Thursday 23 August 2007

Recipe: Caramelised Mushrooms

Bizarrely, although this dish differs only slightly from mushrooms fried au naturel, for some reason the addition of shallots, butter and parsley at the end of the process gives to the flavour of the mushrooms a surprising depth and richness. This is excellent with grilled meat or with sausages.

For four.

Ingredients: 1 lb of Button or Field Mushrooms (halved or quartered if they are large) ; 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil; 2 medium Shallots; 1 tablespoon of Butter; Salt & Pepper; 3 tablespoons chopped Parsley.


1. Heat the Oil over high heat in a saute pan. When hot, add the mushrooms, and reduce the heat to medium. Leave to cook, covered, for twenty five minutes, until the Mushrooms have released all their juice and it has cooked away.

2. Peel and dice the Shallots. Add these to the cooked Mushrooms and stir to combine. Cook for a further two to three minutes.

3. Add the seasoning, Butter, and Parsley and cook for another minute, stirring, until the Butter has melted and all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together.


Monday 20 August 2007

Bottled Summer.......

I don't recall how or why I first came across the range of Vedrenne Creme Liqueurs. I can remember numerous glasses of Kir being consumed as pre-lunch tipples nearly thirty years ago in the course of endless Greek summers - generally accompanied by slices of Hungarian Donkey Salami (the flavours of the two have been inextricably linked in my mind, ever since) - and the Cassis that was used on those occasions always came from the distinctive Vedrenne bottle..........But when it was that I realised that Vedrenne is not just Cassis I couldn't tell you. Or indeed why it is that no retail outlets that I can think of ever seem interested to move beyond the - admittedly very good, but on one level slightly pedestrian - blackcurrant.

Now I come to think of it, I suspect it was exactly because of lack of retail availability that I learned that Vedrenne products come in a whole battery of other flavours. I tracked down the UK importer (an outfit called Grape Ideas, based somewhere in Oxfordshire) and established that I could buy from them at trade price, as long as I bought a minimum of a case at a time. A dozen bottles of Cassis seemed quite a challenge even for the levels of consumption in this household, and I suspect my pause on the phone prompted G.Ideas Inc to add hurriedly that it would be perfectly ok for the case to be a mixed case. And that in turn prompted careful enquiry as to exactly what the options for that mix might be......

That first time, we decided to cast our net wide, in a spirit of adventure, and the order included Creme de Peche de Vigne, Green Apple, Wild Strawberry, Bitter Cherry, Raspberry, and of course the inevitable Cassis. They're all made and bottled in Nuits St George, and there are actually more flavours that come out of Nuits St George than those I've listed, but which inexplicably have been deemed uninteresting by the good people of Grape Ideas.........there's a Mirabelle, I think, and a Bilberry. ...and possibly more that I don't recall. The blurb available about the process is quite unrevealing, and the only details I could glean in trying to research Vedrenne was that absolutely no additives are used 'not even those allowed by law' (nice touch, that!) and the fact that only 'dry' sugar comes into play...

The flavours are superb! There are some oddities, I'll admit, for which a good use took a little time to discover. Green Apple, for instance, left me completely cold until I tried a small amount of it in the bottom of a Gin & Tonic. Delicious! Wonderfully refreshing, and inexplicably tasting of almonds......Equally, the Bitter Cherry I nearly gave up on, until I tried a small slug of it as part of the contents for a Cherry Tart. For the others, though, there was never any question: Peche de Vigne with Prosecco; Framboise, or Cassis mixed with a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio.....all perfect! And they all come in handy in the kitchen as well - a little Wild Strawberry added to the base for a Strawberry Souffle, for instance, or Peche de Vigne to give a little kick to a Nectarine Pie. It's all good stuff.......

And given how summer in London now seems entirely to have given up trying, then there's much to be said for the bottled variety. Within 48 hours of touching down at Gatwick, I'd managed to contract a stinking cold, and much time is now devoted to sneezing my way around Kensington Gardens, as the four-footeds enjoy chasing squirrels in the pouring rain!

Tonight's Dinner:

Aubergine & Parmesan Tarts

Grilled Steak, with Caramelised Mushrooms

Pears, poached with Rosemary & Honey