Aubergine and mozzarella stacks

Aubergine and mozzarella stacks by Heather Elizabeth Wilkinson

I’ve lost my cooking mojo a bit recently. That’s not to say I’ve lost my appetite though, far from it in fact! I’ve been eating out for more than my bank balance (and belly) would like. But do you know what? I’ve been having a great time and I don’t feel guilty in the slightest. So I think the excitement of enjoying other people’s cooking might have something to do with my lack of enthusiasm in the kitchen.
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Cooking from the book ‘Mighty Spice’ by John Gregory-Smith

Mighty Spice by John Gregory-Smith
Mighty Spice by John Gregory-Smith

All photographs copyright © Heather Wilkinson 2012

I was supposed to put up this post last week, but sadly it got eaten before I had time to photograph it (a good sign I think!) and I ended up having to make it again. 
I think I must have cooked almost all the recipes from John Gregory-Smith’s Mighty Spice book when I purchased it a few months ago. It really is a fantastic book, full of simple, honest, flavour-packed recipes – the type of food I could pretty much eat every day. I really enjoyed the introduction where John talks about the impact travel has had on his life and how it has influenced his cooking. 
For me, there were definitely a couple of standout recipes: Falafel Burgers with a Yogurt and Tahini Dip and the Bulgur Wheat Salad, (shown in the above pictures.) I’d never actually tried bulgur wheat before making this recipe, and I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was to make – very similar to cous cous. I have to say that I did add make a couple of my own amendments of to the recipe: lemon zest and a huge handful of fresh mint.
I also made the mango, orange and nutmeg cheesecake. Sadly, this wasn’t very successful, hence I haven’t posted a picture. It wasn’t much of a looker, especially after I dropped it on the worktop while trying to get it out of the tin (whoops). It was supposed to have a delicate mango drizzle on the top of it, but I totally fudged it up and it ended up like mango mush that made the cheesecake a bit wet and sloppy. Not nice.
Anyway, I loved the book and I’m looking forward cooking many more meals from it. With any luck the weather will warm up here in the UK and we’ll be able to eat outside – yeah right, who am I kidding…
You can find a link to the book here.

Oyster mushroom, dill and walnut tart

All photographs copyright © Heather Wilkinson 2012

I first discovered the Espresso Mushroom Company (EMC) via Twitter, and my interest was sparked when I heard they were growing mushrooms on used coffee grounds from local Brighton coffee shops. When I found out they were attending the Big Sussex Market I was keen to meet them and, of course, try some of their mushrooms.

I think it’s important to point out at this stage that this isn’t a sponsored post, and I bought the mushrooms myself. I see blogging as an opportunity to give a little helping hand to local independent producers whose business ethics I support and whose products I would naturally want to buy. After all, the more we can support local, the more access we’ll have to better choice of quality food.

So, on with the mushrooms. I’ve always been quite disappointed by oyster mushrooms; if they aren’t super-fresh they can either be a bit rubbery, or just limp and pathetic. Not so the ones from EMC! These were delicate little beauties and they actually smelt like mushrooms. That might be like stating the obvious, but supermarket produce is often devoid of any natural smell, and sadly, taste too.

This tart is really simple to make and is ideal served cold for lunch if you want a change from sandwiches. It’s also rather delicious fresh from the oven and served with lightly steamed seasonal vegetables. I decided to keep my ingredient list simple so as not to overwhelm the delicate flavour of the mushrooms, and I added walnuts to give the tart a bit more substance and variety of texture. Read on for the recipe.

Oyster mushroom, dill and walnut tart

For the pastry
250g plain flour
a pinch of salt
125g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
75ml cold milk

For the filling
2 large eggs, plus 2 extra egg yolks
200 ml double cream
200ml whole milk
sea and black pepper to season
125g oyster mushrooms roughly chopped
Handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
50g walnuts roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
a knob of butter

This is a basic tart recipe that I’ve adapted from a recipe in the River Cottage Veg book, using a 25cm tart tin. Hugh’s tart recipes are always so deliciously creamy – the perfect way to compliment the mushrooms. You can find a recipe for the pastry here  and once you’ve made your pastry, simply add to the tart tin, blind bake and set aside while you make the filling. Here’s how:

1.)For the filling, warm the butter in a frying pan and then add the mushrooms and crushed garlic. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened and darkened in colour.
2.)Add the dill and walnuts and continue to cook for another minute. Season well with salt and pepper.
3.)Pre-heat your oven to 180oC/Gas Mark 4. Lightly beat the eggs, yolks, cream and milk.
4.)Spread your mushroom mixture evenly in the tart case and then pour the beaten egg and milk mixture over the tart filling.
5.)Bake the tart for about 35 minutes until golden all over.