Saturday, 24 November 2012

Flaming Wild Mushroom Crepes

Wild Mushroom Pancakes-1

My Godfather gave us an unbelievably exciting collection of dried wild mushrooms as a very generous engagement present. The sight of jumbo Morels, dried Chanterelles, Porcini and Trompettes de la Mort were too much to cope with, so I decided to give our Flaming Wild Mushroom Pancake recipe another outing, but with turbo charged fungus.

We first created it for our entry into this year’s Pancake Day competition. It came about when we wondered how we could capture the excitement of a flaming Crepe Suzette with my obsession with mushrooms. Initial plans involved truffles and fine cognac, but it got scaled down to a more sensible wild mushroom ragout spooned inside a pancake and then doused in flaming brandy.

Full of confidence and low on voting smarts we came second in February to a Chile Con Carne Crepe, which, it pains me to say it, was a deserving winner. Stung by defeat, we went back to the chopping board and tweaked our recipe to dial up the shroom factor and weave in some complementary flavours into the batter and mushroom ragout.

We decided to add some porcini powder and chives to the batter to make it more savory. And also threw in extra tarragon, thyme and parsley into the ragout to make it more complex. We also decided to use Taleggio rather than Parmesan because it melts better and has a tang that makes the mushrooms stand out more.


Pancake batter:
Porcini powder (or throw dried mushrooms into the batter and then remove them after you’ve let the batter prove)
Chopped chives

Mushroom Ragout:

1 onion
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
600g button mushrooms
3 handfuls of dried wild mushrooms
600ml hot water
100ml double cream


Start by making the batter. Whisk together the flour, eggs, water and add in the porcini powder or dried mushrooms.

Then chop the chives very finely and add them too. Let the batter prove overnight.

Rehydrate the dried wild mushrooms in boiling water and leave to steep for 30 minutes, or as long as the packet says.

In the meantime, fry an onion in olive oil and butter over a low heat and once softened add in the chopped garlic. Don’t let it brown. Then add the chopped fresh mushrooms and cook until soft and coloured. Add some salt and sauté until the liquid that the mushrooms leach has bubbled away.

Then squeeze the now hydrated, formerly dried, mushrooms into their bowl and add to the pan. Give this some heat to drive off the excess liquid and then, perversely, add in the mushroom stock 200ml at a time. Reduce this down until there it is a bit saucy.

Then add in lots of chopped tarragon, thyme and parsley. Season and then add in 100ml of double cream and continue to reduce until you have a rich mushroomy sludge.

Pancakes 2012 Final-2

Keep this warm and fry some pancakes using the now proved batter. Once you’ve fried the pancake on the bottom, flip it and spoon some of the mushroom ragout onto half of the pancake.

Wild Mushroom Pancakes-5

Add a few rocket leaves, a few slices of taleggio, salt and pepper and fold over.

Pancakes 2012 Final-5

Pat down with a spatula and douse in brandy over a hot flame. Stand back. 

Wild Mushroom Pancakes-6

Serve with a peppery side salad.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Roast Gurnard with sage and squash

Gurnard and Pumpkin

When we were in Salcombe a few years ago we went on a memorable fishing trip where I managed to catch nothing but sand eels whilst the rest of the gang reeled in a whole school of mackerel. A friend called Nick, who could catch a sea bass in a 2 inch puddle, even managed to snare a gurnard much to my shame. But then again he is a fish magnet.

In contrast to my sand eels, and the mercury coloured mackerel bullets, the gurnard seemed exotic and of another world. With big eyes and a red mohican it looked worryingly like the three eyed fish that is found in the river near the nuclear power plant in the Simpsons. Ever since this encounter I’ve been keen to cook one.

My chance belated came the other day. I popped into Moxons on my way home, in search of a modest piece of fish. I was thinking of lemon sole, Arctic char or mackerel, but was seduced by the idea of a large gurnard.

When I inquired how to cook it the fishmonger instantly dictated that I roast it with sage and pumpkin. I could have spent ages thinking about what would have worked well. But sometimes a bit of firm direction works wonders. On a hot summer night you’d probably be better with something more lemony and acidic, but if it’s a bit cooler this is a great way to enhance the earthy and mellow nature of gurnard.


1 large gurnard
½ butternut squash
Handful of sage
Spinach leaves
1 lemon
Olive oil
3 cloves of garlic


Cut the squash into bit sized chunks. Season with salt and pepper and roast in a medium oven along with the garlic cloves and sage leaves.

Make a garlic and sage butter by adding minced garlic with finely chopped sage leaves.

Prepare the gurnard by slashing the skin, seasoning and studding with sage butter.

After 30 minutes when the squash is getting soft, place your gurnard on top of the squash.

Cook for 10 minutes until the fish is just cooked. Remove from the oven and wilt some spinach in a pan.

Serve the gurnard whole, with the squash and spinach on the side. Squeeze some lemon over the fish and spoon whatever juices are left in the pan over the fish.

