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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Crêpes (aka ‘Punk Pancakes’)

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This week I have mostly been teaching myself to make crêpes… and not taking enough pictures of them to share with you.

I was asked quite a while ago to do the catering for a Punk Night at my local community hall, the Trinity Rooms in Stroud. Until a week or two before the event I had had absolutely no inspiration as to what I was going to do… and then I went to France. At the Youth Hostel where we stayed there was a chap making fresh pancakes each morning on a specially designed electric hot-plate; they smelled delicious, were fun to watch being made, and gave me the inspiration I needed. One trip to a French supermarket later (I adore French supermarkets!) and I had procured my new toy – a Tefal Crêpe-maker. Hurrah!

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My new toy 🙂

Needless to say, I needed quite a lot of practice before I was prepared to make them for people I didn’t know; my lodgers and neighbours weren’t complaining though!

I took the batter recipe from the Tefal instruction booklet which was fantastic (as you would hope) and then had fun coming up with yummy fillings.

Batter 

  • 250 g sifted plain flour
  • 0.5 litres of milk
  • 3 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of oil or melted  butter (I used rapeseed/ canola oil)

Put the flour into a mixing bowl and gradually beat in the milk until you get the consistency of single cream. Then gradually beat in the three eggs, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of oil or melted butter. It is best to leave the batter to stand for 1 to 2 hours.

It took me a little while to master spreading the mixture onto the hotplate and I’m not entirely sure how to explain it other than ‘practise makes perfect’ – sorry! Your friends and family won’t complain about you practising though! I did get much better at it once I started brushing the hotplate with oil every couple of times – dip a clean but unloved tea-towel or some kitchen towel into oil (preferably rapeseed/ canola) and then swoosh it around the hotplate quickly. Also the hotplate came with a small ladle, two of which is supposed to be the correct amount for a crêpe, and I found that it was too slow and it cooked before I could spread it out; it became a lot easier once I had started using one of my own ladles of the correct volume.

Fillings

The sweet fillings are pretty obvious; Nutella (do I have to say ‘other brands are available?!), lemon and sugar…

A slight variation on a theme which was truly delicious was Nutella and raspberries, I also had one particularly decadent crêpe where I chopped up a big dark-chocolate coated praline onto the crêpe and allowed it to melt – mmmm…

The savoury filling presented a bit more of a challenge. What I needed was a traditional crêpe filling (cheese and cream sprang to mind – sorry vegans!), which tasted impressive but was also very easy to prepare in advance for a lot of people.  I experimented with a couple of different ideas as to how to make a really good creamy and cheesy filling which I could easily put together ahead of the event.

What I came up with (which I’m sure has been done before, but nonetheless I am proud of myself for ‘making up’) is a combination of Crème fraîche, grated cheddar cheese (in approximately equal measures) plus a generous amount of Herbes de Provence and some freshly ground black pepper. Mixed herbs or oregano could also be used in lieu of Herbes de Provence. I then prepared very finely chopped mushrooms and bacon which could then be added to the savoury crêpe if people wanted it; this made it a very good way to cater for both vegetarians and non-veggies.

I added the cheese mixture and other savoury bits to the crêpe while it was still on the hot plate and then folded it into quarters, the cheese quickly melted into the Crème fraîche to make a beautiful instant cheese sauce.

Delicious! The feedback from Punk Night was pretty good too!

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Smokey Baked Feta Cheese with herby rice and salad

Emma and I made this together a couple of weeks ago. It is delicious and so simple – pretty much just cover feta cheese with smoked paprika and out it under the grill.
The rice had lime juice and zest, cumin, fresh coriander and spring onions. Emma thought that she didn’t like radishes but was converted!

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I have been doing some cooking with Katherine. I thought I didn’t like radish but it is great covered in lime!

I have put a picture of what we made and a photo of the recipe in case you want to mark it yourself.

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Pickled Beetroot 

I love late summer and autumn, not least because it is pickle and chutney time!

A few weeks ago I had lots of surplus beetroot and so I went hunting around for a pickled beetroot recipe. I decided to wait until I had tasted it to share it with you, and I can now confirm that it is indeed yummy. It has been only a couple of weeks in the jar, consequently it is still rather vinegary – which is fine if you like it like that but it will mature more with patience.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/pickled-beetroot

I (mostly) used the above recipe; one of the things I like about it is that no preparation of raw beetroot is required and so it isn’t too messy. I still managed to get rather red hands though!

For twice the amount of beetroot I used the same proportion of vinegar to sugar, plus approximately 3 tbsp pink pepper corns, a few cloves  (all that was left in the jar), 2 tbsp coriander seeds,  1 tbsp pickling spice and 1 tbsp juniper berries.

I ended up with a couple of extra jars-worth of pickling vinegar, which I used to pickle some little cucumbers from my garden. I haven’t tried the gerkins yet but I’m looking forward to it;  I am going to try to be more patient because I only have one jar of them.

Bring on Autumn!

Calais – Day Three

I am a couple of days late in rounding off my fleeting Calais trip for you – apologies! I was rather too exhausted on Saturday evening plus incredibly frustrated at how slow the internet was in the hostel, and my plan of writing while I was on the ferry was foiled by… sleep.

Day Three followed much the same pattern as the previous two; preparing salad to be taken out to the camp along with the curry and rice, then preparing vegetables for the next day. I also spent time slicing bread to be dipped in the curry – ten big sacks in all if I remember correctly (although not on my own of course!).

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The Refugee Community Kitchen in Calais benefit from the recent change in French law which requires all large food retailers to give their surplus fresh food to charity. Feeding approximately 2500 people a day means that bread and vegetables which the supermarkets won’t sell because it wouldn’t last long enough in peoples fridges can be used straight away to feed some very hungry people. Other ingredients are either donated or purchased in bulk with donated money.

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As promised, I did manage to leave the vegetable prep area for a short while on Saturday to talk to the cooks and chef about what they were making. I will share a curry recipe with you soon, but I want to have a go at scaling it down first because I don’t think that you will need to feed quite so many people as we were feeding in Calais!

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Over and out!

Kitty

Calais – Day Two

… today I have mostly been crying oniony tears…

Lots of chopping and peeling again today – carrots, onions, potatoes, chicory, lettuce and MUCH garlic. Lesson of the day – many hands make light work! The garlic took at least five people most of the afternoon. It’s a good job that there are lots of jobs to be done, so that we can swap around when either our minds or our bodies have had enough of being in one place. 

I expect that you are wondering what is done with all these vegetables?  Each day some variation on vegetable curry, rice and salad is made for thousands of people – all in one pretty small (all things considered) kitchen. The volunteers also get the same for their lunch so I have been able to sample it for the last couple of days – delicious and both days rather different. The kitchen depends on donations of food, so the recipe of the day really depends on what is to hand.

I had a chat with the head chef this afternoon, and we have arranged to spend a few minutes together tomorrow putting down on paper a typical ‘Calais Kitchen’ curry recipe to share with you. 

Until then it’s rest time for me. 

Over and out! 

Kitty

p.s. follow the kitchen on Twitter @RefugeeCKitchen