Parmesan, pancetta and thyme stuffed mushrooms

Portabello mushrooms stuffed with pancetta, parmesan, parsley, thyme and garlic:stuffed mushroom

We went to see Iron Man 3 last night – it was quite good; lots of explosions, Orientalism and American patriotic moments – a solid 6.75/10. The thing with going to the cinema is that Tesco is right next door so it makes sense to combine trips, but it does mean we walk around the supermarket like hungry zombies post film at about 10.45pm, and I’ll tell you something; it is never a good idea to go food shopping on a grumbling tummy!

We came back with a whole assortment of ingredients (a gammon joint and leg of lamb…) with very few meals actually planned, but on opening the fridge with apprehension this morning I found some large field mushrooms (Portobello sized) and decided to stuff them.

mushroom

This was a relatively faff free recipe and doesn’t take much thyme (ha) – it could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the pancetta and adding some tasty Spanish manchego.

Finely dice half an onion and gently fry until soft on a medium heat in a tbsp of olive oil. Finely chop the stalks of four field mushrooms and a couple of button mushrooms and add these to the onions. Add a tbsp of chopped fresh thyme, a minced plump garlic clove and some pepper. Let these all soften together – about 8 minutes or so.

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In a separate frying pan slowly heat 50g smoked pancetta and then fry (it’s good to slowly heat the pan so the fat comes out of the pancetta this makes it tastier as it’s pig fat, but also better for you as you should have to add additional oil to fry).

Once the pancetta has coloured add it to your onions – carefully keeping as much of the pancetta fat in the pan as possible.

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In the pancetta oil brown off the bottoms of the mushrooms and set onto a baking tray.

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In a food processor whizz up 25g stale bread, a tbsp of olive oil, salt, pepper, a small bunch of curly leaf parsley and 20g grated parmesan.

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Fill your mushrooms with the onion mixture and cover with the cheesy breadcrumbs, drizzle with olive oil, and a quick crack of black pepper and bake for 10 minutes at 180°C.

Vietnamese ‘Spring’ (?) rolls

So despite our recent bouts of horrid weather, with the heating on and Radio 2’s attempt to get us in the spring mood, we decided to make some Vietnamese not so Spring time spring rolls.ImageThis weeks’ post is a bit more interactive, a sort of step by step guide to Vietnamese spring rolls. Now I appreciate spring hasn’t really sprung so much this year, more crept in and decided it didn’t like the weather and will try and come back in April. But none the less we whipped up these fresh little delights.

Pickling is a great way to use up slightly sadder looking vegetables, or if you have way too much of something lying around. We had sever bags of peppers and a few too many carrots in the fridge so decided to quickly mix together a small bowl of Japanese rice vinegar, some lime juice, a little sugar and some chili and stirred in some finely sliced carrot, peppers and some Chinese cabbage.

We left these to pickle while we made tea, and came back to them a half hour later.

  1. Fill a baking tray with hot water, and slide a rice sheet in to soak – ours are from the local Chinese supermarket but I’ve seen them in the bigger supermarket chains, this will take around 20 seconds depending on how hot the water isImage
  2. Remove from the water and shake of the excess, lie flat on a board and fill with about a tbsp. of drained pickled vegetables in the middle towards the side of the sheet nearest youImage
  3. Fold in the sides one at a time, and then roll up and away from youImage
  4. Leave to dry for a couple of minutes before servingImage

We had ours with a dipping sauce made with fish sauce, lime juice, coriander, chili and sugar – a bit of a Thai influence but we can put that down to the excuse of fusion food!

Getting excited for the Easter holidays, officially starting on Thursday when I go and pick my big sister up from the station – I can already see a food fun week ahead for us! 

p.s. Sorry for the bad lighting! This is what comes of getting a bit too busy and trying to do the photos for the blog in the evening rather during the gloriously sunny days… 

A tale of tea and roses

Kiambethu Tea
Kiambethu Tea Farm – Limuru, Kenya

A quick deviation from British baking and a jump to sunnier climes – off to Kenya to get us thinking about where our food comes from. With three days to go to the Kenyan election on Monday all fingers are crossed for a peaceful week and a smooth transition of power. It’s interesting to see how global events can affect the minutia of our lives. What goes into your cup of tea?

My parents are living in Kenya at the moment, and I have been lucky enough to go and visit them a few times. Until last Christmas when I visited a tea farm in Limuru, north of Nairobi and just south of the equator I hadn’t realised that 50% of British tea comes from Kenyan farms.

I’m not talking about speciality teas such as Chinese Earl Grey or an Indian Assam but ordinary black tea such as Yorkshire Tea, Lipton’s and PG tips teabags. Tea grows best at high altitudes, and the Kiambethu farm can be found at 2 500m. The farm itself is beautiful, rolling hills of tea and a small-holding of chickens, geese and cows to provide the tea pickers with fresh eggs and milk.

Kiambethu cows

The UK drinks over 165 million cups of tea a day, how many of us actually think about where our food comes from? Or to what extent your tea drinking habits are supporting the Kenyan economy – Bloomberg estimates that sales from Kenyan tea brought in $1.2 billion last year.