Gurnard and Pumpkin

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Mackerel, Beetroot, Lentil and Egg Salad

Lentil and Mackerel Salad-5

A few months ago I found myself arriving at a bizarre Parisian hotel in the middle of what seemed like nowhere for a meeting about biscuits. It was midnight. I was shattered. And the Hotel Mama Shelter flummoxed me so much that I landed up going to the loo in the ladies toilets – only to be ticked off by a couple of outraged lesbians.

After failing to find refuge in my concrete bedroom, lit only by and Obelix and evil Elvis masks, I decided to make a late trip to the bar to regain my sanity.

I whiled away an hour watching the “Medi-arty” hop from table to table, sipping, slurping and flirting in equal measure. The highlight was watching, a bombastically trendy Swedish teenager managed to chat up and bed a fawning American model all in the space of 45 minutes.

During lunch the next day we were served one of the best things I’ve eaten this year. It couldn’t have been a lot more simple. It was just a mound of perfectly cooked and seasoned green lentils, dressed with mustard and crème fraiche and topped with a soft boiled egg and a scattering of tarragon. Its simplicity belied its flavour and moreishness.

I’ve since taken this straightforward approach to lentils and cook this dish whenever we need to conjour a quick supper out of thin air. Add some smoked mackerel and beetroot and you’ve got one of the healthiest, easiest and most delicious suppers imaginable. I suspect it would be even better with some horseradish.

Ingredients for two people:

300g green lentils
2 eggs
Handful of chopped tarragon
3 smoked mackerel fillets
2 sliced beetroots
2 spoons of Dijon mustard
2 spoons of crème fraiche
Salt and pepper


Boil the lentils until tender. Drain. And allow to cool slightly. Mix through the mustard, crème fraiche and most of the chopped tarragon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Soft boil or poach your eggs.

Throw on some broken up pieces of smoked mackerel and some slices of beetroot and place the soft cooked egg on top. Sprinkle the remaining tarragon on top. Season the egg, squeeze some lemon over the top and serve immediately. Pierce the egg to release the runny yolk and tuck in.

Lentil and Mackerel Salad-1

Monday, 18 June 2012

Brunost and Juniper Venison Shank with Spelt

Venison shank-3

One of the classic ways of cooking with brunost in Scandinavia is to use it to enrich slow cooked game dishes that have been laced with juniper. I first discovered it in Andreas Viestad’s Scandinavian cookbook, Kitchen of Light. The sweetness and unexpected tang help to lift the sauce away from fuggy earthiness and gives the sometimes thin liquor a glossy glow. It’s the Norwegian equivalent of adding some dark chocolate to a Mexican mole.

I picked up a handsome venison shank from Balham Farmers’ Market that would have been just as happy (and a lot more expensive) had I encountered it in Gothenburg. The meat was as dense as lead and spoke of a life of permanent effort and back-breakingly hard work.

It needed to be cooked as slowly as possible – in a way that could cope with the rich flavour of the meat and the tense meat. So I decided to throw mushrooms, red wine, spelt, juniper and onions at the casserole dish and abandoned it for the afternoon whilst it burbled away in the oven. Whilst June isn’t the normal time of year to be writing about venison shank stews – the weather right now is making me feel a bit like hibernating with a lump of brunost.

Ingredients to serve 2

1 large venison shank or 2 small shanks
100g of pearled spelt
100g of dried mushrooms (preferably porcini or morels)
100g of sliced button mushrooms
30g of brunost
A good handful of juniper berries
2 bay leaves
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
400ml of stock to cover (but top up with water as required)
2 glasses of red wine
Salt and pepper

Rehydrate the dried mushrooms and make sure you keep the liquor.


Roll the venison shank in seasoned flour and then brown in a hot cast iron casserole dish. Remove and then sweat the onion, button mushrooms and garlic until they have taken on some colour and the mushrooms have shed some of their juice. Then add the spelt, rehydrated mushrooms (and their liquor), the juniper berries, bay leaf and venison shank. Cover with red wine and stock until well covered. Then bring to a simmer.

Once it is bubbling away, pop on the lid and place in the oven to cook for another 2 hours or so at a low heat. You must check on its progress to make sure it doesn’t dry out as the spelt with absorb a surprising amount of liquid. Top up with stock, red wine or water as you wish.

Venison shank-1

Once the meat is lethargically giving up its grip on the tendons and bones remove from the oven and drain off the liquid. Strain these luscious juices into a pan and reduce to a condensed slick of brown heaven. Check for seasoning and add more juniper berries. Then when it is getting a bit thicker, add the brunost and whisk like a madman. The sauce should thicken and become a bit fudgy. Taste it as you go and don’t over reduce because the sugars may catch. Keep this warm whilst you attend to your cauliflower cheese.

Venison shank-5

Strip the tender venison meat from the bone and assemble with the spelt and mushroom stew, topped with the glossy brunost and juniper sauce, alongside the brunost cauliflower cheese and some wilted spinach.

Like still waters, this dish runs deep. The combination of sweet and sour brunost with bitter juniper mixed with the feral depth of the mushrooms and venison make this a dish that a Viking, returning from a day of pillaging, would be very happy to come home to.

