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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Leftover Beef Pie

This was a proper make-it-up job.It wasn’t something that I  would have thought of if I didn’t happen to have some cooked beef, mushrooms and cream in the fridge which needed  using up and puff pastry in the freezer.

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I went rifling through the cupboards for further inspiration and decided to add to the mix some walnuts, shallots from my mum’s garden, a little white wine, mustard powder, mace and black pepper. I had a sneaky suspicion that this would be a winning combination, what I didn’t expect is that the spice combination would strongly remind me of haggis – one of my favourite things. But for for the squeamish it is minus the offal!
It was so delicious! I will definitely make it again.

Filling

  • A couple of handfuls of cooked beef ripped into bite-size pieces
  • A couple of handfuls of finely chopped mushrooms
  • A couple of finely chopped shallots
  • A handful of walnuts, broken into pieces
  • A good splash of cream
  • A small splash of white  wine
  • Teaspoon mace
  • Teaspoon Mustard powder
  • Good grind of pepper
  • Salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 oC.

Mix the above ingredients in a bowl.

Take the ready-roll pastry and cut it into two pieces. On each piece, pile up your beef mix on half of the pastry and then fold it in half, then turn the edges over and press down with a fork. Brush with beaten egg and grind some salt onto the top.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.

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Michelle’s ‘fridge gravel’ supper with lamb

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This recipe comes from a lovely lady who I met volunteering at Stroud District Foodbank. Michelle is a writer who is in love with her slow-cooker – a lady after my own heart!

Michelle and I bonded over conversations about frugal food and storecupboard cooking, and I have rather fallen for her phrase ‘fridge gravel’ which describes the ‘stuff’ that accumulates at the bottom of your fridge (unless you are a super-organised meal planner!). Here is a ‘fridge gravel’ meal which Michelle cooked last week, and kindly wrote up for me to share with you.

Ingredients
This dish comprised mainly from what was found lurking in the bottom of my fridge, the end of a bag of frozen vegetables, and some cheap diced fresh lamb that was marked down at the supermarket (300g for around £1.50 I think).

The vegetable mix consisted of:
1 small courgette, sliced
1 yellow pepper (that was crushed and discounted), sliced
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 red pepper, sliced (from the freezer)
About 4 cherry tomatoes, whole (leftovers from a larger tub)

Method
Throw all the prepared veg into a mixing bowl and pour over a generous glug of Olive oil. Sprinkle over some salt and ground black pepper and about a teaspoon of any dried herbs of your choosing that you may have hanging around in your kitchen cupboard.

For this dish I used dried Basil and Oregano, but I often change this according to whatever meat I am including with the dish. For example I have made similar mixes before using diced chicken pieces with Chinese five spice and a shake of soy sauce, or dried mixed herbs and parsley when using diced beef.

In a separate bowl mix the diced lamb with a little Olive oil, salt and ground black pepper, and again whatever herbs you fancy. I added a bit of dried tarragon to the meat to give it a slightly different flavour than the more Mediterranean style herbs used for the veg.

Line a baking tray with tin foil and spread out the vegetables evenly in one layer. Put the pieces of lamb on top of the veg – making sure to spread the meat out evenly and not letting it all clump together.

Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes at 200 Celsius or Gas mark 7 until all the vegetables are tender and the meat is cooked through.

Divide between two bowls and sprinkle over some grated Parmesan cheese (optional) and serve hot.

You can use whatever combination of vegetables you may find lurking in your fridge or freezer, even if they are looking a bit sad and old! I tend to do my ‘fridge gravel’ tray bake once or twice per month when cleaning out the fridge and using up any leftovers I find along the way.

Cheap, tasty and filling. Enjoy!

Penne pasta with ham, spinach and crumbly cheese

As you must have worked out by now I hate to waste food. This was an impromptu ‘using up’ meal; I had some white crumbly cheese which my parents left with me before they went on holiday, plus some spinach and ham which my lovely lodger had not managed to finish off before she went away for a few days, and would not have lasted (don’t worry,  I will replace it!). A very cheap and yummy lunch for a wet, stormy Sunday.