Lake Naivasha Roses
Naivasha roses at home in the kitchen

While out in Kenya I also visited Lake Naivasha, its beautiful landscape, located at a high altitude is a perfect climate for flamingos, African fish eagles and more unusually, row upon row of roses. The sale of foreign flowers is a controversial topic, many ‘green’ organisations are campaigning for only local flowers, but I agree with the Fairtrade organisation in supporting the sale of Kenyan roses supports the 2 million people directly dependent on the flower industry. 30% of all British cut flowers come from Kenya bringing in revenues of more than $250 million a year. This time of year is crucial for the 5 000 Kenyan flower farmers with Valentine’s Day and the Mothering Sunday in close succession.

Lake Naivasha
Lake Naivasha – Kenya

It is clearly important to check where your food comes from, but what seems to matter more is whether they were produced and sold in a fair environment. What do you think?

Flour and faff relocate

I have been away from the kitchen for a while, 3 months of slow and occasionally non-functional internet, in Kenya visiting family.

Now I am back. I have recently moved from Leeds to Manchester, and wow, the changes are endless. I am a great fan of Leeds, the market is great, you are never bored and you can get pretty much everything you could ever need (with some hunting at times). In Manchester, there seems to be everything but bigger, better and a wider variety.

I’ve decided to re-start my blog, still fairly faffy food. Lots of international cooking, plenty of baking (waistline permitting) and fabulous feasts – food just seems to taste better in a whole themed menu.

On my first attempt to find a replacement for Leeds Kirkgate Market I did some online searching and made a list. First attempt was a bit of an adventure, I ended up in Southfield Market, which is amazing – if you go in the middle of the night and want to buy wholesale. At 10 in the morning there were hardly any people around and those there gave me, my friend and our bicycles confused looks. We decided to leave the lorries behind and move down the list of markets, which took us to a smallish market, mainly butchers and polish grocers. Not bad, but nothing compared to Kirkgate, though conveniently next to a Tesco Extra. With millions of supermarkets and so far no all-in-one market we have been bargain hunting in supermarkets, pretty successfully so far. Pork shoulder £1.50 a kg and lamb shoulder £3 which have led to a wide variety of curries and roasts.

So far the best things here are the HUGE spread of foreign and speciality food markets;

–          China Town in the city centre which has a wide variety of Chinese/Thai/Malaysian/Japanese ingredients. Though seems essential to go in with a shopping list as differentiating lots of varieties of fermented bean curd is pretty tricky under supermarket pressure. My favourite buy from China Town is our new 2 tiered bamboo steamer, so far only used to make wontons (absurdly easy snack food – recipe to follow)

–          Rusholme, or as it is known here ‘the curry mile’ due to the high concentration of Indian and Pakistani restaurants up and down the main street. Along here we have at least 2 gigantic Indian supermarkets, selling every kind of pulse, spice and rice in large (and cheaper) quantities. Last night I spotted some fresh methi (fenugreek) which I really want to use in a dal. We curried half the lamb in a Dhansak from ‘World Kitchen India’ (again recipe to follow – essentially; lamb, spinach and toor dal, aromatic and rich) with a lighter Dal Saag (also with spinach) which went a lovely colour thanks to turmeric and asafoetida.

–          Fish Market once a month on our local high street, we stumbled across this gem while taking books to the local charity shop, there is fish monger form the aforementioned Southfield wholesaler who comes once a month, £1.50 for sea bass and a tenner for a WHOLE SALMON, all completely fresh and British sourced – there are a pair of sea bass in the freezer waiting for inspiration

Next on the shopping list are ingredients for Thai red prawn curry, but for now I leave you with the choux pastry I have just made for profiteroles for pudding today – a simple recipe so long as you whisk and whisk when it says to, which I have just whipped together waiting for the rain to stop.

Choux Pastry for Profiteroles (Adapted from Delia online)

These are super simple and have few ingredients; the trick is to get all your ingredients weighed and ready before you start heating anything. Once cooled they can be stored in the freezer and either filled with whipped cream and covered in chocolate (my favourite) or filled with a fluffy fishy mousse for a super seventies starter…

Heat 150ml water and 50g of cold butter (cubed) and bring to the boil, as soon as it starts to simmer turn it off and tip in the (pre weighed) 60g plain flour and a tsp of caster sugar (leave this if you are making savoury pastry). Beat with the back of a wooden spoon until it forms a smooth paste – at the start it will look like it’s curdling but keep beating and the flour will go smooth.

In a mug lightly whisk 2 large free range eggs and gradually add these (in four stages) to the paste, beating vigorously – at this point I had to switch from my wooden spoon to a silicon whisk to keep it smooth.

Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment (run the parchment under the tap and tap off excess water – as Delia says this will create a steamy oven for the profiteroles). Spoon a teaspoon at a time onto the parchment, leaving room for them to rise – I used a heaped teaspoon, but would use slightly less next time, but obviously all personal preference.

Put the trays in a preheated oven at 200° for 10 mins, after which turn the oven up to 220° for 15-20 mins (watch them in the last five minutes as they need to come out as soon as they are golden and crispy).

Turn onto a cooling rack and pierce each one to let the steam out – I used a sharp knife with a pierce and twist motion. Leave to cool completely, and only when you are minutes away from eating, whip 300ml of double cream, and either spoon or pipe (I pipe) into the holes of your profiteroles. Melt 200g of dark chocolate and 50ml of water in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water to make the pouring chocolate sauce.

Serve in a messy creamy chocolaty mess (or a neat tower…)