mushrooms

May’s Recipe – Vegetarian Mageiritsa, a Greek soup of greens and mushroom

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May is the period of the hungry gap but at Blaencamel Farm where, during this period of summer anticipation , they continue to grow nourishing greens. Gem and pink, and green Battavia lettuce have appeared on the stall. There is spinach, sweetheart cabbage, wild and green garlic. Whilst the seasonal bouquet garni can complement the dill that makes this spring soup so special.

May’s recipe is a Greek traditional Easter soup with a Welsh and clean-eating twist! Mageiritsa is traditionally cooked with lamb’s liver and plenty of greens and salad leaves. This is a vegetarian version and could be made vegan if you choose to not use avgolemono, the egg-lemon sauce typical of many Greek recipes. If you live in Wales what makes this Mageiritsa extra special is using dried kelp from Pembrokeshire. And the final Greek note is the use of the tangy and sharp sea buckthorn berry, which is becoming a staple in my cooking this year.

Visit www.liaskitchen.com for more ideas and monthly seasonal recipes inspired by Blaencamel Farm’s crops.

Ingredients (4-6 portions)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 -2 leeks, finely chopped
  • 1 green garlic or 1 bunch of wild garlic
  • 500-700g finely chopped mixed Blaencamel greens, such as spinach, lettuce and/or sweetheart cabbage
  • 500g mushrooms, Blaencamel farm or chestnut if they are not available
  • 1 punnet of mixed Blaencamel farm herbs (fennel, sage, mint, thyme) (Optional)
  • 1 finely chopped bunch of dill or 1 tbsp. tried dill
  • 2 Tbsp. uncooked rice
  • 1 heaped tsp. Pembrokeshire Beach Company Kelp or other dried/crumbled sea weed (optional)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea buckthorn berries roughly chopped (optional)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Around 2 litres of stock

For the Avgolemono sauce:

  • 1 small egg
  • Juice of one small lemon

Preparation (45 minutes)

  1. Coat the base of a deep pot with olive oil and sauté the onion and leeks with one teaspoon of salt until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the cubed mushrooms (2 -3 cm chunks) and sauté for 2-5 minutes.
  3. Add the finely chopped herbs, wild or fresh garlic and greens, and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Then add the stock, stir well and (if you are using) add the dried kelp or other sea weed, pepper and sea buckthorn berries.
  5. Simmer for about 10 minutes and then add the rice.
  6. After 20 minutes (when the rice has softened and soup has thickened) remove from the hob.
  7. Beat the egg really well until it is fluffy and creamy (around 5 minutes), and whilst you continue whisking gradually add the lemon juice.
  8. Take one ladle of hot stock from the soup, strain through a fine sieve and add the hot stock slowly to the egg-lemon mixture whilst still whisking on low speed or by hand.
  9. Finally add the thinned egg-lemon and stock juice to the hot soup stirring in well to make sure it flavours and thickens all of the soup.
  10. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

‘I‘ve ‘bean’ fed!’

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Portabella mushrooms filled with lentils and beans.

For Hannah Briggs with whom I have been ‘full of beans’ most of  the winter gone!  

When I started this blog I had every intention to give out ‘real time’ recipes and to record the wonderful moments of congregation at the end of a week day and at the waking of the weekend.

Well I have not done it and recently I had a random conversation about this blog and my idea of how it was going to work.  I think I laughed out loud at the sound of the words describing yet another regime that I was imposing to myself! (as if there are not enough constraints structures, rules and norms in life).  “What about sharing memories, recipes and stories of now and then?” I thought, and my mind was immediately greeted with beautiful memories like the ones I had just shared in my conversation.

So the first memory I want to share is one of a late February midweek evening, during the period of what I call the deep winter ‘blues’ , when I usually have had ENOUGH of the dark and cold days. Perhaps I am sharing a winter story to help you appreciate your UK summer,  however rainy it has been today, or to cool down those of you suffering in heat. Or perhaps I am just doing it because I am very fond of this particular moment and the people I shared it with.

It was the end of a long tiring day, one of those when you don’t see the sunrise because you left for work too early and you don’t see the daylight because you return home too late from meetings in dark rooms and stuffy spaces.  Inexplicably last February I switched to a detox ‘spring clean’ mode with real cravings for pulses, ‘meaty’ mushrooms, spinach, strong cheese and an aversion to red meat and poultry. I’d stopped at the green grocer on Albany road on my way home where the glimpse of some beautiful portabella mushrooms got me salivating. Suddenly, I was in THAT special place where my mind, heart and stomach come together to dream up a recipe and soon I was happily heading home stocked up with fresh basil, two tins of organic cooked cannellini beans and puy lentils, some Welsh goats cheese, a wedge of parmesan, ripe tomatoes, onions and peppers. Filled mushrooms with yummy pulses was the vision!

Dan, Hannah, my lovely friend who was staying with me at the time, and I arrived at my house one after the other within a couple of minutes with impeccable timing. We all looked tired and famished. It had been the kind of cold day that made you desperate for comfort and warmth. We turned on a dimmed light and started cooking to Richie Havens’ soothing deep voice and guitar strumming.

For our ‘feel good’ mushroom dish we fried an onion (or 2?) in low heat until translucent and then added a sliced red pepper, followed by many cloves of garlic (at least 3) and chopped ripe tomatoes (2 medium tomatoes or 6 or so cherry or small plum tomatoes). Once all of these were stir fried we added the strained beans and puy lentils and stirred in the heated pan until all the juices evaporated. Before we added the Welsh goats cheese we reduced the temperature to very low , added a generous amount of young spinach leaves, watched them ‘wither’ before deciding whether we should add more, more of which we did add, and finally seasoned with a generous amount of freshly ground pepper.

Next we grilled the large portabella mushrooms. I picked large and ‘deep’ mushrooms so that I could fill them with a generous amount of the bean and lentil mixture. Before the mushrooms were grilled we removed the stem – and placed carefully in our mouths. To make preparation faster we grilled the mushrooms in a non-stick pan. Adding a little bit of olive oil and some water (a couple of teaspoons) avoided burning the mushrooms and helped cook them quicker until soft enough to eat but firm enough to hold a good portion of the filling.

In the meantime to make this dish even more interesting in texture and to add a crunchy finish I decided to prepare a top crust with the parmesan, basil and some breadcrumbs. In a chopper I whizzed most (at least half) of the parmesan wedge, a whole bunch of basil, and breadcrumbs together.

And finally it all came together in a baking tray where we placed the mushrooms (about 6) with their bottom side up for filling, added the lentils and beans mixture and topped it with the parmesan crumble before placing under the grill for a golden and crunchy finish.

Dan roasted some sun flower and pumpkin seeds for our mixed leaves salad whilst I prepared the usual balsamic vinegar vinaigrette, with olive oil, honey or maple syrup, salt and pepper. Don’t ask me about measurements it is a real weakness of mine. Just add the ingredients in a jar, shake joyfully, taste and adjust. I usually go overboard with the balsamic and always have to adjust but it works nonetheless. We tossed the salad leaves to mix the dressing and topped it with the roasted seeds and with a good serving of the golden mushrooms filled with bean and lentil goodness we shed our tiredness and frustration.

What took half an hour for the three of us to prepare was gone in a just a few minutes. And with a big sigh of relief, after humming to the music and enjoying the experience of eating in her usual jovial manner, Ms Briggs smiled at me and said: ‘ I ‘ve bean fed!’.