Mushroom and Wild Garlic Risotto

It is always exciting when the wild garlic first appears. I have a particular spot in Cannizaro Park, although I am not telling you exactly where, that I always can rely on at this time of year to produce a small harvest. If you are out walking at this time of year and get a whiff of garlic, follow your nose and you are sure to find some. The leaves are luscious green and they have a delicate, pretty white flower in the centre of each bunch. They actually give off a stronger garlic smell than taste and are best just wilted into dishes right at the end of cooking. If they are not in your box, be sure to add them as an extra as they are not around for long. They are particularly good in risotto.

Wild Garlic

Risotto is really simple and versatile supper. Such a different verity of  vegetables can be used and it requires just a few store cupboard ingredients. It is great if you make your own stocks, but don’t be put off if you don’t, good stock cubes are fine. I prefer chicken but you can use vegetable instead. I know the recipe tells you to stir all the time, and so you should. It is nice to take time and stand still for once, but personally I rarely find I have 20 minutes to stand in one place, so if you need to add two ladles of stock at a time and stir a little less, it will still be delicious.

Mushroom and Wild Garlic Risotto 2

Mushroom and Wild Garlic Risotto

Serves 2

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced

20g dried Porcini

1 litre of stock (or 1 litre of water and 2 stock cubes)

50g butter

200g risotto rice (Aborio or Carnaroni)

100mls white wine

freshly ground black pepper

50g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

A large handful of garlic greens, washed and roughly chopped

Heat the stock or dissolve the stock cubes in boiling water and keep simmering. Pour a ladle of boiling stock over the dried Porcini and allow to sit. In a separate pan, heat 2/3 of the butter, add the onions and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring. Next add the mushrooms and cook until all the liquid has cooked away and they begin to fry. Drain the Porcini adding the liquid, minus any grit, to the stock. Roughly chop the Porcini and add to the mushrooms. Stir for a minute more and add the rice and turn up the heat. The rice will now begin to lightly fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring. Any harsh alcohol flavours will evaporate. Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, and keep stirring to encourage the rice to release its starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will result in a creamy risotto and will take around 15 – 20 minutes. Taste the rice — is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite but not chalky. Don’t forget to check the seasoning carefully. If you run out of stock before the rice is cooked, add some boiling water.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter and Parmesan. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Finally stir in the wild garlic leaves and eat it as soon as possible.


Roast Jerusalem Artichoke and Mushroom Salad with White Truffle Oil

What I most like about cooking my Riverford Lunches and Supper Clubs is the challenge of using up every ingredient in the box in one balanced menu. Often I am left struggling with two remaining vegetables, which I have to bring together in some convincing and delicious way to finish off my menu. One such lunch, I had only Jerusalem Artichokes and Mushrooms left and I was short of a salad. And that is how I came up with the idea for this dish of Roast Jerusalem Artichokes, Sautéed Mushrooms and Rocket, which was also in the box. I added a drizzle of truffle oil and in all came together beautifully. It turned out to be the favourite dish of the day at my lunch and the one that they were keenest for the recipe for. I think it would make a great brunch too, with a poached egg on top.

Roast Jerusalem Artichoke and Mushroom Salad with White Truffle Oil 2

Roast Jerusalem Artichoke and Mushroom Salad with White Truffle Oil
Jerusalem Artichokes (very well scrubbed)
Some Portobello mushrooms
White Truffle oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Some garlic (very finely crushed)
Fresh Thyme (very finely chopped)
Very good Balsamic vinegar (at least 12 years aged)
Salad leaves.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook the artichokes in plenty of salted cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until you can just insert a knife into the largest. Do not over-cook or they will become mushy and begin to fall to pieces when cut. Strain and allow to cool. Slice length-ways in about 1cm thick disks. Toss gently in olive oil, salt and pepper. Lind a roasting tray with grease-proof, in a medium hot oven (about 180C) and when hot add the artichokes in a even layer. Check from time to time to ensure even cooking, turning them over half way through until golden brown on both sides. Meanwhile, sauté the sliced mushrooms in a little extra virgin olive oil until golden. Add a little crushed garlic and the thyme, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and drizzle with truffle oil. Allow to cool slightly. Add the artichokes and pour off all excess oil into a small bowl. With this oil make your dressing by adding some Balsamic vinegar and more salt and pepper if necessary. Dress your leaves with the dressing and toss gently with the mushrooms and artichokes. Serve immediately.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Family Bolognaise

I have been so busy this week with thinking about Christmas, that I forgot to order my veg box. I was so occupied looking at all the Christmas hampers and cook books for family, that I clean forgot. But it is amazing how rummaging through the fridge I came up with all sorts. Last week I was talking about bulking out, or even replacing, meat dishes with mushrooms and I had a punnet to use up so that went in, and I had leeks too, which can always replace onions in sauces or stews.