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Ingredients
This fed one person:
– 1 cup of Penne pasta
– a splash of Olive oil
– a teaspoon of dried Oregano
– a couple of slices of Ham
– two handfuls of Spinach
– 1/2 cup of crumbled white cheers  (I’m not sure what it was – I’ll have to ask my mother!)
– Black pepper
– a sprinkle of Chilli flakes

Method
Bring the pasta to the boil. Follow the instructions on the packet;  not all pasta takes the same length of time to cook.
While the pasta is cooking, crumble the cheese, rinse the spinach and shred the ham into small pieces.
Drain the pasta and add a splash of oil and the oregano. Next add the ham, spinach and cheese and put the lid back on the pan so that the spinach wilts, the cheese melts and the ham heats through; the hob does not need to be on at this point, it should have enough residual heat from cooking the pasta.
After a couple of minutes add some black pepper and give it a good stir.
Serve with a sprinkle of chilli flakes.

A delicious mistake

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Note: the photograph does not do it justice!

Whilst rummaging around in my freezer I found some pieces of leftover Christmas turkey and thought ‘a-ha!’ I can use up the coconut milk which I have in the fridge and make a Thai-ish curry. It ended up being very ‘-ish’ because it was only once I had started cooking that I realised that what I had defrosted was, in fact, gammon. I decided to go with it and was pleasantly surprised – the salty/smokey meat really worked with the Thai spices.

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Ingredients

Diced gammon (about a handful)
1/2 a sweet potato
1 small onion
1/2 pint approx of coconut milk
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 dried kaffir lime leaves.
2 strands of lemongrass
1 piece dried galangal.
1/2 teaspoon dried ground galangal
A splash of fish sauce

Method
Fry the onion and  chilli until the onions begin to soften, then add the sweet potato and other spices and cook for a couple more minutes.
Add the chunks of gammon and the coconut milk and simmer gently until the sweet potato is cooked.
Add a splash of fish sauce and serve with rice or rice noodles.

Leftovers Soup

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A family favourite  (apart from my sister who can’t stand the stuff) which is never the same twice. I always freeze leftover vegetables for this purpose and have recently made a habit of freezing meaty stock (often the extra liquid from my slow-cooker) in a silicone muffin tray, which can then be ‘popped’ out like icecubes.

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Tonight’s version used leftover roast potatoes from Christmas day, courgette, cauliflower and turkey stock.
The point of leftovers soup is that it uses up what you’ve got, so don’t worry if you don’t have all of the ingredients listed below. It is pretty important to have a base of onion and garlic but apart from that you can  experiment with different herbs and spices, I also rather  like to add bacon when I’m frying the onion if I have some. Note that if you use frozen stock it will probably be rather less salty than the bought stock which you are used to, so you may need to add more salt when you taste it.

Ingredients:
– an onion
– a clove of garlic
– a good pinch of mustard seeds
– a good pinch of cumin seeds
– stock
– paprika
– leftover veg, fully defrosted
– Almond milk (don’t worry if you don’t have this – any kind of milk will do)
– Creme fraiche

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Gently fry the onion, garlic, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When the onion is becoming transparent turn off the heat and add the frozen stock (I used two ‘blocks’),  put a lid on the pan and leave the stock to melt in the residual heat.

Put your defrosted veg in the blender along with the onions and stock. Add Almond milk as you whizz it, continuing to blend until it is smooth and not far off the thickness that you would eat it. Return the whizzed soup to the pan, using some more milk to swill out the blender.

Slowly bring the the soup up to temperature,  trying not to let it boil. Add paprika,  salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a spoonful of Creme fraiche and a sprinkle of paprika on top.

… and enjoy because you will never have another soup quite like it again!
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P.s. I made some rather yummy soda bread to accompany it, but that’s a recipe for another day 🙂