Tag Archives: Porcini

Zuppa Contadina

Zuppa ContadinaIf ever asked where to eat in London my mind immediately casts straight for the amazing diversity of restaurants that line the streets of Islington. From institutions like Frederick’s which has been a tall poppy since 1969, when your mother would warn you away from the area, to Ottoleghi, the western european light into middle eastern cuisine, and Le Mercury, the stalwart of tongue-in-cheek, un-chic, ‘best of budget’ European food and atmosphere.

But one little old favourite haunt, Food Lab, has kept me inspired to do simple food really well. Tucked just round the corner from my last apartment it was the best local I could ask for. Although a late convert to the immense diversity of Italian flavours, I marvel at how far a few simple ingredients bring that sufficient complexity to a dish. Zuppa Contadina is my italian take on a ‘peasant’s soup’, with only 3 main ingredients. This dish works fantastically to shake off those cold spells and will keep for a few days gaining flavour each day.

Serves 6

2 medium onions, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, thiny sliced
1/2 ring of chorizo, in 4mm slices and again into half moon
30-40g dried porcini mushrooms
handful of pearl barley
1 1/2 litres vegetable stock (preferably x2 cubes of mushroom stock)
Olive oil

Start by preparing your ingredients. Add boiling water to your vegetable stock, and soak your porcini in the stock until expanded.

In a heavy based saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté your onions on a medium heat until clear, around 5 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and sliced chorizo and fry for a further 5 minutes. The oily paprika juices from the chorizo will give you a good orange colour to the food.

Next add your stock, porcini and pearl barley and bring to the boil. Once boiling, simmer for 30 minutes, until the pearl barley is soft and swollen. Add salt and plenty of pepper to taste.

Tip: The soup will thicken up the longer it simmers, so for a slightly more soul-warming texture keep it going for a good hour. It will also gain the full flavour of the mushrooms and chorizo in just 1/2 a day, so pre-making this dish goes a long way.

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Naked Beef Wellington

IMG_2324I think making a beef wellington is something to revere as brilliantly ‘Delia territory’. It takes a good deal of effort and precision, so if you are ever served it remember to make the right noises to the chef, because those painstaking hours of work will be gone in mere moments of pleasure.

But the naked version this isn’t one of those dishes. Its a synch in comparison and it transports you into south central Europe in winter with its flavours. This all came about due to finding the most glorious fillet of beef and being totally undecided as to whether to make carpaccio of it or cook it whole. I just knew it had to be eaten well and I didn’t want pastry.

This dish is most likely to serve 4, as buying a fillet of beef for many more than that starts to make this a very expensive venture. But when you do choose your piece, make sure it a good barrel shape, with minimal marbling, preferably none at all.

Prep time 20 mins.

Serves 4

600g fillet beef
8-10 slices prosciutto
1 handful of dried porcini mushrooms
Knob of butter
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
3 handfuls of rosemary and thyme
Small glass (150ml) red wine (optional)
Cooking string/twine (not plastic or coloured, Bridget Jones)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Start by soaking the porcini in a bowl with 300ml boiled water. Next, finely chop the rosemary and thyme together on a chopping board, throwing a little salt and pepper in with them into a flat mound in the centre.

IMG_2323Take the fillet and roll it in the herb mixture so that it is entirely covered, ends included.

Add the knob of butter to a frying pan, with the garlic and add the soaked porcini on a medium heat for 1 minute, retaining the mushroom water aside. Then add half the water to the pan, simmer and reduce for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, on a clean dry surface lay out 3 lengths of sting and 1 horizontal piece like so III, placing half of your prosciutto in lengths on top, slightly overlapping. When the mushrooms are cooked, spoon half of them onto the prosciutto. Place the herbed beef on top of the mushrooms and spoon the other half of the mushrooms on top of the beef. Layer the remaining prosciutto on the top, overlapping all the pieces so the beef is parcelled, and tie the string loosely to secure it together.

Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes (rare), 30 minutes (medium) or 40 minutes (well done). I prefer 20 mins. Half way through add the red wine to the tray. Use these juices as a sauce (you can reduce for a richer taste whilst the beef sits for 10 mins). Serve in slices on wilted spinach, with greens or even mash potatoes.

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