Thursday, 21 October 2010

More mushrooms, and a pheasant

We returned from our weekend in the country on Sunday with a bootful of goodies.  A bag of mixed mushrooms – a new haul for me, winter chanterelles and trompettes, and something apparently quite unusual which is like a cross between the two – I’ll check again on what it’s called and update this post…) and a fine looking cock pheasant picked up from the verge of a narrow lane near Goring, where it had met a sudden, but apparently mercifully untraumatic death.  The pheasant is now hanging in the shed, with the last handful of mushrooms set aside to accompany it, and I’ll cover that in my next post, this one will briefly return to the ‘what to do with mushrooms’ theme of my earlier mushroom post.
I had a butternut squash already in the larder, so thought what could be more perfectly autumnal on these crisp October evenings than roast squash and winter chanterelles?  As I’d have the oven going to roast the squash I decided to do a dish of boulanger style potatoes to go with, and chucked in some potatoes to bake, for making gnocchi with the excess squash to be dinner for the following day.  All very efficient and eco of me.

I peeled the squash, halved it lengthways and scooped out the seeds with a spoon.  What I always do then, is halve the half squash, just above the seed cavity, and slice the bulb of flesh around the cavity into attractive wedges, while dicing the flesh of the solid part into roughly inch cubes.  I roasted it with a couple of big celery stalks cut into couple of inch lengths, a handful of whole unpeeled garlic cloves, thyme, a half dozen sage leaves, salt, pepper and a generous slug of olive oil.  Usually about 40 minutes at 180 will do it, rather less on this occasion as I had the oven hotter for the potatoes.
I very simply sautéed a couple of handfuls of the mixed mushrooms with shredded smoked streaky bacon, garlic and some chopped parsley and then just stirred them through the roasted squash (just using the attractive wedges – leaving the squarer dice to be mashed for gnocchi) and celery, and served alongside the Boulanger potatoes.  Beautiful and delicious.

For the Boulanger potatoes – or welsh onion cake, or any variety of other names for a combination of potato and onion, let’s not be precious – I always find it’s best to partly cook the potatoes and onions before layering them up and putting them in the oven, otherwise it can be tricky to get them cooking at the same rate.  I par boil the potatoes whole (on this occasion in their skins, then scraped them, but you can peel first if you prefer, it doesn’t greatly matter), then slice them into rounds of no more than a pound coins thickness.  I soften the onions, with garlic and thyme, salt and pepper, in plenty of olive oil.  Then I put a layer of potato slices in the baking dish, a layer of onion, a layer of potato.  You can construct as many layers as you like, in whatever order you like, as long as the top one is potato.  Then pour over enough hot stock (in this case guinea fowl stock) to bring it all together but not flood it, and bake in the oven for around half an hour to forty minutes.  Temperature, and therefore time, is not critical, so it depends on what else you’ve got in the oven, but if you cook it longer at a lower temperature, you’ll probably need to whack the heat up at the end, or finish it under a grill to get the desired golden to brown, crispy edged top.

To make the squash gnocchi the procedure is exactly the same as for the pure  potato gnocchi described in my previous post, just mash the squash and potato together, then the ratio of mash to flour is the same.  This was the first time I’ve done the mash from baked potatoes rather than boiled technique, as recommended by Mark Hix among others, and I don’t know whether that was the secret, or whether it was just one of those things (gnocchi making can be a bit random) but these did come out of the pan firmer and plumper than ever before, with less evidence of disentragation in the cooking water.  The mushrooms were, as ever, sautéed with shredded bacon and garlic along with a handful of toasted pine nuts (start off with the pine nuts in a dry pan, then add the bacon when the pine nuts are turning golden, then add olive oil, garlic and hard herbs - thyme or sage - any chilli - fresh or dried - if you want it, I would normally but not here, I want to allow the flavour of the mushrooms to come through as strongly as possible - and salt and pepper, obviously, then add the mushrooms just for a couple of minutes, if that) then I added a splash of wine and a little of the guinea fowl stock to create a sauce and just stirred the gnocchi in.

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