Saturday, April 08, 2006

Autumn Lunch for 3

A quick note: on Friday morning last week, my brother Daniel left on a trip to Japan. It's going to be very quiet around my house for the next 9 weeks. Not to mention the mountains of leftovers that are inevitably going to pile up. Aaah...

Anyway, today for lunch my parents and I had Nigella's AUTUMN LUNCH FOR 6, in halved quantities.

323. Ragoût of wild mushrooms
324. Oven-cooked polenta
325. Cheeses with bitter salad
326. Stewed apples with cinnamon crème fraîche


In my most recent progress report, I mentioned that unusual ingredients will be featuring strongly in the next couple of months. For today's lunch, we needed a few: crème fraîche, gorgonzola, assorted mushrooms and chicory. I had initially planned to get up early on Saturday morning and go to Prahran Market with my dad, but I kinda stayed out late on Friday night and ended up sleeping in… whoops. (In retrospect, I have no idea what part of my brain thought it would be conceivable for me to get up early on a Saturday morning).

So Dad, with all his quick-thinking intelligence and endless patience, suggested we go to Leo’s supermarket, a mere 5 minute drive away from home. We used to go there quite a bit when I was younger, but not so much recently for some reason.

And oh my god, Leo’s was awesome! They had all the best ingredients, in the one convenient supermarket. They’re a bit pricier than Coles or Safeway, but so much better!

We got chicory, gorgonzola dolce, proper French crème fraîche, interesting mushrooms (photo below), quinces, chicory, radicchio, marinated octopus, dolmades, and a whole bunch of other cool stuff. Leo’s rocks! And because it’s so conveniently located, we managed to get back home in time for me to cook lunch.

This recipe for polenta doesn’t involve much work at all. All you have to do is heat up some stock, gradually whisk in the polenta, then stir it over heat until it boils and thickens.


Polenta

Then you spread it into a buttered dish, cover with foil, and shunt it in the oven for an hour.


Polenta

Now, the mushrooms. These are the ones I got from Leo's - button mushrooms, swiss brown, and a "3-in-1 gourmet pack" with enoki, shiitake and pink oyster mushrooms.


Mushrooms


Chopped Mushrooms

To transform these mushrooms into ragoût you need to cook onion, garlic and celery until softened, then add red wine, marsala, a bay leaf and some thyme. In a separate pan, you cook the mushrooms in lots of butter and oil until softened, before adding more wine and marsala and letting it simmer. Once the wine in both pans has simmered away, you add the onions to the mushrooms. Then you add flour and hot stock to the now empty onion-pan, cook it until it's a bit thicker, and then pour that into the mushrooms before letting the whole thing simmer for 10 minutes.

And if you think that sounds confusing - it was. I was extremely glad when I got to the "simmer for 10 minutes" stage, after having used at least half my pots, pans and utensils.

While it was simmering, I made the salad. Very simple and delicious it was too. It's just chicory leaves tossed with gorgonzola cheese, and a strong dressing (oil, vinegar and a couple of anchovy fillets). Actually, Nigella says to use lemon juice, but I had none, so white wine vinegar it was.


Chicory - not available at all supermarkets, but conveniently packaged and sold at Leo's!


Gorgonzola dolce - Oh my god DROOL.

I have to admit, all the time I was making lunch, I kept picking at that gorgonzola - cutting off little pieces, putting them on a chicory leaf and eating it. Amazing. Actually, it was so compulsive that I think it's amazing we had any left for the actual lunch.


mushroom ragout


Polenta


chicory salad


Plate

Mmm'hmm... this was an absolutely gorgeous lunch! I never really liked polenta before, but this version, strongly flavoured with vegetable stock, was delicious. I'm always a big fan of mushrooms, and I loved the different textures and mushroom flavours in it. Obviously, I adored the salad, but not my parents - they get spooked by blue cheese and don't like the strong flavour. Such a shame, I had to eat most of the salad by myself. Sigh.

We cleaned up the kitchen while I prepared the dessert. This one's very quick and simple. The apples are peeled, cored and cut into pieces, and then stewed with sugar, a cinnamon stick and orange juice. You only need to cook them for a couple of minutes until slightly softened. As for the crème fraîche, all you need to do is stir in some calvados and cinnamon.


apples and crème fraîche

It was a very light, non-stodgy dessert. The perfect way to finish off a lovely lunch.

1 comment:

domesticgoddess said...

gorgeous lunch. I love all those ingredients- polenta, mushrooms, gorgonzola, apples, cinnamon...

I guess the two quince recipes are next up- looking forward to seeing the results :)