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Mushroom, Cider & Blue Cheese Soup

We made this soup on the strangest St Patrick’s day ever. There was no parade, the restaurants have all closed down and city streets are virtually empty. There is lots of panic buying going on, the supermarket aisles for tinned goods and toilet rolls have been decimated. We’re not down though, we’re positive we’ll all get through this and hopefully be stronger and better people on the other side. We’re continuing to buy fresh food, there’s lots of it available, and cook nice recipes like this soup by Gill Meller.

Mushroom, cider & blue cheese soup – serves 4 to 6

  • 500g wild and cultivated mushrooms (we used all chestnut mushrooms as it’s not autumn and wild ones aren’t available)
  • 25g butter, plus an extra bit, for frying
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 small potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 750ml veg stock or chicken stock
  • 250ml dry cider
  • 100ml double cream
  • 75g blue cheese, plus extra to serve if you like
  • a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped, to serve

Clean the mushrooms with a damp piece of kitchen paper and roughly chop them but keep about 100g over to fry and use as a garnish. The mushrooms for the garnish can be sliced.

Melt the butter in a large pan with a splash of olive oil, over a medium heat. When it starts to foam, add the leek, potato, onion and garlic. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the onion is soft but not browned. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the stock, cider and some seasoning, then bring to a simmer. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Purée the soup until smooth (or smoothish if you’re using a stick blender).

Add the cream and blue cheese to the soup and gently return to a simmer. Season to taste and keep warm over a very low heat.

Heat a knob of butter and a splash of oil in a frying pan and sauté the reserved mushrooms for 8 to 10 minutes or until well cooked and golden brown. Season the mushrooms.

Serve the soup in warm bowls with the mushrooms and parsley sprinkled over. You can also sprinkle over some more crumbled blue cheese if you like.

(Original recipe from Time by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2018.)

Fishcakes with Tartare Velouté

These are definitely a bit fancier than your average fishcake. Jam-packed with fish, not too much potato, and a stunning sauce. We’ve put a few in the freezer and can’t wait to have them again. The recipe is by Tommy Banks, of The Black Swan in Oldstead, and he suggests serving a poached egg on top. Do as you wish.

Wine Suggestion: We actually had another Jura Chardonnay with this, the Berthet-Bondet, but we’re conscious that these aren’t easy to find. We’d also suggest a sparkling from a cooler climate, especially if it has some autolytic bottle age; or a Chablis, Vermentino or good Albariño.

Luxury fishcakes with tartare velouté – serves 6

FOR THE FISHCAKES:

  • 1 red-skinned potato, about 250g
  • 250g smoked cod or smoked haddock
  • 250g hake
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp English mustard
  • 500ml milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 25g butter
  • nutmeg, for grating
  • ½ lemon, zested and juiced
  • 100g mature cheddar, grated
  • 100g mixed white and brown crabmeat
  • 2 bunches of scallions, finely chopped
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil, for frying
  • poached eggs (optional), lemon wedges & pea shoots, to serve

FOR THE TARTARE VELOUTÉ:

  • 25g butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 50ml double cream
  • squeeze of lemon
  • large handful of parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp capers, chopped

Prick the potato a few times, then bake at 200C/180C fan/Gas 6 for about an hour or until soft.

Scoop the flesh from the potato into a bowl and mash until smooth.

Meanwhile, put the cod or haddock and hake into a large, shallow pan. Add the bay leaves, mustard and milk, and season. Bring to a simmer over a high heat, then cover with a lid, turn off the heat, and leave for 10 minutes.

Put the mash into a large bowl and stir in the egg yolk, butter, a pinch of grated nutmeg, the lemon zest and juice, the cheese, the crab and the scallions. Stir together well, then add 1 tbsp of the poaching milk and some seasoning.

Lift the fish gently from the milk and pour the milk into a jug (throw away the bay leaves). Flake the fish into large pieces and stir gently through the potato mixture. Shape the mixture into 6 fishcakes.

Now put the flour, egg and panko crumbs into 3 separate bowls. Coat each fishcake lightly in flour first, then dip into the egg to cover and finally into the panko crumbs. You want them to be totally covered in the breadcrumbs. You can freeze them now if you like or put into the fridge for cooking later.

To make the sauce, heat the butter in a saucepan until foaming, then stir in the flour. Cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, then gradually add the reserved poaching liquid, stirring all the time. Keep adding liquid until you have a silky sauce, then stir in the cream and leave to simmer gently for 10 minutes. Stir in some lemon juice, parsley, capers and seasoning. Keep warm.

To cook the fishcakes, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side until dark golden and crispy. A metal skewer into the centre helps to check they’re piping hot, particularly if they’ve spent time in the fridge. You can cook them in batches if easier and keep warm in a low oven.

Serve the fishcakes with plenty of sauce, a handful of pea shoots and a lemon wedge. You can also add a poached egg if you would like.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

 

Hanger Steak with Shallots

We adore this cut of beef but it’s not always easy to get in Irish butchers. Talk to your butcher in advance and tell them you want a piece of onglet or hanger steak – they should be able to order it for you, and it’s much cheaper than some other cuts.