I have also been talking quite a bit about cooking for kids and I came across a picture of my daughter aged 3, quite happily tucking into Spaghetti Bolognaise and I wondered how she had managed to turn into the fussy little madam she is today. I know that I have probably been a bit to blame, maybe bearing the adults in mind a little too much when cooking family dishes and I am quite a robust sort of cook. With children’s sensitive, little palettes, a little too much pepper or chili is probably enough to put them off. So I decided to make a batch of Bolognaise entirely with her in mind and see if I could win her back. Here are a few key points when cooking for kids although obviously you will need to adapt them for your own. Anyway, I am very pleased otro say that my efforts were rewarded when she not only finished up her own plateful, but somewhat regrettably, half of mine too!

• Go easy on the pepper and chilli. Don’t use too much wine. Make sure you cook it off.

• Break up the tinned tomatoes really well. Children can be fussy about pieces of tomato in things. Don’t use chopped, use whole, and mush them up with your hands until there are no big chunks left.

• Make sure you do not let anything catch. Burning makes things taste bitter. We tend to use leaner and leaner meat which of then does not have enough fat to cook. Add sufficient. If your sauce is greasy at the end, skim it or blot it with kitchen paper,

• Leave out (or puree) vegetables that they hate. My daughter will not eat carrots, no matter how I try and tell her they are something else, golden nuggets for example, she is not falling for it. As frustrating as it is leaving these things out, it is not as frustrating as them refusing to eat the whole dish.

• Cut vegetables fine, and cook down for as long as possible. Do this slowly with enough oil and a good pinch of salt. This will help them disappear into the sauce. This will also add some of the missing flavour that you have had to leave out, back.

• Be careful with cuts of meat. Children can be particularly fussy about skin, sinew or pieces of fat.

• Be careful with “green bits” ie herbs. Dried oregano is best to start with as it is familiar from pizzas.

Spag Bol 2

Family Bolognaise
Extra virgin olive oil
250 g quality British beef mince
6 rashers thinly sliced dry-cured smoked streaky bacon, sliced into lardons
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
1 leek, peeled and finely chopped (or onion)
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
4 large Portobello mushrooms or 8 smaller ones
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato puree
100 ml red wine
2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes

Put a casserole pan on a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil then cook then brown the meat. Break it up completely with a wooden spoon. Do not burn. Add more oil if necessary. When golden brown, remove to a separate bowl. Drain any extra fat if necessary. Add another glug of oil to the pan and add the bacon. At first the bacon will sweat. Use the liquid to scrape the bottom of the pan clean so that it does not burn. Fry until crispy. Add leek or onion and celery and sweat for a good 10 minutes, with a pinch of salt, stirring now and then, until really soft. Add the mushrooms, oregano and garlic and cook until completely broken down. Add the mince back, the tomato puree and then pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil and cook off for at least 2 minutes. Add the mushed up tinned tomatoes. Rinse the tins out with a little water and add that too. Either tip the whole lot into a slow cooker for 3 hours on slow or cover with a lid and cook on the hob very slowly for 1 ½ hours. Check seasoning and add salt and a little pepper to taste.

Serve with whatever pasta your kids like best. Parmesan is obviously optional too. Don’t forget it is great in baked potatoes.

Amelie eating spag bol

Mushroom Soup

I have been super busy this week with Riverford Lunches. This is when a customer hosts a lunch in their home, invites up to 10 friends, who they think would be the kind of people who may also be interested in getting a weekly Riverford veg box, and I come along and cook lunch. The idea is to inspire everyone with how good fresh, organic vegetables can be. Then everyone sits down to a three course lunch and I hopefully I sign up a few new Riverford customers.

