the duck breast fillets for my duck and porcini mushroom meatballs. My only option was my handheld whizzer thing. You know the type that you stick in a pot of soup to whizz all the lumps out?

So there I was, with a handheld whizzer thing, trying to whizz duck breasts. I got it done in the end but it wasn’t easy and bits of mashed up raw duck kept flying about and sticking to my face and arms.

I threw together an apparently Italian drink, minus the alcohol – elderflower cordial with mint, lemon and ice, then topped up with ginger beer.

I was nervous about attempting the Carta di Musica (music paper) as it needed to be rolled really really thin. It’s basically a paper thin cracker made with semolina. It went surprisingly well. I had some rocket and walnut pesto I had made that morning and after grilling some aubergines with parmesan, mozzarella and basil then rolling them up, I was almost ready to go. I just wrapped the end of a few grissini sticks in salami and pickled chicory and stuck them in a glass, put some dressed rocket into the braesola and rolled it up and put some truffle butter in a dish and we sat down and dug in. (Yes, you heard me right, truffle butter! I finally got some! And it was totally worth it.)

image

At this point, I noticed that the caster sugar was on the side, unopened and realised that in my panic over the food processor breaking while I was making cantuccini, I had forgotten to put the sugar in! What I had was a savory almond dough! I whipped the biscuits out of the oven and binned them then mixed some sugar into my remaining dough. It didn’t really mix in very well though. I just wrapped the dough in clingfilm, fridged it and hoped for the best.

Next was the main course. We had a parmigiana, a roast tomato risotto, a duck and porcini meatball in a duck stock and tomato sauce, and scallops and pancetta on a bed of minty pea stuff.

image

The parmigiana looks quite large and intimidating, I didn’t realise that when I cut it!

After eating everything and having a bit of chitchat and sneaking another meatball or two, it was time to address the cantuccini disaster. I cut my dough into six pieces and put it in the oven. It did not go well. Because there wasn’t enough dry stuff in the mixture, it didn’t bake hard enough. It also wasn’t sweet enough. I made us espressos in a percolator, which were really strong, and we dipped our biscuits in.

image

I felt a bit feeble, with my savory, slightly soft almond thingys. So I implemented a back up plan. There was ice cream in the freezer! Mascapone, cherry and pistachio. Score! The dinner was rescued and we tucked in.

All in all, a success, I think.

Happy 200th post to me! What a fabulous way to celebrate.