Vegetarian

Large Portabella mushrooms with beans and puy lentils

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This is a recipe for my beloved Lydia who I can’t wait to see soon. Enjoy your veggie-ventures!

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Vegetarian cooking is fun and offers itself to great experimentation and variation. This is a hearty but easily digestible recipe that makes it easier to fast, reduce your meat intake or move to a meat free lifestyle. For me there have been as many variations as the times I have cooked it by using different cheeses, fillings, spices…I wonder what you could do to change it? Let me know won’t you?

This meal is easy to prepare and is yet another one of my recipes that stacks up different ingredients in a tower of flavours and textures. It combines a crusty top with a soft, flavoursome filling in a firm but pre-grilled mushroom base. Serve with a crunchy sunflower and pumpkin seed salad dressed in balsamic and honey vinaigrette for a great light meal or starter.

You can replace the mushrooms with half pre-grilled peppers. And if you don’t like using pre-cooked pulses in cans you can cook your own beans and lentils.

Ingredients

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 red or yellow pepper sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or mashed
  • 6-10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 can precooked cannellini beans (drained weight about 200gr)
  • 1 can precooked puy lentils (drained weight about 200gr)
  • 200gr baby spinach leaves
  • 1 pack soft Welsh cheese (125gr)
  • 8 large portabella mushrooms
  • 150-200gr parmesan cheese
  • A handful of breadcrumbs
  • 1 small bunch of basil
  • Mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Mixed salad leaves

Preparation

  1. Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt in a generous splash of olive oil for two to five minutes on low heat.
  2. Add and sauté the pepper for another two minutes.
  3. Then add the cherry tomatoes and after another couple of minutes the garlic.
  4. Add another pinch of salt (or not) and a bit of pepper.
  5. Stir fry for another couple of minutes or until all ingredients are softened.
  6. Drain your precooked beans and puy lentils well and add to the mixture, stirring and frying until all juices evaporate and the mixture binds.
  7. Add the spinach leaves and stir, cover, stir on low heat until they wither in the mixture. Depending on your preference you can add more spinach.
  8. Turn the hob off and crumble the small pack of soft Welsh cheese in the mixture last. If you cannot get hold of soft Welsh cheese use feta or other salty white cheese instead. This dish tastes better with goat’s or ewe’s cheese though!
  9. Stir until the whole mixture is creamed by the cheese.
  10. Put the mixture aside.
  11. Pick large and firm mushrooms as they shrink in size when grilled.
  12. Remove the stem from the bottom of the mushroom by cutting flat with a knife.
  13. Peel the skin of the mushroom if you wish but if your mushrooms are really fresh dry clean well before grilling.
  14. Brush with a little oil and either grill on the hob in a non stick pan turning regularly or under the grill for ten minutes. Your aim is to pre cook the mushroom so that they are soft enough to eat but not to make them so soft as to break.
  15. Prepare your breadcrumb topping by blitzing the cubed parmesan cheese, chopped basil and the breadcrumbs in a kitchen chopper (mixer) until crumbly but not fine.
  16. Whilst assembling the dish preheat the grill until quite hot.
  17. Place the mushrooms top down in a baking tray alongside each other.
  18. Separate the bean and lentil mixture evenly between the mushrooms.
  19. Top with the parmesan breadcrumb.
  20. Grill for ten minutes maximum.

Serve the dish with seasonal fresh salad leaves, in balsamic and honey vinaigrette and topped with toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

For the vinaigrette use :one unit of balsamic, two of olive oil, and half of honey as well as a pinch or two of salt (depending on the size of your salad and your units). Put all ingredients in a small jar, close the lid firmly and shake joyfully whilst dancing to a favourite tune!

Toast the seeds in a pan in which you have melted a tiny bit of butter, just enough to coat your non stick pan. Naughty but nice!

Inspired by Hannah Briggs and Dan Green.

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Soup of ‘pearl’ with pear relish

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Cauliflowers are in season in Britain from September till May and can be found in abundance at greengrocers and farmers markets in the winter months. It is an ideal vegetable to be creative with: from experimenting with variances of the infamous cauliflower cheese dish to imaginative salad and soup recipes.

