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mushroom and mustard pizzocheri

pizzocheri is a buckwheat pasta which has a rich nutty flavour that contrasts really well with mild creamy flavours, which means i usually pair it with cheese. lots and lots of cheese.

today however, i decided to try something different – mushrooms in a creamy mustardy sauce. the sauce was inspired by nigel slater, who often uses mustard in his recipes, but was also a way to use up some mushrooms that were reaching the end of their life.

having added the pasta to boiling water i melted a little butter with some olive oil and then added a large handful of sliced chestnut mushrooms (you can use any mushrooms, including dried ones if you want a richer flavour) and a sliced clove of garlic, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

i cooked this over quite a high heat until the mushrooms began to brown and then added a bit of white wine, a couple of tablespoons of crème fraiche and a teaspoon of dijon mustard. this bubbled for a few minutes until the sauce had thickened (if it gets too thick add a little of your pasta cooking water) and just before adding the cooked pasta, i stirred in some grated parmesan, lemon zest and chopped parsley.

the sauce, mixed with the cooked pasta, is packed with flavour and a really lovely accompaniment to the pizzocheri. it would also be delicious served on top of a thick slice of seeded granary toast.


jerusalem artichoke tartiflette


several years have passed since i made tartiflette, in response to a friend’s request for a meal featuring “meat, potatoes and cheese” – my feelings then were that it was too rich and too much about the potatoes, which are not a favourite of mine.

so, when i saw a nigel slater recipe which substitutes jerusalem artichokes for some of the potatoes i decided to give it another try.  the result was really good – the jersualem artichokes have a lighter texture and a brighter flavour than the potatoes which helps balance the richness of the rest of the dish, which comes from slow-cooked red onions, pancetta and of course an abundance of reblochon cheese. the use of crème fraiche as a topping – the cheese is tucked away so it is able to melt completely – was also a nice touch.

this is, i think, perfect food for a freezing day, when you want something that will fill you up and keep you warm and content for hours after you finish eating. despite this, i think a salad is probably the best accompaniment, perhpas soemthing bitter involving chicory or just a mix of green leaves.

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the freshest rhubarb and orange jam


there are some ingredients can’t resist because they are just so pretty to look at – forced rhubarb is one, with its vibrant pink stems. using this to make delicately hued rhubarb gin or schnapps (i tend to alternate) is an annual event but i have added something extra to my list – a wonderfully fresh tasting rhubarb and orange jam from lillie o’brien of london borough of jam.

this is the best recipe i’ve found for rhubarb jam – the fruit is mixed overnight with orange juice and zest plus jam sugar, which helps to draw out the excess water in the rhubarb and helps keep whole pieces of rhubarb once cooked. it’s also a jam that reaches setting point very quickly – the recipe below says 5 minutes but mine tends to take nearer ten – which keeps the flavour of both the rhubarb and the orange quite fresh and worlds away from the stewed flavour that some rhubarb jams have. later in the year i’d like to try this method with strawberries, to see if i can get a similar freshness of flavour. 

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veal-stuffed artichokes with chickpeas and lemon broth


it’s been a while. sorry – changes are afoot and i’m a bit distracted. sadly this has been having an impact on the time and creativity i have for cooking, as well as blogging, which is why it’s all been a bit quiet. however, this dish is well worth sharing. it’s inspired by a recipe from jerusalem for stuffed artichokes with peas.

the original recipe calls for a stuffing of beef and leeks (heavy on the leeks which gives a really light texture as well as making a small amount of meat go a long way) and the lemony broth is flavoured with dill. i held back on the herbs and used a veal mixture as my stuffing (with finely chopped carrots, onion and celery for flavour along with the jerusalem baharat spice mix) and use chickpeas in the broth in place of peas.

we ate this with warmed pitta breads, which were wonderful for soaking up the broth as well as scooping up bits of dish.


a visit to andalucia

it’s new year’s eve and i’m sitting in front of my laptop with a cocktail (d’s calling it an iced apple cart martini as it’s made with canadian ice cider rather than calvados), having just fed the cat and made crema catalana, which is now chilling before i sprinkle it with sugar and caramelise the top whilst working out what i should cook next.

the crema catalana is going to be our new year’s eve pudding, as part of a spanish meal which will include gordal olives (my absolute favourite), roasted almonds with paprika, papas con boquerones (a comedy tapa of anchovies served draped over salted crisps, as we experienced in valencia earlier this year!) garlic prawns, pan con tomate, carrot and cumin salad plus chorizo and spinach paella.

this is all because we dedicated 2013 to spending our holidays exploring spain – bilbao and san sebastian in january followed by madrid and valencia in april then, finally seville, cadiz and jerez in october.

writing up the last two trips has been a bit of a slow job but i didn’t want 2013 to end without having at least mentioned our autumn trip. i had high hopes for seville, as my mind was full of romantic imagery about a city filled with orange trees (my expectations were set when we were in valencia, surrounded by orange trees which were covered in blossom and made the city smell divine). however a combination of bad food choices (i didn’t have time to do my usual level of research which meant we ended up in some very mediocre places) and far too many tourists soon put paid to that. we did however stay in a wonderful boutique hotel in the city centre – casa no7 – which i thoroughly recommend and which, along with seville’s metropol parasol, might tempt me back to the city!

the foodie places that i do recommend, and would happily visit again are el rinconcillo (one of seville’s oldest tapas bars which makes it a bit of a tourist trap – we saw one group arrive, take photos and then leave without ordering a thing! – but the traditional tapas were good) and for a more modern take on tapas as well as a good range of local wines, then a branch of azotea is well worth a visit. (the pictures above are all of seville, all of those below are from cadiz).

however, my lukewarm feelings were more than made up for by cadiz, a coastal town with a mix of spanish style and rough n ready edges, which i fell in love with. the 32c temperatures were also wonderfully welcoming! a bit more worrying were the cats which spent their days sunbathing on the breakwater rocks below the town walls. it’s quite a small place but nice to explore and a good base if you also want to fit in a trip to nearby jerez, the home of sherry - we enjoyed a tour at gonzalez byass, one of the larger bodegas, which gave us a good understanding of the different types of sherry and ample opportunities for tasting it, some of which we will be drinking later this evening! 

my favourite place to eat in cadiz was the tapas bar associated with el faro, a formal fish and seafood restaurant. we arrived early and spent a very happy evening making our choices from the fresh fish in front of us by pointing and attempting to navigate the spanish menu with no english-speaking help from patrons or staff. regardless of this we had a great meal and one of the nicest vegetarian tapa that we ate - a pureed chickpea dish studded with crisp slices of aubergine, drizzled with honey (two months on i can still remember it very clearly!).

we also really enjoyed el almadraba, a little restaurant/deli which specialised in tuna and had a short but delicious menu and a wonderfully wide range of local wines - one of which we bought home and will be drinking later! the dish i still remember from here was tuna with an asparagus jam, something i've never had elsewhere.

it was a lovely holiday and a lovely way to end our year of spain. i look forward to remembering it through the food we eat this evening and wish all of you a very happy new year!

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