Tuesday, October 27, 2009


This is the October version of Hecticium's year long Foovolution tribute to Charles Darwin. I had plenty of scope for ingredients but as usual couldn’t decide which ones to choose, so this evolutionary process explores several avenues from just a single ingredient to several. These are in ‘bold’ below.

To start with is a delicious (if you like mushrooms) recipe for Rosemary Mushrooms with pasta and a scattering of parsley and lemon crumbs. You will need:

4 tbsp butter
700g medium Portobello mushrooms, quartered
A couple of sprigs of rosemary – chopped leaves only
450g pasta – pappardelle is a good choice
A couple of slices day old bread
A couple of cloves of garlic
Grated zest of half a lemon
Chopped leaves of a bunch of flat leaf parsley

Put a large pan of water on to boil. (If you add boiling water from the kettle, this can save time.)
Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large lidded frying pan, add the mushrooms, turning them to coat in butter and season with salt. Add the chopped rosemary leaves. Cover the pan and allow to cook over a medium to high heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Now remove the lid and continue cooking for another five minutes of so.
Salt the boiling water in the pan and add the pasta to cook according to instructions on packet until al dente. Drain, reserving about half a pint of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, make breadcrumbs from the crustless bread. In a small frying pan, melt a tbsp of butter and add the breadcrumbs along with a couple of crushed garlic cloves. Cook until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and remove from heat. Add the grated lemon zest and chopped parsley.
Add the pasta to the mushrooms along with a couple of tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid to dissolve the caramelisation in the bottom of the pan before stirring in the last of the butter.
Serve four bowls of pasta sprinkled with the lemon and parsley crumbs.

Another single ingredient variation is a longtime family favourite, Prawn and Apple Quiche. You will need:
For cheesy pastry
50 g butter
110g plain flour
50g grated cheddar cheese
For filling
1 large egg, beaten
3 tbsp milk
142ml double cream
110g grated cheddar cheese
110g peeled and cooked prawns (plus a few extra for decoration)
1 small eating apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
Salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper for a bit of bite
A grating of nutmeg

Pre-heat the oven to 190C, GM 5 or 375F.
Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the cheese and enough cold water to make a stiff dough. This can rest in the fridge for half a hour before you roll it out thinly and use to line a greased, metal 20cm flan ring or sandwich tin.
Beat egg, milk and cream together, stir in ¾ of the cheese, the prawns and the apple. Season with a pinch of salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg and then turn into the flan case. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake for about 40 mins until golden brown and cooked through – test with a skewer if necessary.
Serve with a few whole prawns arranged on the top to 4 – 6 people.

Limy Lentils make a great accompaniment to seared tuna with a wasabi soy sauce. Two ingredients from October make an appearance here. You will need:
A thick yellowfin tuna steak, about 450g
Olive oil
2 microwave sachets of cooked lentils or 2 x 400g tins
3 Limes
A small red onion, finely chopped
A whole cucumber, peeled, deseeded and fairly thinly sliced
100ml Japanese soy sauce
Wasabi paste

The tuna will cook in only a couple of minutes on a hot griddle or in a hot frying pan, so put whatever you are going to use on to get hot. Drain and rinse the tinned lentils if using. Gently heat the lentils in a pan. Meanwhile, grate the zest of two limes, mix with the onion, the juice of one lime and a couple of tbsps of olive oil. Stir into the lentils off the heat and taste, adding more lime juice as necessary. Season to taste.
Whisk a couple of small blobs of wasabi into the soy sauce, taking care as wasabi is VERY hot, and then pour into four tiny bowls.
At last, rub a little oil onto either side of the tuna and cook for only 1 - 2 minutes each side. Remove from heat and season with a little salt.
Arrange the warm lentils on four warm plates along with the cucumber and a couple of wedges of lime. Thinly slice the tuna, which will be red in the centre, and arrange alongside the lentils. Serve with the little bowls of soy sauce.

The last recipe evolved using several of October’s ingredients and copies the curry theme. It is a green Thai curry, quite mild and economical as the meat used is chicken thighs – easy on the purse but with lots of flavour. I serve it with plain boiled rice.
You will need:
6 chicken thighs, deboned and skinless and cut into mouth sized chunks
4 or 5 courgettes, depending on size – but lots are OK
About 10 salad onions, thinly sliced
A couple of green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
About 2cm ginger, peeled and grated
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Vegetable oil
2 tsp turmeric
100ml coconut cream
Stalks from a bunch of coriander, chopped
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce

Halve one courgette, putting aside one half. Thickly slice the remaining courgettes and then quarter the slices.
In a large pan, heat a couple of tbsp oil and then add the chicken, stirring over a high heat until golden brown, just a couple of minutes. Add the salad onions, cooking for another minute before adding the chunks of courgettes, the finely chopped chilli, grated ginger, crushed garlic and turmeric. Add an equal quantity of boiling water to the coconut cream, stirring to dissolve the cream. Put this, the coriander stalks and reserved courgette, chopped into chunks, into a blender and blitz to a smooth liquid. Add this to the chicken pan and allow to simmer for a minute or two. Make sure the chicken is cooked through, then stir in the fish sauce and check the seasoning. Serve with boiled rice.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 20