We cut this across the grain and it’s meltingly tender so you can be brave and serve “blue” like we did here, but it also works well at your choice of doneness if you prefer.

Wine Suggestion: we think this combination of meltingly tender beef and the buttery shallots in red wine goes with Rhône reds – Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre et al; either as a blend or Syrah alone. Tonight we had one of those insider wines, a Côtes du Rhône labelled under Jean-Paul Daumen’s name. He’s the owner-winemaker at Domaine de la Vieille Julienne, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a superb domaine with an enviable reputation. The wines under his name are from a mix of vineyards from the estate and friends, all farmed organically and biodynamically by Jean-Paul and made with just as much care as his own domaine. The result … great value and a delicious pairing.

Hanger Steak with Shallots – L’onglet à l’échalote – serves 4

  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 800g onglet/hanger steak (you will probably get 2 long pieces)
  • 250g shallot, finely sliced
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 125ml red wine
  • 100ml beef stock
  • watercress, to garnish

As soon as you get home from the butchers put your steak into a dish and sprinkle generously with salt. Then put in the fridge until you need it but take it out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it.

Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Add a knob of the butter and when it starts to melt add your steak. You might have to cook it in batches depending on the size of your pan. A rough guide is to cook for about 2 minutes on each side for very rare steak or longer if you prefer it more well done. This is dependent on the size of the steak, so you should do the finger test on the meat and go with gut feel. Put the steak onto a warm plate, cover with foil and keep warm while it rests.

Melt half of the remaining butter in the same frying pan and add the shallots, thyme and bay leaf. Cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until softened. Add the red wine and the stock, turn the heat up to high and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Season with salt and lots of black pepper, throw away the herbs. Pour the meat juices from the resting plate into the sauce and whisk in the remaining butter to make a thick, glossy sauce.

Slice the steak across the grain into thick slices and serve on top of the shallots with some watercress on the side.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Secret France, BBC Books, 2019.)

To do the finger test for steak you compare the resistance of the cooking meat to pressing the ball of your palm with a finger from the other hand

  • Blue: an open palm, relaxed
  • Rare: thumb and your first, index finger touching
  • Medium Rare: thumb and second finger
  • Medium: thumb and third, ring finger
  • Well Done: thumb and fourth, little finger

Hot Crab Pots

Hot Crab Pots

This is such a simple starter but really delicious. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough. We made with some fresh crab leftover from another dish and waiting in the freezer.

Wine Suggestion: this is quite rich and we’d suggest pairing it with a fuller, more complex and concentrated sparkling. A good vintage Champagne works, or alternately find a top-quality sparkling made in the same method; tonight it was Dermot Sugrue’s The Trouble with Dreams, one of our favourite English sparkling wines.

Hot Crab Pots – serves 4 as a starter

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 200ml double cream
  • 100g mixed white and brown crabmeat
  • 50g gruyère, grated
  • butter
  • 1 tsp chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Mix the eggs, cream, crabmeat and gruyère together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Grease 4 ramekins with butter, then divide the mixture between them.

Cook the pots in the oven for about 15 minutes or until just set – we had to cook for a couple of minutes longer.

Sprinkle with the chives to serve. Some sourdough toast on the side would be nice but not essential.

(Original recipe by Victoria Moore in BBC Olive Magazine, March 2013.)

 

Fish Pie

Fish Pie

This is an excellent fish pie recipe by Marcus Waring. It makes a generous portion so great for feeding a crowd or you can divide it between two dishes and freeze some for later.

Wine Suggestion: A full-bodied Chardonnay is our choice for rich fish pies. Tonight it was Domaine Labet’s “en Billat” an ancient vine, jurassic soiled classic we are fortunate to have a few bottles of from holidays last year. Think of a majestic white Burgundy with altitude, and a concentration that 100 + year old vines can achieve.

Fish Pie – serves 6, generously

  • 1kg fish fillets (a mix of salmon & cod/haddock), skinned
  • 600-800ml whole milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 75g butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced
  • 50g plain flour
  • 100ml white wine or white vermouth if you have it
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 150g frozen peas, defrosted
  • 300g raw tiger prawns, shelled
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into chunky pieces
  • 2 tbsp capers, rinsed

FOR THE TOPPING:

  • 1.2kg potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 50g butter
  • splash of milk
  • 100g grated Cheddar cheese

Remove any bones from the fish with tweezers, then put into a large pan and pour in enough milk to cover. Add the bay leaves and some salt and pepper. Gently bring to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer for 5 minutes or until just cooked. Remove from the heat.

Melt a third of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and onion and cook gently until softened. Remove the leeks and onions from the pan and set aside. Melt the rest of the butter in the same pan and when it bubbles stir in the flour and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the wine or vermouth and stir to form a thick paste. Tip the leeks and onions back into the pan.

