This nice little recipe is from Nigella's 'Express' cookbook, and is a good accompaniment to roast chicken or, in our case tonight, a proper veal saltimbocca. Not too creamy, it uses milk rather than cream and not very much butter, so not too naughty - deeply mushroomy, too. For 4 people, you need to peel and thinly slice 3 medium-ish potatoes - go for Maris Piper or King Edward's. Heat 360ml of milk in a pan, along with 3 tablespoons of white wine (don't miss this bit out, it really lifts the flavour). Season well with salt and pepper. Add the sliced potatoes and simmer gently whilst getting on with the mushrooms: slice 250g of chestnut mushrooms and saute in a frying pan in 25g of butter and a grated or crushed clove of garlic. I added some fresh thyme at this stage, because I had some, along with a grating of nutmeg because - well, life is better with nutmeg! Once the mushrooms have sauteed for a few minutes and given off some of their liquid, tip the contents into the pan with the milk and potatoes and stir well. Pour all of this into a buttered shallow gratin dish, smooth the top, grate over a little parmesan and bake at 180 for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender, most of the milk has been absorbed and the top is lovely and crusty brown. As there were only 2 of us we have some leftover, but I think they will reheat well tomorrow - if I can stop picking at the dish in the kitchen.......oh dear!
Another lovely winter warmer from Hugh F-W's 'Veg Everyday' book, although I varied it by adding some shredded ham hock which turned it into a real rib sticker. Even though you have to splash out on a packet of dried porcini (two quid from Tesco!) this still comes in well under a fiver and is so rich, mushroomy and warming. If you don't have chard, kale or spinach or savoy cabbage would do just as well - just make sure it is dark green and full of iron! Start the usual way by sweating a large chopped onion in a tablespoon or so of oil over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Whilst this is happening, soak a 25g pack of dried porcini in 800mls boiling water in a jug. Prep your chard by stripping the leaves from the stalks, slicing the stalks finely and then shredding the leaves. When the onion is done, add a couple of stalks of rosemary and 2 cloves of crushed garlic, and cook for a couple of minutes. Fish out the soaked porcini using a draining spoon and put on a wodge of kitchen paper - keep the soaking liquid. Chop the porcini on a board, as finely as you can, then add to the pot. Empty in a tin of drained, rinsed chickpeas, half a tin of chopped tomatoes and the chard stalks. Stir well. Now, place a sheet of kitchen paper in a sieve and carefully strain the mushroom liquid into the pan, to filter out any grit. Bring to the boil, add a teaspoon of tomato puree and some marigold veg stock powder or a veg stock cube, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Return to just under the boil and add the chard leaves. Add the shredded ham hock (or some cooked chicken, maybe, or cooked chorizo). Simmer for about 8 minutes until the leaves are cooked but still lovely and green. Adjust the seasoning, fish out the rosemary stalks and serve piping hot in big bowls with crusty bread and some cheese slices on the side.
There are loads of recipes on the web for this dish - I didn't follow a particular recipe, rather than a set of basic principles: good meat, lots of aromatic seasonings, a little liquid, good covering and long, slow cooking! I started with a whole shoulder of lamb, either on the bone or boned and rolled, whichever you prefer. Season well with salt and pepper, make some slits in the meaty bits and shove slivers of garlic and sprigs of fresh rosemary in them. Now, take a solid roasting tin, put a little oil in the bottom (a tablespoon or so) and then strew (lovely word!) 2 peeled and thickly sliced onions over the bottom. Peel and roughly chop 4 or 5 garlic cloves and add to the onions, along with a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a couple of bay leaves. Now pour in 120mls of wine (whatever you have, but I prefer white for this dish) and a further 120mls of water. Place the lamb on top, then cover the roasting tin really well with foil, tucking it tightly around the rim to make it as good a seal as possible. Put in an oven heated to 150C or the gas equivalent and then leave to cook. After 3 hours, carefully check under the foil (watch out! It will be hot and steamy!) just to check that there is still liquid - there should be lots as the meat will shed loads of juice. But add a little more hot water from the kettle if it is at all dry. Reseal the foil and return to the oven for another 2 hours, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown the meat if it needs it. Now, remove the lamb to a board and cover well with foil then a tea towel to keep warm. Spoon the copious amounts of liquid fat from the surface of the juices in the roasting tin. If the liquid is at all watery, boil over a high heat for a few minutes until reduced to the intensity you want - taste and adjust the seasoning. You can either sieve the onions out of the gravy or not, your choice (I quite like the soft onions left in). Now serve the lamb - it will be falling off the bone and you should be able to cut it and pull it apart with a fork and spoon. Pour over the hot juice and serve with mash to mop it all up. Any leftovers make a sublime Shepherd's Pie or (as we did tonight), a Moussaka. It is rich meat and serves a lot!