Leek and Wild Mushroom Fricassee

Leek and wild mushroom fricassee

Folklore says that stepping inside a fairy ring, a ring of wild mushrooms, leaves one in thrall to the illusions of the the fairies who built it. Now I might not be superstitious, and I certainly don’t think that the fantastic flavour of this dish is just an illusion, but if garnishing my plate with a ring of wild mushrooms might give me a helping hand from the supernatural, I’m not about to pass up the chance.

This is a dish that, appropriately enough, has mushroomed into my life – coming out of nowhere and rapidly expanding in size and scope until I ended up cooking it for thirty two people on Thursday, in two separate gigs. In this great but slightly busy past week that I’ve had, I’ve cooked and tweaked this fricassee at least eight times, so I reckon I’ve got it down.

“Fricassee” isn’t the most familiar of culinary terms, but it’s an elemental preparation in classic French cuisine. In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child describes it as midway between a sauté and a stew. A stew starts with liquid from the beginning, a sauté cooks “dry” – with fat or oil only. A fricassee starts off pan frying in the same way as a sauté, but then adds a liquid to continue cooking as a stew does.

As I mentioned in my previous post, leeks are in season right now, and this is probably my favourite way to prepare them. Leeks can be a stringy mass if underdone, or a sulky mush if they’re overcooked, but fricasseeing allows for a lot of control and a wide margin for error.

Because it’s creamy, delicate and saucy (yet substantial), when I’m not just eating it on its own I like to pair leek fricassee with white meats and white wines. It goes exceptionally well with slow roast pork belly, and at my pop-up we served it with a stuffed chicken ballotine. It also makes an exquisite pasta sauce, especially if you add a fried handful of lardons and use the rendered bacon fat to sauté the mushrooms.

Fricassee close up

Leek and Wild Mushroom Fricassee

Serves 3-4 Continue reading “Leek and Wild Mushroom Fricassee”

Crispy Leek and Celeriac fritters (and tips for deep frying)

Towering

Quick message: I’m looking for some volunteers to try next week’s dishes. Get in touch if you’re free in Oxford on Saturday November 2nd.

I love this dish because it’s a simple preparation can be deployed against almost anything lurking in the veg drawer. Previously, this was a courgette and onion fritter dish. And that was adapted from a spring onion bhaji recipe. I’ve done it with carrots, with parsnips, I’ve used the batter to coat slices of aubergine, and to bind little balls of cauliflower and sweetcorn. This time of year, leeks and celeriac are at their best, and they go really nicely together.

The vegetables are pretty interchangeable though – its the batter which is the key. It takes all of about five minutes to make, binds the vegetables together, protects them against the heat of the deep fryer and turns golden brown and crispy in the process.

Deep frying gets a bad rep for being unhealthy, inconvenient, or even dangerous to do. Because of this, its a method that most people don’t do that often, so they don’t feel confident that they know what they’re doing, they don’t get right every time, and therefore tend not to bother with. But deep frying is not to be ignored as a technique – its just too damn tasty. So I’m going to take some time in the Tips for Geeks section to talk about how to do it right.

Full shot

Crispy Leek and Celeriac Fritters

Serves 4-8

It almost seems absurd to give quantities for this recipe, as I always just make it by eye. However… Continue reading “Crispy Leek and Celeriac fritters (and tips for deep frying)”

Baba Ganoush and Roasted Red Peppers

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The Genie of the Dish

It had me right from the name. Baba ganoush. There’s something impossibly magical about it. “Baba” conjures to mind Ali Baba – “ganoush” sounds like “whoosh” – its name is like a genie – a mystical and wondrous thing emerging from the smoke. Its taste is too.

It’s the smoky flavour, caused by blackening the skin of the aubergene, that for me is the enchantment of this dish. The alchemy of combining the tastes of grassy aubergine, smoke, nutty tahini and the acid of the lemon juice creates an elixir that in France is called, without exaggeration, “caviar d’aubergene”.

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The spiritual connection with caviar has lead me in the past to serve this dish on blinis, with great sucess. And because I already having a barbecue going to blacken the aubergine, I like to roast some peppers as well and serve them with the baba ganoush. Mischiveously, the peppers do a bit of a disappearing act when you char them, so do three times as many as you think you’re going to need. They keep well anyway, in the fridge, under a slick of olive oil.

Serve with flatbread to dip or on blinis. You can also use as a side dish for grilled chicken or lamb. Or, do what I do; keep a big bowl of baba ganoush in the fridge, and dip into it anything that’s less runny than it is. Including fingers.

Baba Ganoush with Roasted Red Peppers

For the Roasted Red Peppers:

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