Anyway, I managed to fit in three lunches this week but it did not leave me a huge amount of time for much else so I thought I would share with you some of the recipes that I have been cooking this week. I ordered a small veg box less roots which came with mushrooms, carrots, flat beans, leeks, a cauliflower and red Russian kale. Straight up I made the soup of this week’s menu, and it couldn’t be much easier or more seasonal than mushroom. You can add more to your base than I do, such as onions or celery if you have them to hand, but just to say, you don’t need to, just lots of mushrooms will do. You will need a couple of punnets.

Mushrooms in a punnet
I always wrap my thyme into a little bundle rather than chopping it or even more time consuming – removing all the tiny leaves. Tie it up well so no twigs escape. All the flavour will infuse whilst cooking and then all you have to do at the end is squeeze out all the remaining juices. Finally, don’t forget plenty of freshly ground black pepper. If your pepper grinder is not up to much, grind some up in a coffee grinder. I am very happy to have a big bowl of Mushroom Soup for dinner with nothing more than a chunk of good sourdough bread.

If you are interested in hosting a Riverford lunch then just let Simon know. We will be taking bookings soon for January 2016 onwards.

Mushrooms Soup

Mushroom Soup
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main
Good glug of olive oil
800g mushrooms, (two large punnets) sliced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Small bunch fresh thyme, tied tightly into a little bundle
2 pints (1 litre) milk
250 mls cream (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Sweat the mushrooms and thyme bundle in the oil for about 30 minutes. All the liquid should cook away and the mushrooms will begin to fry. Add a little more olive oil is necessary. Cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Pour over the milk and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for five minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the cream if using. Remove the thyme. Squeeze as much juice from it as possible. Blend in liquidizer of with a hand blender until smooth. Season with plenty of salt and black pepper. Adjust constancy with a little extra milk or water.


Potato, Leek and Mushroom Gratin

Next up. I managed to get a bit behind with my potato consumption and they were piling up, somewhat out of control in the vegetable basket. Anyone who know my cooking, will know that I make rather a lot of potato gratins. I tend to incorporate all sorts of greens as a hidden middle layer –from Cavalo Nero to Kale to Cabbage. The potato can just as easily be replaced, be it celeriac, parsnip, carrot, beetroot or swede. The possibilities are endless. This is one of my favourites – Potato, Leek and Mushroom. The mushroom adds a meatiness which makes it substantial enough to serve on its own just maybe with a salad. For a real treat add a little white truffle oil with the mushrooms once you have removed them from the heat.

Potato, leek and mushroom gratin on plate

Potato, Leek and Mushroom Gratin
This makes a very large gratin. You can cut the amount easily by 1/3 or 2/3
1 cup milk (250mls)
3 cups Double cream (750mls)
3 whole peeled garlic cloves
Small bunch of thyme, tied tightly with a piece of string
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 sliced mushrooms
3 Leeks cut in rings
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 pounds (1.4kg) baking potatoes, sliced thin

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, whole garlic cloves and thyme over low-medium heat being careful not to boil over. Gently boil for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Meanwhile, coat a frying pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. Sauté the mushrooms until golden brown. Add the chopped garlic and cook for a minute more. Remove. Heat another frying pan and sauté leeks in butter and olive oil until just beginning to caremelise for about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange 1/2 of the sliced potatoes. Arrange remaining potatoes on top. Press the layers down with a spatula to condense.

Remove the thyme fron the cream, pressing it to remove the juices. Mash up the garlic cloves until they dissolve. Check the seasoning of the cream. It needs to season all those potatoes. Pour the infused milk over the potatoes. Cover the dish with foil and place in a preheated 170 degree oven. Bake for about 1 hour until the potatoes are tender. A knife should easily insert in the middle. Uncover and bake for 15 additional minutes until gratin is golden around the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

leeks in pan

Use-up Stir-fry

Spring greens are a thing of beauty, however I do understand when you have seen your hundredth one turn up in your veg box, you may not continue to think so.

I got a couple this week in my small fruit and veg box along with more carrots, another veg that often accumulates, spring onions, sugar snap peas and new potatoes. On the fruit front there was apples and raspberries. So to make sure that you do not despair of summer greens, I will be concentrating on them over the next few weeks starting with a fabulous use-up dish this week. This is the sort of recipe which clears out your fridge before your next veg box arrives because there are so many variants of ingredients you can use. And of course you could add some prawns, or chicken, pork or steak if you wanted.