We have prepared the soup of pearl a couple of times in our home this autumn and winter. This soup is an ideal winter dish for the week before Christmas if you want to keep your meals light but satisfying. Or it might be the perfect accompaniment for your turkey leftovers in the coming weeks.

This Lia’s kitchen recipe was inspired by two recipes from Skye Gyngell and Delia Smith  found in Soup Kitchen, a soup recipe book edited by Thomasina Miers and Annabel Buckingham. The recipes are inspired by the combination of cauliflower and blue cheese that give the soup an iridescent white pearl tint and its characteristic flavour.

My favourite cheese for the soup is Pearl Las (from Caws Cenarth Cheese Company), an unexpectedly different Welsh cheese: a blue Caerphilly cheese. You can use Dolcelatte or Roquefort  instead of Pearl Las: these are the cheeses used in the original recipes that inspired this meal.

The bread of preference for this soup is homemade and wholemeal Irish soda bread. Once the bread is in the oven the preparation of your soup should not take much longer than its baking and cooling down time (approx. 45 min). Your meal should be ready in an hour and could feed 4 people as a main (including seconds).

Recipes and preparation

For the Irish Soda Bread I have used and adapted a BBC Food recipe from James Martin:
170gr self raising wholemeal flour
170gr Einkorn or other plain flour
½ tsp salt
1/1 tsp bicarbonate soda
290ml buttermilk

This is the easiest and quickest bread to make. I use plain Einkorn and self raising wheat flours, both organic and wholemeal. Don’t worry if you don’t have buttermilk: you can make it yourself by adding the juice of one lemon in 250ml or more of milk. If your milk does not seem to thicken just add a bit more lemon juice. Mix all ingredients together and knead briefly in a lightly flowered area. I make one round bread and cut a cross in the middle. Before baking I sprinkle the top and bottom of the loaf with more Einkorn wholemeal flour. The bread bakes in 30 minutes 200 degrees Celsius.  Serve warm with butter.

One of my favourite butters to have with warm or toasted bread is Calonwen Organic slightly salted butter, made in Wales by a dairy cooperative of 20 organic farmers.

For the soup of pearl for 4-6 people:

2 medium to large cauliflowers
25 gr of butter (plus a tbspn at the end)
Fresh Thyme (dry will do if you don’t have any)
4 heaped tbspns of crème fraiche or more
3 bays leaves
1 large leek
1 onion
1 Celery stick (optional)
1-2 medium potatoes peeled and cubed
250gr or more of Pearl Las Cheese or Dolcelatte
Some ground nutmeg (optional)
At least 3 litres of stock
A large pot that can fit 2.5 litres of water and soul (makes about 5 litres of soup)

Sauté the leek, onions and bay leaves in your pot in low heat for 10 minutes. Season with some salt and pepper. Add celery and some of the thyme and continue for a couple of minutes. Then add the cubed potato or potatoes, the florets of cauliflower and the green stalks. Waste none of the cauliflower, the green leaves of the vegetable add to the taste and make a fantastic stock. After sautéing for another couple of minutes fill the pot with 3 litres of boiling water or stock. You can use chicken or vegetable stock. I prefer using organic and yeast free bouillon stock. Simmer the cauliflower for 20-30 minutes or until all ingredients are tender. Take the soup of the hob and add the crème fraiche, half the cheese or more, season with some more salt and pepper and nutmeg if you would like. Cream the soup with a handheld food processor or blender in the pot. Adjust seasoning to your taste. I usually end up putting more crème fraiche and some more cheese.

 For the pear relish

3 conference pears
1 apple
1 tbsp or more sugar
A bit of butter (25gr)
Some red wine
Some cider or red wine vinegar (75 ml)
Fresh lemon thyme or dry thyme
Salt

Whilst the soup is cooking: Peel, core and chop the pears and apple and place in preheated pot with the melted butter. Add some thyme. Soften the fruit on the heat for 5 minutes add the sugar followed by the wine, and vinegar after a couple of minutes. Simmer at very low heat for 10 minutes or until the fruit is soft and there is enough thicken relish juice for the soup.

This relish makes the soup very special as its sweet and sour flavour nicely contrasts the creamy and savoury soup. I would advise you make double the relish if you have guests. You will notice that people keep reaching out for it.

Enjoy!