Tuesday, May 03, 2011

It's a Man's World!

Am pleased that readers seem to enjoy mushrooms. A lot of people think they have no flavour, and perhaps the 'buttons/whites' don't. Have never tried the more unusual ones that are on sale - mainly because they are expensive, although have used mixed dried mushrooms. My favourite now has to be the chestnut mushrooms, for they have a lot more 'flesh' than the 'whites', can be stored for longer in the fridge, and can taste quite 'nutty and meaty'.
I find the open-capped ordinary (white)mushrooms good for absorbing flavours, so these work well when cooking Strogonoff. Sliced and fried with the meat, they both look like meat and also (having absorbed the juices) taste like meat, so one way of 'extending' a small bit of fillet steak.

In the past have successfully grown mushrooms in the Leeds kitchen. In those days garden centres sold fairly large boxes of ready-to-grow mushrooms, and many crops emerged from the same box over a period of time, working out much cheaper than buying mushrooms over the counter.
Recently bought another 'mushroom kit' for growing indoors and have to say was sadly disappointed. Had only one (small crop) and barely a second worth mentioning. Perhaps I was unlucky. Anyone with an outhouse/cellar and able to find the right compost (horse manure) could buy straw and mushroom spawn and grow hundreds of mushrooms.

When 'growing our own' fungi it's not just deciding to pick them when we feel like it, as once they appear through the compost looking like a small white bead, within a day they can double in size to a 'button'. By next morning much larger but still 'closed cap' followed by 'open cap' and then fully open, called 'flats' - the larger ones being called 'field mushrooms'. The now 'fashionable' Portobello mushroom is the 'flat' chestnut mushroom.
Young, firm mushrooms are lovely eaten raw, even larger but still firm mushrooms, cut into quarters, can be good used as 'dippers' along with other raw veg; carrot, celery and courgette strips, tiny cauliflower florets, sugar snap peas, strips of red, yellow and orange bell peppers. Can even use the crusts from bread cut into strips and dried. Great for scooping up hummous or other dips.

Another thought entered my head last night re the above and repercussions. Who knows what will happen next. What if we had cause to have food rationing again? There would be me with a greenhouse full of tomatoes, soft fruits in the garden, maybe courgettes, sacks of growing potatoes a windowsill of herbs, and some mixed salad leaves, and not a lot else. During the last war vegetables were in very short supply and one onion was worth its weight in gold.
Would it be more sensible to grow more 'useful' veggies, those that would store longer, I ask myself. Am now wishing I'd disobeyed B and bought chickens after all, perhaps still time. Perhaps we should keep rabbits!
But of course, none of my fears will probably never happen, it's just me being me, covering all contingencies I suppose. The only way I feel secure.
Thankfully remembered we live by the sea, so perhaps time to take up fishing as a hobby (just as long as B puts the worm on the hook and removes and kills the fish for me - otherwise it's a no-no, but then when circumstances force us to do things we might normally flinch at, we might end up even eating garden snails!).
Perhaps time for me to stop letting my thoughts run away with themselves and return to chatting about the present time and let the future take care of itself.

Best turn my mind to what is really necessary: meals we can still make cheaply and easily. So here goes...

Let's start with another pate. This time one made with broad beans. But no reason why peas could not be used. As this can be made using frozen (thawed) broad beans, it can be made any time of the year. Although the recipe does not specify 'double-podding' the beans, myself prefer to remove the white skins wrapped around the beans themselves - the beans then appear bright-green, looking more like peas, and tend to split into two halves, which makes them 'look more' when adding to a dish.
Minted Broad Bean Pate: serves 4
1 lb (450g) broad beans (podded)
1 clove garlic, crushed
5 fl oz olive oil
pinch ground cumin
handful of mint leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
Cook the beans in lightly salted boiling water for 10 - 12 minutes or until tender, then drain well, reserving the cooking liquid.
Pop the beans into a food processor with the garlic and half the mint and half the oil and blitz to a puree. Remove to a bowl and stir in the rest of the mint and all but two teaspoons of the remaining oil. Season to taste (and be generous with this). Cover and set aside for half an hour to allow flavours to develop, then remove cover and drizzle over the reserved oil. Serve with slices of hot toast (multigrain eats well with this pate).

Some of us may keep a wide variety of nuts in the larder, perhaps to add to biscuits/cake or muesli. The news is - at the moment - that walnuts are particularly good for us, so we might keep ourselves healthy by serving these meatless 'rissoles' from time to time. We don't need to be vegetarians to enjoy these.
Nuts don't have that long a shelf life as the oils in them tend to turn rancid, so impair the flavour. The best way to store nuts for longer is to keep them in the freezer.
Another 'health tip' is to eat almonds with their skins because they each contain different 'chemicals' that together are said to be very good for the heart. Eaten without skins, the almonds don't have the same effect. But if all you have are flaked or skinned almonds, these can still be used. Make up your own mixture, to the total weight of nuts given.

This next recipe is a very 'nutty' one, and designed to be speedily cooked in the microwave.
If you have no fresh herb (you can use another fairly strongly flavoured herb if you wish), use half the amount of dried. Dried mixed herbs are better than no herbs.
Mixed Nut Rissoles: makes 6
2 oz (50g) unskinned almonds
4 oz (100g) walnut pieces
2 oz (50g) cashew nuts
1 oz (25g) sesame seeds
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
2 oz (50g) breadcrumbs (pref multigrain)
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard (or 1/2 tsp English)
1 tblsp milk
1 egg
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano/marjoram
1 tblsp chill sauce (the hot, not sweet)
Put all the nuts in a food processor and 'pulse' down until they become fairly fine but not a powder (more enjoyable with a bit of 'bite' left in - but if you have trouble with your teeth then they can be ground down more).
Mix the 'ground' nuts with the remaining ingredients, then form into 6 'patties'.
Place on a greased microwaveable plate (this could be the turntable) and microwave on full power for 3 minutes, but allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving. Good served with a 'raita' type yogurt based sauce.

This next recipe appeals to me because it uses potatoes that might need using as they begin to sprout, mushrooms (because mentioned above), a few bacon rashers that also might need using up, and other ingredients most of us have.
Don't forget that we can always make our own 'cream cheese' by draining home-made yogurt, and grated cheese should always be kept ready to use in our freezer (cheaper to grate our own then buy packs of ready-grated).
Tip: if you only want a hint of garlic (with any dish), slice a peeled clove and gently fry it in the oil for a few minutes, then remove garlic and discard (although am sure it could be kept a couple of days in a little oil and used again). This will lightly flavour the oil with garlic, which is often preferred to adding garlic (chopped or crushed) to a dish.
Potato Bake: serves 4
4 potatoes, cut into cubes
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1 onion (pref red) chopped
4 rashers bacon, chopped
5 mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 oz (100g) soft (cream) cheese
salt and pepper
good pinch paprika
4 oz (100g) grated Cheddar cheese
Boil the potatoes for about 7 minutes or until just tender, then drain well.
Meanwhile put the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion for about 5 minutes until softened, then add the bacon, mushrooms and garlic and continue frying until the bacon has become crispy, then stir in the soft cheese, adding seasoning to taste.
Gently mix in the potatoes with a third of the Cheddar and the paprika, then tip into a greased ovenproof dish, cover with foil and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 20 minutes, then remove foil, sprinkle over remaining Cheddar and bake, uncovered, for a further 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and bubbling.