Monday, January 13, 2014

Nigella Lawson's linguine with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms

Most people's first reaction to the idea of putting raw mushrooms in a pasta is: 'No thanks'. But there is a strange alchemy that occurs in this dish.

Even though the mushrooms are never cooked, they're not exactly raw, either, by the time they join the linguine. While marinating in a cocktail of thyme, lemon juice, zest, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil (don't you just want to dive in right now?), they completely lose their foamy texture, and transform into something fragrant and silky, much like cooked mushrooms, but with a fresher, more delicate flavour. They soak up the marinade so that each slice, consumed with the pasta, delivers an intense burst of flavour (did I mention the thyme, lemon juice, zest, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil?).

I've decided to try my hand at the LCHF (low carb high fat) diet made popular recently in SA by Tim Noakes, so I won't be eating this in pasta form any time soon. But I always thought these mushrooms would go brilliantly with white fish or chicken. Prawns even. Or perhaps pork! (Okay, easy girl, steady on.)

It's only been three days, but so far I am scoffing meat and cheese like there's no tomorrow, and LOVING IT. Carbs are a distant memory when one is suddenly given full permission to eat all the food previously believed forbidden, or at least best consumed in moderation. Bacon, butter and cream! Oh my!

Anyway. To all of you still happily ensconced in Carbville (and I may well return to the fold if this LCHF experiment proves ineffective), I just know you'll love this.

Nigella Lawson's linguine with lemon, garlic and thyme mushrooms

[Serves 46]

Says Nigella: This is one of my proudest creations and, I suppose, a good example of a recipe that isn't originally from Italy, but sits uncontroversially in her culinary canon. I don't think it would be too presumptuous to name this linguine ai funghi crudi. It is about as speedy as you can imagine: you do no more to the mushrooms than slice them, steep them in oil, garlic, lemon and thyme and toss them into the hot cooked pasta.If all you can find is regular button mushrooms, this pasta is still worth making — so no excuses.

225 grams chestnut mushrooms
80 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Maldon salt (or 1½ teaspoons table salt)
1 small clove garlic (crushed)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves stripped off)
500 grams linguine
1 bunch fresh parsley (chopped)
23 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Slice the mushrooms finely, and put in a large bowl with the oil, salt, crushed garlic, lemon juice and zest, and marvellously scented thyme leaves.
2. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and drain loosely, retaining some water. Quickly put the drained pasta into the bowl with the mushroom mixture.
3. Toss everything together well, then add the chopped parsley, grated cheese and pepper to taste, before tossing again, and eat with joy in your heart.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Smashed broad bean and mint crostini

This is based on Jamie Oliver's smashed pea and broad bean crostini, only we didn't have any peas.

I know broad beans are out of season, but, well, we had this over Christmas and I have been itching to post it. Plus, I've made it since with frozen peas — why not? — with similar results.

Christmas dinner with the Grateful Guinea Pig and my parents in Calitzdorp was a relaxed, spontaneous affair. We knew my dad was going to roast a duck, but that was about it.

So we sat around, um-ing and ah-ing, discussing what was available, paging through recipes (my heart feels warm and full just thinking about it — I wish my folks lived closer to Cape Town so we could all cook together more often).

My mom mentioned she had some broad beans in the freezer, and this recipe immediately peeped out from under the Persian rug of my subconscious. I'd seen it years ago and thought it sounded a treat — can't think why I hadn't got round to trying yet.

Well, it surpassed all expectations. It was just unbelievably tasty: the lemon juice and pecorino offer a sharp, savoury intensity, while the smooth, sweet broad beans provide backing vocals... The mint just takes it to a whole other level.

The rest of the meal was a little more prosaic — aren't all the most delicious, comforting foods, though? Dad roasted the duck to perfection, accompanied by gravy (in a gravy boat! That pleased me immensely) ...

 ... as well as creamed nutmeg spinach, crispy roast potatoes and butternut. Uncomplicated, generous food, accompanied by a truly stellar cast of Pinot Noirs:
Honestly, I couldn't pick a favourite (okay, well, the Crystallum then, since you're holding a gun to my head, but it only wins by a hair).

I really wish I could go back and have Christmas dinner all over again. It was magical, and over way too quickly.

But let's get back to the green stuff.

Like I said, I've made it using frozen peas, and while it isn't quite as elegant as the broad bean version, it's still plenty good. Here's the recipe — I'm sure you can work out what needs substituting between the peas and broad beans.

Jamie's smashed pea and broad bean crostini 
(He says it serves 12, but that sounds a bit optimistic to me)

1 small handful mint leaves, plus extra to serve
1 handful podded peas
1 handful broad beans
1 large handful freshly grated pecorino or Parmesan, plus extra to serve
extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice

In a pestle and mortar or a food processor, smash up a small handful of mint leaves with 2 good handfuls of freshly podded peas and broad beans until they look like mushy peas. Add a large handful of freshly grated pecorino or Parmesan, then loosen with a couple of good lugs of extra virgin olive oil and balance the flavours with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper. Smear this over each of your hot crostini and finish with some grated pecorino or Parmesan and a little mint — genius!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Heston Bumenthal's wicked broccoli

Image from

This recipe is going to change the way you feel about broccoli FOREVER, and I don't make that claim lightly.

(It'll probably also change the way you feel about Heston Blumenthal, because he's not exactly known for his simple home cooking.)

It's so easy it's hardly even a recipe (as Luisa of The Wednesday Chef, from whose blog I shamelessly stole the image above, pointed out), but the results are so gobsmackingly delicious, you'll wonder where broccoli's been hiding all that extra flavour.
The cooking method has to be followed meticulously, but there's nothing to it really — you just need a 2-minute timer (the whole shebang takes a grand total of 4 minutes, 5 max), and to not be squeamish about frying at a very high heat. With butter.

I've emailed this to a bunch of people, and the invariable response has been dumbfounded delight.

So, without further ado...

Heston Bumenthal's broccoli

1 head of broccoli, washed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter

Cut the florets off the head of broccoli to roughly the same size. Peel the stalk of broccoli if you want, and slice it into 1/4-1/2 inch thick coins. Put a few tablespoons of olive oil into a heavy pan (like a cast iron frying pan), and put it on high heat until the oil is quite hot and almost smoking. Dump the broccoli into the pan all at once and cover it quickly with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes, don't lift the lid (no peeking). Take the lid off, season the broccoli with salt and pepper, shake the pan to move the broccoli around, add about a tablespoon of butter, re-cover and cook for 2 more minutes on high. Check the broccoli to see if it's done (it should be cooked — partially scorched, partially green). If it isn't ready, cover the pan and cook for about 2 more minutes.