Tag: Mushroom

Vegetable Bourguignon – sounds ridiculous but it is great!!

Vegetable Bourguignon – sounds ridiculous but it is great!!

Our youngest daughter has been a French citizen for more than 20 years and when I said I was going to cook a vegetable Bourguignon her reply showed the initial contempt one might expect from a French woman!  The term for the brilliant (more…)

Frittata or Tortilla – what’s in a name?

Frittata or Tortilla – what’s in a name?

We could spend ages debating if this dish is a frittata or a tortilla – but that would miss the point of the dish!  I think of it as a frittata – but do have a look at the footnote!  We had been baking the last of our supply of small (1951) potatoes from Carroll’s Heritage potatoes that (more…)

Roast Chicken Breast and Stuffed Drumsticks

Roast Chicken Breast and Stuffed Drumsticks

We This is a short followup on the recipe for Roast Chicken Breast and Mushroom Stuffed Wings (here).  We had divided a large chicken as there are just 2 of us and we are trying to make our food go a little further to reduce the pressure on our food suppliers.  Having used one of the breasts we still had the other and 2 drumsticks (as well as 2 chicken thighs we will use later).  The recipe is unsurprisingly similar but this time we boned out the drumsticks completely and stuffed them with a mix of chopped mushrooms and dried tomatoes, but we could have used a little sausage, or perhaps even a little haggis or black pudding.  We were planning to serve these with some sautéed Mayan Gold potatoes from Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes which we have been waiting to try. In the current climate the Carrolls cannot sell to restraurants as they normally would and are available by mail-order for those self isolating.  Their USP is that they are the first potato in the UK from the indigenous Phureja potatoes of Peru.  It is supposed to have a rich golden coloured flesh, and a moreish flavour – fingers crossed!

The first thing to do was to bone out the drumstick (a first for me), which was surprisingly easy.  This was stuffed with a chopped mushroom and dried tomato, and the chicken envelop closed with a cocktail stick.

We were cooking in a pan in the EGG set up for direct cooking at 160-170C.  The drumstick takes more cooking than the breast and these were started about 15 mins before the breast.  They were cooked with the Mayan Gold potatoes for the first 15 mins and this way we managed to get some good colour onto the skin.

Once we had reached this stage it was time to cook the breast.  We were cooking the chicken and the potatoes on a single MiniMax BGE.  This meant we could only have one pan in the MiniMax at a time.
The chicken drumsticks were therefore put into the second pan with the chicken breast, skin side down, and the cooking continued.  We did this as a little challenge as clearly we could have done this more easily on the large BGE.  Using the large BGE we would have had plenty of room for both pans at once.  Doing this in the MiniMax means it is necessary to ‘swap over’ the 2 pans.  This is why we were cooking directly, unlike on the previous occasion when we cooked the previous chicken breast and wing dish.

This meant that the pans could be brought back to temperature more quickly and the residual heat in the pan allowed continued cooking when taken out of the MiniMax.  We just needed to swap the pans over a couple of times.

When around 70% cooked, the breast was turned over to finish off the cooking.  We were again aiming for a core temperature of 70C (the recommended safe temperature UK Food Standards Agency, holding it there for 2 minutes)

Once at temperature the chicken was wrapped in foil and covered with a clean tea towel to rest.  The potatoes had some fresh rosemary and sea salt sprinkled over the top and were finished off on the EGG.

We were serving the chicken and potatoes with some slow cooked haricot beans and broccoli.  The chicken breast was cut lengthways and half served on each plate with the stuffed drumsticks together with the haricot and broccoli.

The chicken was as good as it was previously and the drumsticks excellent!   The potatoes too were something of a revelation: creamy and nutty!  We will certainly be using these again!!

This chicken has so far provided 4 very generous portions (and stock for soup)!

There are still 2 large chicken thighs to go ……………… watch this space!!