I started with my spring greens, sugar snap peas, carrots and spring onions but I also discovered half a left over red pepper, some mushrooms and a few bunched onions, which all went in. The only staples that you really need are chillies, ginger, garlic and coriander and a lime, Teriyaki sauce and noodles.

There are several varieties of Teriyaki sauce. My kids like Waitrose own best probably because it is particularly sweet but if you want a healthier option Clearspring make an organic one. The sweetness is counteracted with some lime juice and if you want more salt, add a little soy or Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce) is also particularly good. On the noodle front, any will do. I used some old Pad Thai noodles which  where hanging around in the cupboard. More important is the ratio of veg to noodle. Your cooked veg quantity should be about equal to that of noodles otherwise it can get a bit heavy going. I have given you a rough recipe below but really it is up to you.

The only other thing which really is of help in use-up stir-fry is a Wok. If you don’t have one, don’t splash out on an expensive one. I got mine about 25 years ago for £10 and it is still going strong.

Stir-fry in bowl

Use-up Stir-fry

Serves 2 very generously

150g Pad Thai noodles (or any will do but vary cooking as instructed)

1 head summer greens

1-2 fresh red chillies

Large knob of ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled

4 spring onions

2 small bunched onions

4 carrots, peeled

8 mushrooms

100g sugar snap peas

½ a red pepper

Sunflower oil

1 lime

Teriyaki sauce

Sesame oil (optional)

Soy sauce, Nam Pla or salt

Small bunch of coriander

Boil the kettle and pour boiling water all over the noodles so that they are submerged. Leave for 15 minutes. Meanwhile shred your summer greens, wash and drain well. Grate the carrots. Thinly slice the mushrooms and red pepper, removing any seeds. Remove the outer most layer from the spring onions and bunched onions and finely slice. (Don’t forget to use the green of the spring onions too.) Top the sugar snap peas and string if necessary. Finely chop the chilli, removing the seeds. With a teaspoon remove the outer layer of the ginger. Grate the garlic and ginger. Drain the noodles. Heat your wok or large frying pan with a little sunflower oil. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for a minutes, stirring well. Add the spring onions, bunched onions, mushrooms, sugar snaps and red peppers. Stir-fry for a minute or two more. Next add the summer greens and carrots. Stir-fry until the veg has wilted. Finally add the teriyaki sauce and noodles and mix really well. Take off the heat and stir in your chopped coriander. Squeeze over the lime and drizzle with Sesame oil if using, Taste. If it needs more salt add soy or salt. Make sure you have the balance of sweet, salty and sour. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Stir Fry in Wok


It is artichoke time of year again! Strictly speaking artichokes actually have two seasons, summer and autumn, the later being when you are more likely to see the baby variety in abundance. I know they can be a little intimidating, after all they are little more than a huge thistle, which is not exactly inviting, but cooking them whole makes them much less fiddly to prepare and with the classic “Artichoke Vinaigrette” most of the work is done by the consumer.

Once you have mastered this basic dismantling of the artichoke you will be ready to move on to some more refined artichoke heart recipes. I love them topped with hollandaise, a match made in heaven but they are also delicious added to salads or pasta dishes. However, as there were some mushrooms in this week’s box, I was inclined to combine the earthy flavours of both, in “Artichoke Heart with Sautéed Mushrooms and Poached Egg” with a drizzle of truffle oil thrown in, just to round the whole dish off.  Try it with some good toast for brunch!

Good white truffle oil, and it must be white, is coming increasingly difficult to find. Supermarkets seem content to stock one, cheap imitator, which is a pathetic relation to the real thing. It may seem a bargain but it is not even fit to cook with. Take the time to source a good one. The size of bottle is a good indicator – it should be small and expensive. If it is not, it is not a bargain, it is just not good! It should cost about £10 for 100ml. I know it sound dear but a tiny amount can transform so many recipes and if it is good quality, it will keep for a few months. There is an increasing amount of varieties being produced in England. This is not a problem as long as the white truffles themselves come from Italy, the best in the world coming from Piedmont. I also spotted some rather nice looking Truffle Salt in Marks and Spencer in Wimbledon this week. Delicious sprinkled on your poached egg. Truffle honey is another particular favourite of mine. I like it with a slice or two of good Prosciutto, a chunk of aged Parmesan and a piece of perfectly ripe Cavaillon melon. Yum!

