Winter's harvest has arrived in my kitchen this June and it has bought some of my favourite cool weather ingredients: crab apples, quinces, chestnuts, pine (or saffron milk cap) mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes.
In my kitchen this month...
There is as basket of beautifully fresh pine (or saffron milk cap) mushrooms from Orange in NSW, which I bought from my local market. Winter is definitely the season for wild mushrooms (even though we have, in Australia, a wonderful year-round supply of cultivated mushrooms). I love the meaty texture and earthy flavour of these pine mushrooms - they were perfect for a meat-free ragu, to sit atop some rich truffle polenta, which I bought back home from a trip to Italy.
Mushroom ragu and truffle polenta
For the ragu:
Cloves of garlic, roughly chopped – to taste (I used about 6 medium cloves)
150g saffron cap or pine mushrooms, sliced
200 g Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
20 g butter
1 tablespoon dried Greek organic thyme leaves (see homerst.com.au)
3 bay leaves
100 ml white wine
100 ml stock (I used homemade chicken stock, but you could use vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian)
chopped parsley and truffle oil, to serve
1. Place a large fry pan on medium heat, once the pan is warm add butter and a splash of olive oil – then the garlic. Cook the garlic until it becomes fragrant, but do not let it brow. Then add the mushrooms and stir to coast in the garlic oil. Raise the heat and allow the mushrooms to brow. Stir occasionally so the mushrooms do not stick and the garlic does not brown. Then add the thyme and bay leaves – season well.
2. Add the white wine and let it reduce (by about a half) , then add the stock. Let this reduce a little and check for seasoning – then just before serving stir through parsley. Serve over polenta, with a final drizzle of truffle infused olive oil.
For the polenta:
325 ml vegetable or chicken stock
325 ml milk
100 g truffle polenta
25 g butter
30 g grated kefalotyri
1 tablespoon of mascarpone
1. Add the milk and stock to a wide based pot, place over medium heat and bring the liquids to a gentle boil.
2. Once the milk/stock has come to the boil, slowly add in the polenta – while whisking at the same time.
3. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to low – continuing to whisk all the time. Cook for around 30 minutes.
4. Just before serving, mix in the butter, kefalotyri and mascarpone – season well with salt and pepper.
In my kitchen this month...
There are a few kilos of some 'straight from the farm gate' chestnuts, which Mr K bought direct from a Victorian farmer. The first few kilos, we enjoyed simply roasted with a glass of Pinot noir. This bought back wonderful memories of an evening spent at a winter Tuscan truffle festival. We stood rugged up in our winter coats, hats and gloves - with many of the locals - huddled around open fires, with paper cones of pipping hot roasted chestnuts and little plastic cups of vino nouvello, the light, fruity, slightly effervescence first pressed wine of the new harvest.
While in Hobart recently, I picked up an original 1960s copy of Elizabeth David's 'Italian Food' complete with it's wonderfully vintage illustrations by Renato Guttuso. Inspired by this great thrift store $4 bargain, which I had my head buried in for a few days, I decided to make Ms David's chestnut soup to finish up our rather large supply of chestnuts. Nearly a 50 year old recipe, Ms David did not disappoint with this one!
Elizabeth David's Italian chestnut soup (Zuppa di castagne)
1/2 lb of chestnuts
A small piece of celery
1 1/2 oz. of butter of bacon fat
Salt & pepper
2 1/2 pints of stock or water
Score the chestnuts across on the rounded side and bake them in a slow oven for 15 minutes. Both shell and skin comes off easily if they are peeled while still warm. Brown the chopped onion, carrot and celery in the butter or bacon fat; and the chestnuts, the seasoning and the stock. Cook for about 40 minutes until the chestnuts are completely tender and have started to break up. Put the soup through a sieve, heat up and serve with slices of fried bread.
Note: I added a dollop of mascarpone to serve and some freshly chopped parsley.
In my kitchen this month...
There is also a basket of golden quinces - definitely one of my most favourite fruits. This month I have used the quinces in a variety of ways, such as slow-cooked with veal or chicken, Greek tomato concentrate and plenty of spices. The unusual use of quinces in this way has its origins in Ancient Greece - where a variety of different fruits were often combined in savoury meat dishes. The combination has stood the test of time and is a regular favourite on the 'winter' table in Greek homes. However, the star of the quince dishes in my kitchen this month has been the classic, traditional Greek preserve, better known as a spoon sweet, ''Glyko Kythoni" (γλυκό κυδώνι).
