I’ve revived an old habit of mine: devouring biographies. My local library has seen a lot of me lately, as I’ve read stories from all walks of life, Ken Livingstone to Steve-o, Chris Evans to Keith Floyd.
One that’s stayed with me is Antonio Carluccio – A Recipe for Life. I picked it up as a fan of his food and TV programmes. I wasn’t prepared for the vast scope of his life, from growing up the station master’s son, to travelling Europe in all sorts of jobs, to being driven to several suicide attempts due to crippling depression. You would expect the avuncular TV host’s story to be whimsical and giddy, but it is weighed down by a man who seems profoundly lonely. Even his now-beloved Gennaro betrays him and further fuels his sadness.
It’s a sobering read, but well worth tracking down.
On a more upbeat note, Antonio was on Saturday Kitchen this weekend and served up this delightfully simple dish that speaks to his core food philosophy: mof-mof, or “minimum of fuss, maximum of flavour”. Only an Italian could come up with that credo!
It’s a delicious pasta dish, and if I could’ve laid my hands on parsley like the original recipe asks it would’ve been perfect. I embellished mine with truffle salt, a birthday present which just happened to be Carluccio’s branded too. It’s so quick to cook, and delicious.
Open raviolo with mushrooms (serves 2):
1 garlic clove, crushed
300g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon tomato puree
70ml white wine
4 fresh lasagne sheets
Freshly grated parmesan
- Get a frying pan on a medium-low heat and some salted water on to boil in a saucepan. Add a little oil to the saucepan to prevent the sheets from sticking.
- Melt the butter in the frying pan and add the garlic. Before it browns add the mushrooms and gently fry for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and season with truffle salt and black pepper. Cook for another minute before adding the wine and bringing to the boil to reduce.
- Pop the lasagne in the water to cook – this should only take 1 – 2 minutes. Put them to one side when done.
- When the wine has reduced to a thick orangey sauce, assemble the dish by alternating pasta sheets with the mushroom mixture. Top with parmesan before serving.
I was coming home on the train and decided it would be pie or nothing for dinner. Luckily all the ingredients were on hand. Patchwork for two reasons: I had some squares of puff pastry to use because I’d absent-mindedly cut loads more than I need when making sausage rolls; and ended up using a hodge-podge of all odds and ends things I like.
Patchwork pie (serves 4 – 5):
500g beef mince
100g mushrooms, sliced
1 sprig rosemary, leaves picked
1 clove garlic, minced
50ml red wine
1 pack of ready-cooked chestnuts
300ml beef stock
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 sheet puff pastry, cut into squares
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon English mustard
- Get your oven on to 180°C, and two frying pans over high heat with a dash of olive oil in each.
- In one of the pans get the mince in and stir often until browned and starting to crisp up. In the other pan fry the mushrooms and rosemary together. After 5 mins add the garlic.
- When the mince has browned add the red wine to deglaze the pan a bit, then add the stock, chestnuts and the contents of the mushroom pan. Mix the cornflour with a splash of water to make a paste, then stir this in thoroughly.
- Bubble away for a couple more minutes until thickened, then pour into a baking dish. Layer the squares as neatly as you like over the filling. Mix the mustard into the egg and brush over the pastry. Sprinkle with some coarse sea salt and bake for 30 minutes until golden and puffy (well, it is puff pastry after all). Serve with carrots braised in butter and dusted with nutmeg.
Continuing my series on decent grub on a budget, here’s a pasta bake dish with lots going on. It’s the breadcrumb topping that makes it! This was intended to have a white sauce made with milk but I ran out, so instead I went for a velouté version made with stock.
(PS. I’ve listed ingredients for 1 but the version above serves 2 – 3, in case you’re wondering why yours is smaller!).
Approximate cost for main ingredients, excludes storecupboard ingredients (prices from Tesco.com 7th Oct 2012): £1.91
Garlic mushroom and broccoli bake (serves 1):
100g penne or other shape pasta
100g mushrooms, sliced
1 head of broccoli, separated into florets
1 rasher of smoked bacon
1 slice of bread, preferably yesterday’s
1 clove garlic
500ml hot chicken stock
- Get a large pan of salted water on to boil over a high heat and preheat the oven to 200°C. Get a smaller pan on a medium heat and get a baking dish ready.
