Friday, 8 October 2010

Autumn Favourites In The Bag ... (UKFBA)

I find it quite appalling that I haven’t as yet discussed my current day-to-day cooking. I have obviously made it quite clear that I get very excitable over local produce and I have taken a couple of trips down memory lane writing about how I discovered my love of cooking. But I haven’t actually dedicated a post in the style of ‘what I had for dinner and why it was so good that I had to write about it’ so... any guesses to what I am going to write about today?

Well actually, it is not going to be quite that mundane. Recently I joined the UK Food Bloggers Association and I was, very kindly, sent an email to join in on a “blogging event” called In The Bag.

Three seasonal ingredients are chosen each month with the attached challenge to create a dish and write about it.

This ingredients were:
Mushrooms
Nuts
Herbs


I added:
Marsala wine
Double cream
Butter
Almonds
Fresh Red Chilli


I got a little bit over excited about the mushrooms element of the dish and I ended up cheating slightly with the herbs... and a little with the nuts. I’m not going to go on and give excuses, but I have been fairly busy this week – and that is putting it mildly. So anyhow, after contemplating my dinner all day I decided to make the following:

~~~ Mushrooms in a Marsala and Cream Sauce ~~~
~~~Served with slices of rustic wholemeal bread and flaked almonds ~~~

This dish deserves a respectful nod to my favourite restaurant, Zio Peppino, on Albany Road in Cardiff – the most original and friendly Italian I have ever been to. This dish appears (without the almonds and chilli) on the menu as a starter, but I ate it greedily for my supper with an extra helping of bread to mop up the sublime sauce.

So I am upfront with my dishonesty from the beginning; the bread was shop bought and the almonds have been in a jar in my cupboard for a few months, so I’m not sure if they count as a “seasonal ingredient”, never mind local. Also, when I got home yesterday evening I realised my fresh herbs had died a sudden death of dehydration so I added fresh chillies instead as I thought it would give the dish a kick.

I fried the mushrooms in a “Hairy Biker” inspired amount of butter (in other words a LOT). I added Marsala wine and a finely chopped red chilli. I then let the pan bubble away relentlessly for about seven minutes before adding a dash of ground almonds which helped thicken the sauce slightly and a good dollop of double cream. I dished it out, serving with two large pieces of a wholemeal stone-baked walnut cob. Curling my legs beneath me on the sofa I began to devour my supper almost, forgetting to take a photograph! This was definitely a meal you want to sit comfortably to eat, not sat straight up at the table. I find any meal with Marsala wine and double cream instantly comforting and rich and I’d be surprised to find somebody who doesn’t.

There were so many different components to this dish: the chunky nuts, the smooth and thick sauce and an occasional hit of spice which was mostly masked by the amount of alcohol I had put in! And even though I found the almonds tasteless by comparison, they added great texture, although I think I’d experiment with walnuts or hazelnuts next time.



This meal was so filling I am very surprised that I managed to make dessert:

~~~ Locally Grown Russet Apple Crumble ~~~

If I got excited at cherry tomatoes grown somewhere in Cardiff, can you imagine my delight when a friend of mine bought me some russet apples which he had collected from his garden that afternoon?

After chopping up my apples for the crumble I was shocked by how tasty they were raw. They looked like cooking apples, a very unappetising exterior with large, thick, rough skin which would definitely not polish up against your jacket. However, they were sharp but still sweet and delicate on the inside, almost too tasty to cook with – but by then I was really looking forward to a hot pudding. So I kept one apple whole and added brown sugar and clouds of cinnamon to the peeled and cored apples in a dish. I covered them with a crumble mixture, which nearly went disastrously wrong when I forgot to add the sugar until the very last moment.

The result – Autumn in a bowl. The beautiful pieces of chewy, caramelised toffee sticking to my teeth reminded me of Bonfire night and even though I could feel all the sugary goodness clogging my arteries I really didn’t care. After a long day in lectures, it was just what I needed to treat myself. The warm tones of the cinnamon muddled with the local apples proved that the nights may be drawing in quickly, but there is plenty of good food that will keep me warm and comforted.





…Now this dessert I did eat so quickly I forgot to take a photograph!

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