Strain the milk from the fish fillets into a measuring jug. Gradually add about 600ml of the milk to the leek mixture, stirring until the sauce bubbles and coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the crème fraîche and season again.

Flake the fish into chunky pieces and gently fold through the sauce along with the peas, prawns and parsley.

Spoon the mixture into a large ovenproof dish. Scatter the eggs and capers evenly over the top.

Preheat the oven to 200C/180fan/gas 6.

To make the topping, put the potatoes into a large saucepan, cover with water,  add a generous pinch of salt, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. Drain the potatoes and mash with the butter and enough milk to make a spreadable mash. Season.

Spread the potato over the fish and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden and the sauce is bubbling.

(Original recipe from Marcus At Home by Marcus Wareing, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2016.)

Middle Eastern Shepherd's Pie with Spiced Parsnip Crust

Diana Henry’s book, Food from Plenty, is great for recipes that use leftovers. For this one we used a large amount of leftover lamb shoulder that had been roasted for hours on the bone in a spicy marinade. The leftover lamb was tasty as it was but was totally transformed in this recipe – super spicy and delicious! Don’t be tempted to skip the spicy onion topping.

Wine Suggestion: a medium bodied, juicy and youthful red with not too many tannins. Luigi Pira’s Barbera d’Alba was perfect, as was a quirky, earthy Poulsard from Stephane Tissot from the Arbois in eastern France … we had a few people over, so could try a few different wines which was fun.

Middle Eastern shepherd’s pie with spiced parsnip crust – serves 6

FOR THE MEAT:

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 800g leftover cooked lamb, cut into small chunks
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml chicken stock or lamb stock
  • grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 75g raisins, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes and drained
  • 6 tbsp tomato purée
  • 75g pine nuts, toasted

FOR THE PARSNIP CRUST:

  • 450g floury potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 950g parsnips, chopped
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper (this will make a very spicy mash so use less if you like)
  • 50ml whipping cream

FOR THE SPICED ONION TOPPING:

  • 2 onions, very finely sliced
  • 15g butter
  • 1½ tsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 3 tsp soft dark brown sugar
  • good squeeze of lemon juice
  • a small bunch of coriander or mint, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a large casserole and brown the lamb, then scoop the lamb out and set aside.

Add the onions, celery and carrots to the same pan and cook until golden. Add the garlic and spices and continue to cook for another minute. Return the lamb to the pan and add the flour. Stir for a minute, then add the stock, zest, juice, raisins and tomato purée. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes. You will need to keep stirring now and then to prevent the mixture from sticking. It should be thick but if it looks dry add a little more stock. Add the pine nuts.

Boil the potatoes and parsnips separately until soft. Drain the potatoes, then cover with a tea towel and  lid and allow to dry out over a low heat. Drain the parsnips and add to the potatoes. Heat the butter for the crust in a large saucepan with the spices. Add the potatoes and parsnips and mash, then add the cream and season to taste.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Spoon the lamb into a large pie dish, spread the mash on top and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Meanwhile, fry the onions for the topping in the butter and oil until golden. Turn up the heat and keep cooking until starting to crisp. Add the cinnamon, chilli, salt, some salt & pepper, and sugar. Cook until slightly caramelised, then squeeze over the lemon juice and mix in the herbs. Pile the onions on top of the pie to serve.

(Original recipe from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2011.)

Paneer, Tomato and Kale Saag

This is from Meera Sodha’s amazing veggie book, East. We have Meera’s Indian recipe books and we often cook the recipes she writes for the Guardian. This book has an Eastern, but not exclusively Indian, influence and the recipes are mouthwateringly good. We’ve noticed people have mixed reactions towards kale, if you’re on the fence we reckon this is probably the best kale-based dish we’ve ever eaten. We served with naan bread from the local takeaway.

Panner, tomato & kale saag – serves 4

  • 500g kale, discard the stems and roughly chop the rest
  • rapeseed oil
  • 450g paneer, cut into 2cm dice (if you’re buying 200g packs just buy 2)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cm ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 green finger chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp brown rice syrup (we used runny honey)
  • 1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

Blitz the kale in a food processor and chop it very finely. Unless your food processor is huge you will need to do a few batches.

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large, nonstick frying pan, that you have a lid for. Fry the cubes of paneer for a couple of minutes on each side or until they have taken on a nice golden colour. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat another 2 tbsp of oil in the same pan and cook the onions over a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the tin of tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until reduced to a paste. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and honey (or brown rice syrup) and mix in well.

Stir in a handful of kale at a time. It will seem like you have too much but it will wilt in perfectly. Stir in the coconut milk, then bring to a simmer, cover with a lid, and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Add the paneer to the pan and cook for another 10 minutes with the lid on. Keep an eye that it doesn’t dry out and add a splash of water if necessary.

Taste to check that it has all come together and the kale is tender. Remove from the heat and serve with warm naan bread.

(Original recipe from East by Meera Sodha, Penguin Books, 2019.)