Venison shank-6

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Mark Hix’s Vivid Soups

With my mind wondering down a Swedish memory lane, I remembered a couple of vivid soups I made from Mark Hix’s Oyster and Chop House cookbook during the fleeting but magical Gothenburg summer.

The book itself is a beauty to look, charming to fondle, fun to read but frustratingly dilute when it came to the subject of the Chop House part of the idea. Sure, the meat was beautifully photographed and well annotated with interesting commentary and the odd recipe, but where it could have been a seminal T-Bone, it seemed bashed out like a minute steak. If you want a masterclass in meat and generally chop-housery, opt instead for HFW’s The River Cottage Meat Book, Hawksmoor At Home or the Ginger Pig Meatbook. But then again, maybe Hix thought it had been done already.

Rather perversely, Mark Hix’s book comes into its own in the less meaty sections. His chicken livers on toast recipe is a beauty and his fennel salad dressed with orange juice and vinegar is very good too if you ease off on the rape seed oil. And his fish with peas and leaks is delicious.

Pollock a la Hix-2

Fish cakes

Liver on toast aerial

But, the best two things I’ve cooked from his book are a couple of punchy soups which seem to capture his bold, mischievous and blokey personality to a soupy T.

The first was golden beetroot soup, which captured my attention as it was supposed to, because the golden coloured beetroot was intended to trick your dinner guests. This bright yellow soup looked like butternut squash, or possibly a saffron spiked courgette soup, but tasted earthily of the very essence of beetroot. Arguably even more so than if it was red. I've since sown some golden beetroot seeds and hope to recreate this soup back in London with my own vegetables.

The second was for a horseradish soup which almost blew my head off as I grated the fresh root in my Magimix. Even with a topping of walnut floaters and a dab of goats’ cheese it was explosive.

If you like your soup to be vibrant, exciting and a conversational hand grenade, this one is for you. But if you like your potage to be further towards the potato or broccoli end of the spectrum you may want to give this one a wide birth and go for the golden beetroot version. Soupifying the horseradish only seems to make it even more psychopathically strong – and using golden beets seems to make them even more beetrooty.

Chilled Golden Beetroot Soup:


400g golden beetroot
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 litre of vegetable stock


Mark Hix suggests boiling the beetroot. But I much prefer to bake them in salt as they seem to emerge sweeter. Allow to cool and then peel and chop them into chunks.

Golden beets

Sweat the onion in the hot oil in a large saucepan. Once softened, add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour. Then add the chopped beetroot and remove from the heat.

Golden beet x section

Blend it until smooth. Pass it through a sieve to make it super silky.


Either serve on its own. Or with some goats' cheese or curd floating on top. Or a swirl of cream. Or if you are feeling a bit Swedish, with some grated horseradish on top.

Yellow beet soup

Yellow beet soup low down

Horseradish Soup:


50g butter
1 chopped onion
1 chopped leek
1 tablespoon of flour
1.5 litres of vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
100g grated horseradish
1-2 tablespoons of double cream


Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Sweat the onion and lieek and cook without colouring for a few minutes. Stir in the flour to make a roux and add the stock gradually. Season and simmer for 30 minutes.

Next do the fun part. Grate your horseradish using the grater attachment on your Magimix. Or just do it by hand. The hit of horseradish is one of the most intense experiences I've ever had whilst cooking. So watch out!

Grated horseradish

Add the grated horseradish to the soup and simmer for 5 or 10 minutes. Take off the heat and then blend until smooth. Pass it through a sieve for extra smoothness.

Check for seasoning add the cream, heat up and serve.

Horseradish soup

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Happy Memories from Gothenburg

I’ve just spent a few hours rather tediously filling out forms associated with moving back from Sweden to the UK. Amazingly it is now nine months since I returned and whilst I am loving being back in London, I do get the odd yearning for the best bits of Sweden: such as rye bread; sizzlingly clear air; the rugged coastline; 5 minute walks to work; boatloads of fish; and a life less hectic.

I found myself looking back through my old Gothenburg 365 blog and thought I’d share some of my favourite pictures from it with you. Forgive my indulgence.

Gothenburg 365 Jan Mid-13Fart hinder 1. Washing machine rota Trolley on ice with tram Life Ring Gothenburg 365 Jan Mid-12 Ice Cracks Girl with balloons Beetroot Gnocchi1 Scrabble Red stone graffiti Water fight Boating Lobster Safari-32 Thin yellow and blue flag Buzz the boat Foxgloves November Gothenburg-8 Jesper 2 Mussel Safari41 Salt & Sill-4 Salt & Sill-12 Venison tartar on rye Redcurrants close Kantareller market Chanterelles close Cranes orange Rainy clocktower Droplets Swedish Shrimp Sandwich-10 Fjallbacka-36 Fjallbacka-15 Gothenburg 365 November-9 Rally Sweden-4 Rally Sweden-60 Ryan Air Gothenburg 365 Feb-2 Gothenburg 365 Feb-1


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