Tag Archives: starter

The Next Best Thing To A Duvet Day: Velvety Mushroom and Chestnut Soup

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Winter is dragging on, my mood is as gloomy as the weather, and I feel like I am going to be cold forever.

I wish I could just burrow under the duvet and wait for the temperatures to start climbing again before venturing back out, but I can’t do that because I would most probably get sacked. Unfortunately, my job cannot be done from home, and it definitely cannot be done from under a duvet, so like most other people I have to suck it up, leave my bed and wrap up in a lot of layers in order to go to work. And it sucks.

Sadly, taking your duvet to work isn’t normally very practical either. So, what to do? What could make up for having to get out of bed?

In my opinion, the next best thing to a duvet is probably soup. It is warm, comforting and satisfying, and unlike a duvet you can take it to work to enjoy during your lunch break, without having to endure being stared at by your co-workers as if you have suddenly grown a second head. If you agree with me, then this recipe is definitely for you.

This mushroom and chestnut soup is very tasty and warming. The chestnut purée is optional, but the texture wouldn’t be as smooth and velvety without it. Use any mushrooms you want; if you are lucky enough to have access to wild mushrooms then don’t hesitate to use them. I usually go for a mixture of chestnut mushrooms and (rehydtated) dried porcini.

You will need (for 4 servings):

800 g mixed mushrooms (rehydrated weight if using dried mushrooms), quartered
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30 g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 pinches dried thyme
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre hot chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
Salt, pepper
4 heaped tbsp unsweetened chestnut purée

Method:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and butter together on a medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and thyme and cook until soft but not coloured (about 3 to 4 min).

Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 min, then add the brandy and cook for 1 or 2 min to evaporate the alcohol. Add the stock, season, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 25 min.

Transfer about 2/3 of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour it back into the pan with the rest of the soup, and stir in the chestnut purée. Check the seasoning.

Serve with plenty of crusty bread, and crème fraîche if you like.

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Filed under Mains, Soups, Starters, Vegetables, Vegetarian

The Real Quiche Lorraine (Warning: No Cheese or Onions Allowed)

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I am a self-confessed Quiche Lorraine bore.

You see, I am from Lorraine, and therefore consider my recipe to be the definitive one. And I do not tolerate for any liberties to be taken with it. Only shortcrust pastry, lardons, eggs, cream and seasoning are allowed. Nothing more, nothing less.

Because the beauty of Quiche Lorraine resides in its simplicity.

Which is why to me, the addition of cheese is just pure heresy. I pour scorn on the use of onions. And if you dare add mushrooms, peppers, or, horror of horrors broccoli, I shall track you down and force you to listen to Celine Dion’s back catalogue in a loop until you see the error of your ways and promise never to do it again.

Ok, rant over.

Quiche Lorraine is meant to be shared, and perfect for an informal party. It can be made ahead, is delicious hot or cold, and everyone knows that it tastes even better if you ditch the cutlery.

You will need:

300 g plain flour
150 g unsalted butter, cold, diced
200 g lardons (or diced bacon, or pancetta)
3 eggs
250 ml crème fraîche
150 ml double cream
Salt
Pepper

Method:

Make the pastry. In a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and the butter to the flour. Work the flour into the butter between your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to bind, knead briefly then form into a ball (you can of course use a food processor instead if you prefer). Wrap in cling film then chill for 20 min.
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Preheat the oven to 200C/ fan 180C/ gas 6.

Roll out the pastry to line a 28 cm fluted tart tin (re-form any leftover pastry into a ball and freeze for another time). Chill again for 10 min, then line with foil, add baking beans, and bake blind for 15 min. Remove the foil and beans, and return to the oven for 5 min.
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While the pastry is in the oven, heat up a non-stick frying pan, and dry-fry the lardons for a few minutes. They should colour slightly, but make sure they don’t get crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

In a large jug, slightly beat the egg, then mix with the creams. Season, being careful not to add too much salt, as the lardons will be quite salty already.
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Scatter the lardons over the pastry base, pull the oven shelf partially out of the oven, and place the tin on it. Carefully pour the filling, stopping just below the edge of the pastry. Push the shelf in gently, and bake for about 20 min until golden on top and soft in the middle.
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Filed under Buffet, Mains, Savoury Tarts, Starters