Mushroom Soup 

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Autumn is drawing in, and as far as I am concerned that equals soup weather (and pie weather of course!). This one I find particularly warming, I think partly due to the mace which I very much associate with autumn and winter cooking. Mace is a truly wonderful spice; if you do not have any in your store-cupboard I highly recommend that you get some. Mace comes from the same tree as nutmeg but has a rather more savoury taste, it is fantastic in all sorts of wintry stews and I recently put it in a rather delicious beef pie.

This mushroom soup recipe is vegan;  I put soy milk in it rather than cows milk because I had some in the fridge which needed using. I have to say that I don’t like soy milk in tea or on cereal but it is really good to cook with. I am also rather fond of almond milk – it’s great to cook with and rather good in hot chocolate.

Ingredients

  • Mushrooms! I used quite a big bowl full (see picture below) which were left over from Punk Night – I don’t like to waste things! Mushrooms shrink more than you think they will, so don’t worry if they fill the whole saucepan because they will reduce.
  • A small red onion
  • Half a teaspoon of Mace
  • A teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • A couple of grinds of black pepper
  • A tablespoon of cornflour

Method

Heat some oil in a frying pan and then add the onion, mustard seeds, mace and pepper.

When the onion is nicely softened, add the mushrooms. Give it all a stir, turn the heat down and put a lid on the pan allowing the mushrooms to ‘sweat’.

Keep an eye on it;  you probably won’t need to add any liquid because a lot will come out of the mushrooms,  but if it looks like it is drying out then add a splash of hot water from the kettle.

When the mushrooms are cooked, put them in the blender along with the cornflour. Give it a good whizz, adding the soy milk (or other milk) a bit at a time.

Put the mixture back in the pan and heat slowly, allowing the cornflour to thicken.

Taste, and add further seasoning if required. More milk can be added, depending on how thin or otherwise you like your soup.

Done!

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Yummy Chicken and Basil Salad, with New Potatoes

My lovely friend Emma has asked me to teach her how to cook. Last night was the first lesson, and I think you’ll agree that she did pretty well!

This recipe serves two people.

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Ingredients

  • 250g diced chicken
  • Olive oil infused with basil (if you don’t have this, add some fresh or dried basil)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 pepper
  • 1 garlic clove (or more!)
  • Mixed salad leaves
  • Salt and pepper
  • New potatoes (a handful each)

Method

Zest the lemon, then cut it in half and juice it.

Put the chicken, lemon zest, a pinch of salt and pepper, half of the lemon juice and a splash of the basil olive oil into a bowl and leave it to marinade.

While the chicken is marinating, arrange the salad leaves in a bowl and then chop the pepper into strips. Crush or finely chop the garlic.

Now make a simple salad dressing using the rest of the lemon juice, the same volume of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon (or less) of sugar; either put together in a jug and give it a good stir, or if you have an empty jam-jar put the ingredients into that and give it a good shake (with the lid on tight!).

Clean the potatoes and put them into saucepan, add a pinch of salt and boiling water from the kettle.

When the potato water is bubbling well it is time to start cooking the chicken. Heat a tablespoon of the basil oil in a frying pan, add the chicken and fry it stirring frequently. When the chicken is sealed (cooked on the outside) add the pepper and garlic and continue to stir. Turn the heat down if the chicken starts to stick to the pan.

Check that the chicken is cooked all the way through by taking the biggest piece and cutting it in half.

Serve on a bed of green salad.

Dairy-free Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Biscuits

As you may be aware I have given up supermarket shopping for Lent. This has in general been a positive experience so far; however, right now when I haven’t been shopping for a few days it it is a bit of a pain because I have run out of what I usually consider to be a ‘basic’ baking ingredient – butter. Biscuits are required this evening because I have people coming over for a meeting, and having nothing to offer would be plain rude! However, every challenge is an opportunity and having successfully baked using olive oil in little cakes a few days ago I decided to trawl through my recipe books to find something I could easily adapt.

I used groundnut oil for this recipe because I happened to have some in the cupboard and I thought it made sense with the peanut butter, you can substitute in different oil if you like. Whilst on the subject of substitutions, the recipe which I (loosely) based these biscuits on asked for brown bread flour whereas I used Rye flour, again, because that is what I happened to have in the storecupboard.

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Ingredients

Makes about 20.

  • 3 tablespoons Peanut Butter
  • 140 ml Groundnut Oil
  • a few drops of Vanilla Essence
  • 1 Egg
  • 125 g / 4 oz White Bread Flour
  • a pinch of Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 125 g / 4 oz Rye Flour
  • 100 g Dark Chocolate, chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Whisk together the peanut butter, oil and vanilla essence and then beat in the sugar. Add the egg plus a teaspoon of flour and beat well.

Sift in the white bread flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and fold in.

Mix in the rye flour and knead until the dough holds together.

Roll small pieces of the dough into balls and place on oiled baking tray, leaving room for spreading. Flatten with a fork in a criss-cross pattern and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.