Saturday, 20 November 2010

White pepper and Parmesan gnocchi with pan-fried woodland mushroom, sage and cep veloute

It’s dark, cold, foggy and I have to say I rather like it!

Exploring and indulging in rich flavours reminiscent of the earth have been preoccupying me of late, I’ve been devouring woodland mushrooms, goat’s cheese, chestnuts, squashes, sage and rabbit – such deep, woody and English flavours that have been keeping me warm and snugly of an evening along with the fire, red wine and of course, Mathew.

Finding woodland mushrooms and fresh cep isn’t that easy on the high street but they are readily available online. I found several British mushroom growers and sellers pretty easily through Google and they delivered the box of mushrooms to me the very next day, and whilst they’re a bit more expensive than your usual fungus, they’re deliciously different and worth every extra penny.

The cep veloute may sound rather fancy but it's really not, a veloute is simply a bechamel sauce made with stock and then finished with cream, it's good for when you want something that packs lots of flavour in but isnt overly rich.

This dish really is quite simple to do, it just needs a careful eye on the timings, but if you can cook pasta and at the same time prepare a sauce to be ready for eating it with then this will pose no problem at all. I like to add the rocket to the finished dish as it brings a peppery and fresh edge to it, though you could do it without if you aren't keen.

Dinner for two:
For the gnocchi follow the recipe in my September 26th oxtail blog for quantities, but add in 100g grated Parmesan and half a teaspoon of white pepper, and don’t include the green herbs
A couple of handfuls of mixed woodland mushrooms, we had black trumpet, girole and chanterelle amongst others, so long as you get a few different types for variety for taste and look that's good
One medium to large cep (they tend to be pretty big anyway) - carefully slice the cep through its stalk and cap so that you have slices that are just less than half a CM thick - sounds precise but it doesn't have to be, just make them thick enough that they don't collapse
A tablespoon butter (for the roux)
Three tablespoons plain flour (for the roux, I use wheat free but normal plain will be perfect too)
25g dried porcini mushrooms soaking in 1pt cold water for 20 minutes - you'll be using the porcini and their steeping liquor
A large glass of white wine, I used a medium dry Italian wine
A handful fresh sage leaves
A couple of glugs sunflower / groundnut oil
250g Parmesan, grated, and another few shavings for finishing the dish
25g unsalted butter
100mls single cream
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
A couple of glugs of good quality extra virgin olive oil
Rocket to serve

- Make the gnocchi as per the recipe outlined in my September 26th blog. When you have them all on the board use the heel of your knife to make a few little incisions in the top of the gnocchi's, then squeeze them gently so they flare out slightly - this makes them look a bit like little pillows and the marks in them help them pick up the sauce
- After your porcinis have steeped for 20 minutes, remove the mushrooms and finely chop them up and set aside. Reserve the liquor and bring to the simmer in a saucepan with the large glass of white wine - you're going to use this to make the veloute
- Fill a large saucepan with cold water and some rock salt, put the lid on and bring to the boil, when it begins boiling simply reduce the heat to a simmer
- While you're waiting for it to heat, add the tablespoon of butter to another saucepan on a medium to high heat and when it starts to foam add the three tablespoons plain flour, whip with a wooden spoon until the two have combined and you have a firm-ish dough in the pan, turn the pan down to a simmering heat and ladle by ladle add the simmering wine and porcini stock, making sure you thoroughly mix in the roux and the stock before adding the next ladle
- When all the ladles have been added continue to cook the sauce for 10-15 minutes to cook the flavour of the flour out, then turn the pan onto its lowest heat and add the Parmesan, cream and a generous scrunch of salt and pepper. By this time the sauce should be as in the picture, so covering the back of a wooden spoon. Put the lid on the pan and turn the heat off, you'll briefly reheat it before serving. If the sauce is too thin make up some cornflour to thicken it, and if it's too thick add some water
- Put a large frying pan onto a medium to high heat, add the 25g unsalted butter and the frying oil and when it starts to foam add the mushrooms to the pan, including the finely chopped porcini, then reduce the heat slightly so they don't burn
- Cook the mushrooms and continue to toss them in the butter until they're all covered (you may like to add another chunk) and cook for around 7-10 minutes on a medium heat until they start to soften, then add some black pepper and a scrunch of salt
- Toward the end of the cooking time you can turn the veloute back on to a low heat to heat through and turn the heat right up on the pan of salted water. When the water starts boiling again put the gnocchi carefully into the pan to cook - these take less than two minutes to and are ready when they all float to the top of the pan
- Tear the sage up and add to the frying pan with the mushrooms along with the garlic, the aroma of the garlic will come through but not burn and the sage will sizzle as the water cooks off and once this sizzle stops you can turn the pan off
- Drain the gnocchi, take the veloute off the heat and shake the gnocchi into it, stirring gently to coat all the dumplings in the sauce
- Plate the gnocchi and top with the sage and mushrooms, finish with a handful of rocket and a shave of Parmesan and glug of good extra virgin, then eat

Friday, 19 November 2010

Slow roasted lamb shoulder with crushed roots and a mint and caper dressing

Ideal for a lazy, tasty Sunday...sear the meat, put in the oven with the peeled vegetables, combine with the wine and herbs, cover and roast while you head to the pub. When you come back you’ll be greeted by a smell so delicious you’d be forgiven for eating it straight out of the roasting pan.

For two greedy people:
Half a lamb shoulder, bone in
4 carrots, peeled and cut into batons
A handful floury potatoes, peeled
2 red onions, peeled and quartered
Half a swede, peeled and cubed
Two large glasses of dry white wine
A few large sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and gently crushed
2 celery stalks, trimmed and cut into batons
Oil for frying
Sea salt and pepper
Two tablespoons capers
A shot of red wine vinegar
A shot of extra virgin olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
A small handful of fresh mint leaves

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
- Season the lamb with salt and pepper and in a frying pan sear the joint on all sides in the groundnut oil until it begins to brown
- Place the carrots, celery, onion, garlic and rosemary into a large roasting tin, sit the lamb on the top
- Pour the wine over the lamb and vegetables and cover the tin with foil so none of the vapours can escape
- Roast in the oven for 2.5 hours, remove the lamb and check how it's doing, you're looking for it to fall off the bone and this long should be enough
- Whilst the lamb's cooking, in a food processor combine the olive oil, anchovies, capers, mint and red wine vinegar and blitz until you have a thick dressing
- Just before the lamb is ready to come out of the oven bring a pan of water to the boil, then add the swede and cook for around 8 minutes until it's soft enough to mash
- Remove the meat from the oven and sit it on a plate to cool and rest a little, in the meantime, strain the roasting veg and liquor through a sieve, catching the liquor in a saucepan - put this on a gentle heat with a teaspoon of butter to reduce to a nice shiny jus
- Take the carrots and potatoes out of the sieve and discard the other ingredients, place the potatoes and carrots into a dish and pop back into the oven to keep warm
- Now the meat should have cooled enough to handle, using your fingers tear the meat into big chunks and discard the bones that are in it, you want to be left with a big pile of tender shredded lamb in large pieces
- Drain and mash the swede (use a fork, masher or ricer, whichever's easiest, add a knob of butter if you're feeling extra naughty)
- Time to plate; the mashed swede first, followed by the potatoes and carrots, then the lamb, a ladle of the jus over the top of it all, and finally a generous tablespoon of the caper and mint dressing
- Eat, then fall asleep :-)