- Add the pasta to the water. Add the butter to the smaller pan and once melted whisk in the flour to combine to a gloopy paste. Crush in the garlic and allow it to cook for a couple of minutes. Add all the stock, whisking all the time.
- Add the mushrooms and veg to the pasta water and then return to whisking your sauce. Keep whisking until it resembles thick, smooth custard. At this point you should check to see whether the sauce needs salt or pepper.
- After the vegetables have cooked for five minutes drain these along with the pasta and combine with the sauce in your baking dish. If you have a food processor blitz the torn-up bread and bacon together to breadcrumbs, if not lay both on a chopping board and rock your knife over the lot of it to dice as small as possible. Scatter these breadcrumbs in a single layer over the pasta bake, and pop in the oven for about 15 mins until the breadcrumbs are golden and the bacon pieces are cooked.
I’ve always wondered what fricassée meant (I had to google “wiki fricassee” to find that. Try saying it out loud, it’s fun), and making this recipe meant I finally looked it up: poultry stew in gravy thickened with dairy. I’ve strayed a little from that definition in making this but I hope it’ll do.
I came to this recipe via Port Salut. It’s a cheese I’d almost forgotten about; until I was sent some to try along with some Jean Christophe Novelli recipes. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jean Christophe before and couldn’t wait to try these out. Essentially chicken, leeks and mushrooms sweated down with cream and cheese – what’s not to like? I substituted a few things based on my larder and came up with a wholesome and tasty one-pot dinner. The Port Salut was creamy and nutty, kinda like a Brie.
Personally speaking I’d put the breadcrumbs to one side and serve it with tagliatelle next time. I think it would be great all tangled up with some pasta.
Chicken, leek, mushroom and port salut fricassée (serves 2):
2 chicken breasts, diced
Pinch of paprika
2 leeks, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
150g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
100ml white wine
200ml creme fraiche
100g Port Salut, thinly sliced
50g Port Salut, diced
50g wholemeal breadcrumbs
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put a large casserole dish on a medium heat and a little oil.
- Dust the chicken with paprika and season, then fry in the pan for a couple of minutes until coloured all over. Remove to one side.
- Turn the heat down to low, melt the butter in the pan and add the leeks, rosemary and onion. Sweat gently for 5 – 10 minutes until softened. Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, then crank up the heat.
- Add the wine. After a minute of bubbling away stir in the creme fraiche, sliced Port Salut and put the chicken back in. When everything is melting together stir well and check for seasoning. Top with the breadcrumbs and diced cheese and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until everything is bubbling and brown.
I’ve been running wild on rose veal lately, courtesy of Farmers Choice. I’ve really got a taste for this Dorset-raised calf which has a loose texture and a delicate beef flavour and so deserves to be back on the menu.
I’ve paired the meat here with a subtle mushroom veloute and earthy champ-style mash.
Veal with mushroom veloute and champ (serves 2):
100ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
150g button mushrooms
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon butter
50ml double cream
2 veal escalopes
4 floury potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large handful spring greens
A couple of spring onions, sliced
- In a small saucepan bring the milk and stock to the boil and add the bay leaf. Turn the heat down to a simmer and add the shallots and mushrooms. Simmer for 3-4 mins and remove the veg from the liquid. Discard the bay leaf.
- Fill a large pan with salted water and bring to the boil. Add the potatoes and simmer for 8 – 9 mins. Add the spring greens and spring onions and cook for a further 2 mins, and then drain.
- Get a frying pan really hot. Add a little oil to the veal and season well. Add to the pan and cook for a minute on each side, then put to one side to rest while you make the sauce.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the flour. Cook for 1 minute and gradually add the cooking liquor, stirring constantly until you have a smooth sauce. Stir in the cream and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Return the veg to the sauce.
- Mash the potato mix and season, but we’re not looking for a puree here. Flash the veal in the pan to heat up and serve with the sauce.