Artichokes Vinaigrettes

Globe artichoke with Dijon mustard Vinaigrette

1 medium globe artichoke

½ lemon

For the vinaigrette

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 heaped tbsp Dijon mustard

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut off the stalk of the artichoke, remove any hard outer leaves and cut off the top. Rub with half a lemon. Squeeze the remaining lemon juice into a pan of rapidly boiling, salted water. Plunge the artichoke into the water and boil uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until the outer leaves are easily detached. It is important that the artichoke remains submerged so weigh it down. When cooked, turn the artichoke upside down and allow the excess water to drain away. While you are cooking the artichoke, make the vinaigrette. Combine the vinegar and mustard in a small lidded-jar and season to taste. Pour in the olive oil, before screwing on the lid and shaking vigorously to make a thick dressing. Taste, adding more mustard, vinegar and seasoning if necessary. The dressing will keep in the fridge for several days. Serve so everyone can help themselves.

Poached Eggs on Artichoke hearts

Artichoke Hearts with Poached Egg, Sautéed Mushrooms and White Truffle Oil

2 Artichokes

200g mushrooms

Extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Cook the artichokes as in the recipe above but leaving the stems intact. When cool enough to handle, peel off all the outer leaves. With a pinch, remove the remaining leaves on top of the choke. With a teaspoon scoop out the thistle like choke until you are left with the heart. Trim off any stringy outside layers on the stem and remove what remains so that the artichoke can sit upright. Slice the remaining stalk and put to one side.

Thinly slice the mushrooms. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan. Add the mushrooms and fry until golden brown. Add the garlic and any artichoke slices and fry for a minute more. Remove from the heat and drizzle with the truffle oil.

Poach eggs – butter the bottom of a heavy saucepan and add a couple of inches of water. Add vinegar and bring to a simmer. Break 1 egg into a cup and slide into water. Repeat with the other, spacing them apart, and poach at a bare simmer until the whites are firm but yolks are still runny, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer eggs as cooked with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper. Pile the mushrooms onto the plate and add the artichoke hearts. Top them with the poached eggs and eat straight away.

Artichoke hearts with Mushrooms 2


Mushroom, Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Lasagna

Mushrooms and Spinach just go together for some reason, whether it be in a stir-fry, an omelette or a tart but this week I tried out a Mushroom and Spinach Lasagne with a bit of Goat’s Cheese thrown in as well. Serve alongside some of Riverford’s delicious salad leave and you have a meal in no time.

Riverford don’t do a Goat’s Cheese. Maybe they haven’t managed to find a good Organic one. I used Helen’s Farm, which although not organic, does a lovely range of Goat’s milk products and they even come in a variety of strengths so there is something to suit to everyone. I chose the mild hard cheese and even managed to sneak it past the kids without a fuss.

Spinach_mushroom_goats cheese lasagne

Mushroom, Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Lasagna
Serves 2
One Punnet of Mushrooms
One Bag of Baby Spinach
One large clove of garlic
25g Butter
25g Flour
350mls Milk
50g Parmesan
120g Goat’s Cheese
½ box of lasagna sheets
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely slice your mushrooms. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan and add your mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Fry on a medium heat until golden brown. Meanwhile heat a large saucepan with a lid. Add a very thin layer of oil to the bottom to stop the spinach sticking. Add the bag of spinach and add a good pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid carefully. The spinach should be just wilted. Tip the spinach into a colander and wipe out the saucepan. Very finely slice the garlic. Add a glug of olive oil to the pan and add the garlic. Fry until just golden brown. Add the spinach carefully as it may spit. Stir well and turn off the heat.

Heat the butter in a small non-stick saucepan. Once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour. Return to a low heat and stir until sandy. Carefully add the milk and whisk over a medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the grated parmesan. Season well to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. Cut the goat’s cheese into small chunks. Take a gratin dish about 20cms x 15cms and put a very thin layer of béchamel on the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagne sheets. Break up the sheets if necessary. Top with the spinach and 1/3 of the remaining béchamel and 1/2 the goat’s cheese. Next do another layer of lasagne. Then top with the spinach the rest of the goat’s cheese and the next 1/3 of béchamel. Next the final layer of lasagne and finally the rest of the béchamel. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or so until golden brown on top and a blunt knife inserts easily all the way through.