Spoon sweets are traditionally offered to guests as a symbol of 'sweet' hospitality, along with a tall glass of very chilled water and a small frothy Greek coffee. Spoon sweets can be made from a magnificent variety of fruits and vegetables - from figs and sour cherries to pistachios, walnuts and baby eggplants. They are called spoon sweets because the usual serving size is a well-filled teaspoon set on a delicate glass plate.
Quince spoon sweets are one of my favourite varieties of spoon sweets - and they are uniquely flavoured with fresh herbs (unlike most other spoon sweets - which might use the odd spice such as cinnamon) and the recipes for making this sweet often have a regional twist. On Naxos, for example, quince spoon sweet is flavored with basil. Whereas recipes from the Ionian Islands, particularly Zakynthos, call for scented rose or lemon geranium leaves called arbaroriza. In Athens, apple geranium is the preferred flavouring. I have a large (overgrown and threatening to take over the whole garden) rose geranium, so there was plenty to hand for this recipe. If you don't have an out of control rose geranium, alternatively you could use vanilla. You only need to use around 3 geranium leaves in recipe below.
Glyko Kythoni (γλυκό κυδώνι)
This recipes call for two part quinces (weight) to 1 part sugar. You can adjust the quantities - depending on how many quinces you have. As mentioned above, I used around 3 medium rose geranium leaves for each kilo of quince.
To prepare quinces: quinces will turn brown quickly once peeled, so work quickly and cut into small pieces - segment by segment. Cut a thin slice of quince from top to bottom of the fruit. Remove peel and core. Cut the slice in half lengthwise and then into thin chunks, and put in some water with lemon. Continue with remaining quinces. When you are finished, drain the quinces and rinse under running water. Alternatively, you can peel and core and then grate the quince.
To make the spoon sweet: Transfer quince to a large pot and add enough water to reach the top of the fruit. Add sugar, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. At this stage, you might need to skim any foam that appears on the surface. When full boil is reached, lower heat to medium-high, remove lid and add the rose, lemon or apple geranium or vanilla. Cook until the syrup coats a spoon - about 1 hour. Allow to cool for 30 minutes. Spoon into sterilised jars with airtight seals and allow to cool completely before sealing. The spoons sweets will keep for up to 1 year and once opened should be kept in the fridge.
To serve: as a spoon sweet - place one well filled teaspoon on a plate and serve along side a chilled glass of water and a Greek coffee. Less traditionally, a small dollop is perfect on a bowl of thick, strained Greek yogurt.
Last but not least, in my kitchen this month...
I have a kilo of Jerusalem artichokes and the same of crab apples, fresh from the Hobart Farm Gate Market. The artichokes were roasted in the oven, with plenty of aromatics, to be served alongside roast pork for a sunday lunch. The crab apples were made into a light jelly along with some hot, sweet Aleppo pepper - the perfect condiment for the roast pork and artichokes.
Roast Jerusalem artichokes
500g Jerusalem artichokes
1/2 cup white wine
dried organic thyme leaves
1 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper
1. Scrub the artichokes and slice each one in half lengthwise.
2. Add olive oil to cover the bottom of a baking dish then add the artichokes, cut side into the olive oil. Pour over the white wine, sprinkle over thyme and Aleppo pepper and tuck under a few bay leaves. Dot with a little butter and roast at at 180°C for around an hour.
Crab apple and Aleppo pepper jelly
This recipes call for four parts crab apples (weight) to 1 part sugar. Add Aleppo pepper to taste - I used 1 tablespoon for each kilo of crab apples.
1. Remove both stem and blossom ends from crab apples. Do not peel or core. In large preserving pan, bring crab apples and enough water just to cover to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the crab apples are softened. Using a fork or masher, crush crab apples and then cook for 5 minutes longer.
2. Wet and wring out a piece of muslin and line a colander or strainer. Suspend this over large measuring bowl. Fill the muslin with crab apples and (without squeezing bag) let the juice run through for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.
3. In preserving pan, bring juice with sugar to full rolling boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; boil for 15 minutes. Skim off foam. Add the Aleppo pepper and boil for a further 10 minutes or until it has reached setting point. Funnel into sterilised jars with airtight seals and boil in boiling water 'canner' for 10 minutes.
I'd love to know what is in your kitchen this month – be it the start of Winter or Summer! Again, a big thanks to Celia, at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, our lovely host of this fantastic monthly series.