Our last day, so we checked out after breakfast and retrieved the car from the valet. With luggage safely stowed we went off to find the Botanical Gardens and then a parking place not too far away from the entrance. Just across the road is the Park Olympique with its impressive tower designed by architect I M Pei.
We finally got into the Gardens - we couldn't find the ticket office as we had actually come in at a side entrance. Anyway, with map in hand - there were no English guides left as this was the end of the season - we began our tour starting with the Chinese garden where there was a display of lanterns brought especially from China. There were some amazing floating installations of mythical creatures as well as all sorts of lanterns hanging along the paths. Then there was the Bonsai Garden and the tranquil Japanese Garden and so on. We reached the furthermost point where there is The Tree House; not built in a tree, but a futuristic building dedicated to the tree. A very good educational facility for the younger visitors. Then we walked back through the arboretum and found the cafe for a late lunch.
So to the airport and check in. Luckily we could sit in the lounge on A's card and then it was time to fly and say good bye to Canada.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 19

We wanted to see the underground walkways, so set off to one of the main entrances near the tourist office . On the way we found some lovely old buildings and churches as well as some very modern ones. In Dorchester Square that was being renovated we found Robert Burns statue surrounded by chain link fencing and then went into the tourist office for maps and visiting ideas, not to mention the loos (they are usually good and free in the TIOs).
Outside again we walked down to the old Windsor Station - a huge castle of a building. Here we could get into the subterranean walkways and we took the direction towards the old town. It was very quiet being a Saturday, and we eventually came out behind our hotel on the edge of the historic area, which we then explored. We passed the Notre Dame Basilica, Nelsons Column and decided to have lunch in the Gallery at the end of the Marche Bonsecours. After lunch we walked down the quay to the clock tower and looked down into the St. Lawrence River.
On the way back we booked into see the Son et Lumiere at the Notre Dame Basilica, 'And then there was light', about the founding of the cathedral and back at the hotel the concierge suggested a restaurant for dinner and booked us a table for after the show.

And thats what we did; a visit to the light show which was excellent and dinner at Les Pyrenees after. This was not as good as last night by a long chalk.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 18

We left North Sandwich after breakfast for our scenic drive to Montreal. It's been lovely staying in a real home after all these other lodgings. We stopped at the covered bridge over the Squam river at Ashland, then wound our way across to the 93 that would take us north. It is a scenic route indeed, and we drove passed the White Mountains that already have some snow on the tops. The foliage is looking wonderful and we had breathtaking views of vibrant colours all the way along the road.
We arrived in Montreal and spent a stressful half hour or so locating the hotel. Its always difficult finding the correct turnings off the freeway, especially when there are road works. What bliss to be able to leave the car for the valet to park and forget about it for a couple of days.
We took our first walk around the old part of town to stretch our legs. It is very French here - had to get the phrase book out. Luckily the concierge would speak in English and recommended a restaurant for dinner - Bonaparte. They shoe-horned us in to a table for two, and we had a wonderful meal with excellent wine. We could understand why it was so popular.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Canadian Maritimes 17

D proposed R take us two up Rattlesnake mountain with the dog, so off we set with Captain in the back of the car for the walk. We spotted some wild turkeys crossing the road and rushed to take photos, but it was a bit dark. Anyway, you can see they are turkeys. Then R stopped to show us a beaver dam, but we didn't see a beaver, only lovely autumn colours in the trees. We parked in the car park, and began the climb up Rattlesnake along the path. It's not too steep, but we took it steadily, with Captain doing very well, although he has two bad hips. Tantalising glimpses of the lakes kept coming into view, and then we were out in the open on the rocky outcrop with Squam and then Winnipesaukee Lakes spread out below us, sparkling in the sun that kept getting covered with scudding dark clouds. It's fabulous.
Now we were getting ready for a coffee, so back to Centre Sandwich and Mocha Rizing. Here they sell all sorts of stuff and serve coffee at the back. It seems to be quite the meeting place for the village people. (No, not that lot!) We also looked in at the lovely craft shop that sells very special stuff from local craftspeople (Sandwich Home Industries League of NH Craftsmen Gallery). We ended up buying a solid glass pumpkin to go with some other glass fruit we have collected.
Everything around the Sandwich area is so cutesy - I love the autumn wreaths on the doors and the pumpkins, harvest dolls etc. Each house has its own display.
Back at Ballafayle we were taken on a walk around the woods and 'helped' R with some maintenance. There are lots of fungi of different types all over and photos were taken. Then it was time to pack before dinner as we leave again tomorrow. This evening we had dinner with a couple from up the road, but they didn't stay long as the husband has injured his leg and it was very painful.

Sandwich Home Industries League of NH Craftsmen Gallery