Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts featuring seasonal recipes. Each month, we'll share recipes that make the most of seasonal produce that you might be growing on your allotment. Comments on the posts are welcome: did you try any of the recipes and how did you find them? You could also share your own recipes using these ingredients, or other produce you’re growing that’s in season now.
There’s a period in the year that’s a bit of a challenge for home-grown or local produce – when the overwintered or stored crops are all used up, but the early spring delights aren’t yet ready. So I thought I would choose an ingredient that is available all of the year: mushrooms. Although I have never seen them grown on our allotment site, theoretically it is possible! Have you ever tried growing your own mushrooms? Comment with your experience and any growing tips to help us all.
It is remarkable how things have changed. When I was a lad, there were simply potatoes which were white. No-one enquired what variety they were. There was no choice, although you might find some Jersey Royals in the early spring. Now every supermarket has a choice, and there are hundreds of varieties of seed potatoes in the catalogues. Similarly with mushrooms, or more exactly fungi, most supermarkets offer a range of varieties, both fresh and dried. Although my first two recipes below are best suited to ordinary white or button mushrooms, the third allows you to branch out into more unusual recipes.
French mushroom soup
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (homemade or from a cube)
1 very thick piece of bread (several slices if you have bought ready sliced bread)
350g white mushrooms
A knob of butter and/or 2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
Nutmeg, freshly grated
freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp of full-fat crème fraîche
Salt, to taste
(optional) parsley, finely chopped
1. Make homemade stock from scratch, or if using a cube, make it slightly weaker than instructed on the packet.
2. Pour some of the stock into a shallow dish and soak the bread in it.
3. Clean the mushrooms if necessary, using a damp teacloth and a soft pastry brush. It’s always best to avoid immersing the mushrooms in water as it is likely to spoil them.
4. Slice the mushrooms finely, including the stalks. Soften in a large pan in butter, olive oil, or a mixture.
5. When soft, gently squeeze the bread and add to the pan, stirring well.
6. Add the stock, garlic, pepper and nutmeg and cook steadily, but not fast, for 25 minutes.
7. Liquidise and return to the pan. Add the crème fraîche and reheat.
8. Only at this stage add the salt, bit by bit, tasting frequently until it is just right. Garnish with finely chopped parsley, if using.
400g risotto (arborio) rice, or paella rice
butter or olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion (or 2 small ones)
2 birds eye dried chillies (optional)
250g of mushrooms, made up of two varieties if possible
1.5 litres of stock (homemade or from a cube)
large glass of white wine or dry vermouth
finely chopped parsley
1. Thinly slice the mushrooms. (If using chanterelles, bluets of girolles, tear in half instead).
2. In butter/olive oil, cook the mushrooms in a pan, in batches if necessary. After a minute add the thyme. Cook for a further two minutes until just cooked.
3. Chop half the cooked mushrooms. Leave the other half in slices. Set aside.
4. Heat the stock in a pan and leave simmering.
5. In a separate thick pan, gently colour the sliced onion in olive oil/butter. It should be no more than very pale yellow.
6. Add the rice and stir, to coat the grains in the oil, until they glisten.
7. Crumble in the birds eye chilies, if using.
8. With the risotto pan on a medium heat, add the wine or vermouth.
9. When this has all but been absorbed, add a ladle of the stock and the chopped mushrooms.
10. Continue adding the stock one ladle at a time, until the rice is cooked. It should have a slight bite to it.
11. Add the rest of the mushrooms, a good knob of butter and the chopped parsley and serve.
Simple enough, you might think, but when did you last eat a really good one?
Everyone has their own technique, and often people are quite defensive if any other is proposed. When I make a three-egg omelette, I always use two eggs and one extra yolk, rather than three whole eggs. When a larger omelette is called for, I keep the whole eggs and extra yolks in the same proportion.
125g of mushrooms, or mushroom stalks
A knob of butter
Salt and pepper
grated nutmeg or mace
2 tbsp full-fat crème fraiche
1. First, make the mushroom sauce, which will be enough for two people (a three-egg omelette each).
2. Slice the mushrooms very finely.
3. Melt in butter in a small pan.
4. Add the salt, pepper and the nutmeg or mace.
5. When they are soft add the crème fraîche and make sure the mixture is very hot before you add it to the cooking omelette.
6. Mix six eggs (or 4 eggs and 2 egg yolks, if using my tip!) together with salt and pepper.
7. Add half of the beaten eggs to a pan and cook until the eggs are just about to set.
8. Add half of the mushroom sauce. Repeat steps 7 and 8 for the second omelette, and serve.