This week has been very wintery here on the Southern Highlands with strong winds that drill through your body wrapping their icy fingers around your bones. This has made me retreat inside to sit in front of the fire with my cookbooks rediscovering some of my favourite recipes for winter. I particularly love to cook with mushrooms at this time of year. The shelves of my local grocer are packed with a myriad of varieties. They are weird and wonderful with their fanciful shapes and colours. Portobello mushrooms are the king of these as they are the size of dinner plates. Seeing them brings back childhood memories of wandering through the paddocks after the rain and picking these for a special dinner.
I think this was the first thing that I cooked with my Mum. She would let me sit with her in the kitchen and peel the skin off the top of the mushroom cap and remove the stalk. These days there is no need to peel mushrooms as they are all clean and respectable but remember these were field mushrooms so there was plenty of cow poo around. Mum would then put a large iron fry-pan on the wood stove and in it would go a huge slab of butter. When that was sizzling she would put in the mushroom and fry them off. Just before she served them she would add some fresh cream, salt and pepper and a handful of very finely chopped parsley. We would enjoy a feast of mushrooms on toast for dinner that night.
Porcini and Mozzarella Pie with Pine Nuts and Truffle
Sformatini di funghi porcini e mozzarella con pinoli
• 300 gms fresh porcini mushrooms (or other favourites)
• 200gms fresh mozzarella cheese (not that horrid hard stuff wrapped in plastic)
• 6 eggs
• 1 clove garlic
• 5 tablespoons cream
• 20 gms butter
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 1 handful roasted pine nuts
• Leaf salad
• Fresh truffle
1. Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.
2. Clean the fresh mushrooms (do not wash) and chop
3. Melt butter in frying pan and add chopped clove of garlic and fry untill golden
4. Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper and cook with lid on until tender
5. Cut mozzarella into small cubes
6. Mix eggs, cream and salt in a bowl and add the mozzarella and cooked mushrooms
7. Grease and line the bottom of ramekins with baking paper and spoon mixture into the ramekins
8. Place ramekins in a large baking dish and gently half fill baking dish with cold water
9. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes
10. Serve on a bed of salad leaves and garnish with toasted pine nuts and shaved truffles.
Roasted Veal with Porcini Mushrooms
Arrosto di Vitello con Funghi Porcini
- 700 gms single piece of veal and flatten with a mallet (not too thin)
- 200 gms mortadella
- 2 eggs
- 1 clove of garlic chopped
- 2 stems of rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- 100gms dry porcini mushrooms
- 1 Tbs grated parmesan chees
- Dry white wine
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180 C
- Soak the porcini mushrooms in hot water for 10 minutes
- Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt, parmesan cheese and 1 Tbs chopped rosemary
- Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and make an omelette – set aside
- Drain the porcini (saving the water) and cook in a frying pan with a little olive oil and garlic
- Lay the meat on a chopping board and cover with the slices of mortadella, then the omelette and finally the mushrooms
- Roll up the veal, place a rosemary sprig on top and tie the meat up with string
- Brown meat in a cast iron pan (suitable for the oven as well)
- Add the porcini water and white wine
- Roast in the oven for about 45 mins to one hour
- Remove the meat and rest
- Reduce the roasting juices and pass through a sieve and serve with the meat
I love to serve this with rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes and spinach Roman style.
Hint: To stop potatoes sticking to the pan when roasting or sautéing them, place a sheet of baking paper on the bottom of the pan. Guaranteed crunchy potatoes every time!
Spinach Roman Style
Spinaci alla Romana
This recipe appeared in The Times Magazine in an article by Judith Barrett, who adapted it from “The Food of Southern Italy,” by Carlo Middione.
- 3 tablespoons of the smallest available raisins, black or golden
- 4 medium-size bunches of spinach (about 2 ½ pounds), washed at least twice, but not dried, and trimmed of stems
- 1/3 cup virgin olive oil
- 5 medium garlic cloves, peeled and well crushed
- 4 tablespoons pine nuts
- Big pinch of salt
- 6 or 7 grindings of fresh black pepper.
1. Put the raisins in a small bowl with enough warm water to cover. Soak for about 15 minutes. Set aside.
2. Put the wet spinach in a frying pan large enough to hold it all and cook over a high flame until it collapses and turns dark green, stirring constantly. Transfer the spinach to a colander and set it aside. If the frying pan is wet, dry it with a paper towel.
3. Pour the olive oil into the frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and brown it, being careful it doesn’t burn, and then remove and discard it. Take the raisins from the water, squeeze them as dry as possible and add them to the oil with the pine nuts. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the nuts turn a golden color. Be careful, because the nuts can burn easily.
4. Return the spinach to the pan, stir it with a fork and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix all the ingredients and continue cooking for about a minute. You may add additional olive oil if you think the spinach looks dry. Serves 4.