Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Veggie sausage rolls with caramelised onion

I do love a nice picnic, and it looks the weather for them has finally arrived- huzzah! Sausage rolls are a stalwart of al fresco dining, but despite being a non-meat eater I don't like to miss out on anything savoury covered in pastry. So I made these fake sausage rolls with Quorn sausages, lots of red onion, and a good quality ready-made all butter puff pastry. As I've said before, pretty much all meat 'substitutes' like Quorn, soya chunks or textured vegetable protein, don't really taste of much but do add a vaguely meat-like texture to food. So you basically need to ensure that whatever else goes in with meat substitute has enough flavour to carry the entire dish. So for my fake sausage rolls, I added generous amounts of slow cooked caramelised red onion to each one.

Recipe (enough for 12 small sausage rolls):

240g Quorn sausages (I used these new ones they've brought out which come in packs of 4, and they do seem a tad more flavourful than the regular ones)
Around 200g of a good quality ready-rolled all butter puff pastry (I used Tesco finest, but of course you can make your own if you're so inclined)
2 medium red onions (finely sliced)
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 clove of garlic (finely sliced)
A little salt and pepper to season
A couple of table spoons of olive oil
A little flour to stop the pastry sticking to your board
A little milk to seal and glaze the pastry

Fry the sliced red onions with the thyme over a very gentle heat in a little oil, until they are completely soft and unctuous. This will take at least 20minutes. Add a bit of salt and pepper and the garlic, take out the thyme twigs, and cook slowly for another 5minutes or so. When they are done, take the pan off the heat and allow the onions to cool down a bit. In the meantime, cut each sausage into three pieces. I fried these a bit before I used them but in retrospect that was completely unnecessary, so I won't bother again. When the onions have stopped being piping hot, lay out the pastry on a lightly floured board, place a piece of sausage on it, and add a generous amount of the onion. Make sure you have enough pastry to go round the filling, then cut it, wrap the pastry round and use a bit of milk to glue the two ends together. You can either make each sausage roll individually, or wrap an entire row and trim them afterwards. When you've wrapped all the rolls, put them join-side down on a lightly oiled baking tray and glaze the top of the pastry with milk.
Bake for around 15-20minutes at gas mark 6, or until the sausage rolls are a golden brown. These were great warm straight out of the oven, with a bit of salad and some devilled eggs for an indoor veggie picnic (aka lunch). But now that summer is here I will definitely be making them again (ideally before it starts raining).

Monday, 16 July 2012

Plate Lickers Supperclub, Cambridge, UK

I remember first reading about supperclubs and underground restaurants on the rather excellent blog by Ms MarmiteLover (aka Kerstin). Since then, Kerstin has become a doyenne of the scene and supperclubs have been popping up all over the place. I've unfortunately yet to make it to Kerstin's in London, so I was rather glad when I found out that I could get a taste of the supperclub experience on my doorstep in Cambridge- yay! The Plate Lickers supperclub is run by Miss Igs and The Afternoon Tease, or Ivana and Jo as they are otherwise known. I went along to their second event, which had a vaguely middle eastern theme.

Our secret location turned out to be a church, so I had the unique experience of dining below stained glass and next to some pews. After a welcome drink, we started off with some hummous and an aubergine dip with a hefty garlic kick. This was followed by a chilled, green gazpacho which included some sort of pesto element that made it rich but still refreshing.

Next up was my (vegetarian) main course of courgette and feta fritters, with green beans (dressed with hazelnuts and orange), and cous cous. I've tried to make courgette fritters before, but ended up with some bland discs of stodge. These fritters were delicious though, and I think the generous use of feta was probably why.

A mint tea and orange blossom sorbet followed, though this was probably my least favourite part of the meal. It was a bit sweet for my taste, but I generally don't get on well with seriously icy things anyway due to my teeth being quite feeble and sensitive. Pudding arrived soon afterwards, Baked peaches were stuffed with a sweet nut mix, reminiscent of those hot, sugared nuts (ahem) that you sometimes find people selling in little cones, and were served with a piece of almond and polenta cake. And though we were all rather full by this point I cleaned my plate, which I believe made me the 'winner' of pudding amongst my friends, (I can get quite competitive when it comes to puddings).

Overall, this was a great meal which I thoroughly enjoyed. Supperclubs are obviously very different from conventional restaurants. There are no extensive menus with a range of choices, no surprises about the cost (there was a suggested donation of £30 per person), and no pressure to vacate your table. What you do get is the chance to meet some interesting people in an unusual venue, with some tasty food. I went with friends, but we also had plenty of other interesting folk at our table with lots of general chat, so I would have been quite happy to have gone on my own too. The Plate Lickers girls are obviously enthusiastic cooks, who have invested a lot more than many regular restaurateurs in this venture, as as well as cooking, they are also serving, and (presumably) doing the washing up afterwards too.So props to Jo and Ivana for hosting a fab evening, and here's to many more!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Mushrooms stuffed with scallops

I came up with this dish the other day after randomly seeing a man cooking some of those little queen scallops on Countryfile (my Sunday television viewing is of the non-challenging variety). And having made Ottolenghi's stuffed mushrooms quite recently, I thought that I'd try and add some elements from that recipe too. Cheese and seafood is a bit of a contentious combination, but I thought that the mild, milkiness of Taleggio cheese went really well with both the mushroom base and the scallop filling. I served these mushrooms with some steamed broccoli and braised fennel. And though I was bit concerned that this wasn't going to be enough for dinner it actually was, with quite a small tub of queen scallops stretching to a dinner for two.

Recipe (enough for two):

4 large field mushrooms
3 medium spring onions, sliced
1 clove of garlic, chopped
Around 160g of queen scallops 
Light sprinkling of dried basil or 1tsp of freshly chopped basil leaves
1 tblsp double cream
Salt and pepper to season
Around 200g Taleggio cheese
A few tblsp olive oil

Remove the stalks from the mushrooms, chop them up quite finely, and put to one side. Heat a frying pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil and gently fry the four whole mushrooms until they are cooked through. This should take around 10minutes, but will depend on how large the mushrooms are. Once cooked, take the mushrooms out, and add a bit more oil. Gently fry the spring onions, mushroom stalks, and herbs. Once they've softened, increase the heat a bit, and add in the scallops and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes, season with salt and pepper and then take off the heat. Stir in the cream to bring everything together in a sort of sauce. Next, slice up the Taleggio, spoon the scallop mix into the mushrooms, and top with the cheese. You might not need all the cheese, but it's nice to be generous with it, so try and make sure all of the top of the mushrooms are covered. 
Put the mushrooms under a hot grill for around 5minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling on top. Serve with some vegetables for a pretty speedy supper, while wondering if this might be the first Countryfile-Ottolenghi recipe mash-up.