Roasted chicken breast and stuffed drumsticks

April 24, 2020
: 2
: 25 min
: 30 min
: 55 min
: moderately easy

Chicken drumsticks stuffed with mushrooms and sun dried tomato served with roast chicken breast

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 Chicken Drumsticks
  • 2 large mushrooms
  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
Directions
  • Step 1 The first thing is to bone out the chicken drumstick by sliding a filleting knife along and around the bone and then turning the drumstick inside out so the bone can be cut out. This is the only difficult step. The bone should be removed by cutting through the joint. Turn the drumstick back so the skin is on the outside again. This leaves a pocket for the mushroom stuffing.
  • Step 2 Chop 2 mushrooms and the dried tomatoes and then stuff into the pockets created in the drumsticks where the bone was removed. Close the pocket using a cocktail stick.
  • Step 3 Colour the drumstick in a pan or on a plancha in the EGG which should be set up for direct cooking at 160-170C.  Start the wings about 15 mins before the breast. (If doing the sautéed potatoes start these at the same time). Turn to get good colour on the skin
  • Step 4 Once the drumsticks have some good colour add the chicken breast skin side down to colour the skin and render any fat. When the skin is well coloured turn over to finish cooking the breast – cook to a core temperature of 70C
  • Step 5 If cooking on a large BGE cook the potatoes at the same time, if in a MiniMax alternate the cooking of the chicken and the potatoes and finish the potatoes as the chicken rests at the end of the cook).  
  • Step 6 Serve the chicken drumstick and half the chicken breast with the sautéed potatoes and your choice of vegetables.  

 

Roast Chicken Breast and Mushroom Stuffed Wings

Roast Chicken Breast and Mushroom Stuffed Wings

What is the best way to manage a large chicken when there are just 2 of you and you are trying to make your food go a little further to reduce the pressure on our food suppliers?  Well whilst it was very tempting to roast it whole on the Big Green Egg and then use the left overs in other dishes – we decided to portion the chicken and then make the most of each of the portions.  A chicken is really easy to butcher, and whilst we have still not done a video of that yet, there are lots available on the internet.

One advantage of portioning your own chicken (other than the economy of doing it) is that you can keep the skin on the portions – and for many dishes this greatly adds to the taste!   I have to say I normally just use the wings to make stock (sorry all you BBQ wing lovers!).  But in the spirit of making our food go further we decided to bone out the first section of the wing and then stuff the space with some chopped mushrooms and a little chorizo that we had in the fridge.  These bulging pockets were closed off with a couple of cocktail sticks.

The wings were then coloured in a pan in the EGG which had been set up for indirect cooking at 160-170C.  As wings and legs take more cooking than the breast these were started about 15 mins before the breast – and this way we managed to get some good colour onto the skin.  Once we had reached this stage it was the time to cook the breast.

As the breasts were quite substantial (and as we had the stuffed wings too) we decided to just do one of the breasts.  This was added to the pan, skin down to colour the skin and render any fat from below the skin. Probably around 70% of the cooking should be done with the skin in contact with the pan.  Partly through the cooking of the breast, the excess mushrooms and chorizo that we weren’t able to pack into the wings was dropped into the pan to fry off in the rendered chicken fat.  These would be sprinkled over the salad that we were intending to serve with the chicken.

The Chicken breast was then turned over to finish the cooking.  Our aim was for a core temperature of 70C (the recommended safe temperature UK Food Standards Agency – 65C and hold for 10 minutes, 70C and hold for 2 minutes, 75C and hold for 30 seconds) – although this can lead to dry chicken when cooked conventionally, cooked in the EGG it will be very moist!

The chicken wing and half the chicken breast was served on a tossed salad with a citrus dressing for each of us.  The fried mushroom and chorizo were simply scattered over the top.  The dish would have been finished with some parmesan shavings but as we didn’t have parmesan we used cheddar which worked nearly as well!

It was a great dish and whilst the breast was lovely and moist with a lovely crisp skin, the revelation was the chicken wings.  It took a little time to bone out the first part of the wing but once stuffed it was really worth the effort!  And from the whole chicken there will be so much more to come too as you can see (to say nothing of the stock made from the carcass too!)

………………………………….hopefully more of that in future posts (here)!

Roasted chicken breast and mushroom stuffed wings

April 2, 2020
: 2
: 25 min
: 30 min
: 55 min
: moderately easy

Chicken wings stuffed with mushrooms and chorizo served with roast chicken breast

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 Chicken wings
  • 5 mushrooms
  • A little left over chorizo
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
Directions
  • Step 1 The first thing is to bone out the chicken wings to the first joint by sliding a filleting knife along and around the bone. This is the only difficult step. The bone should be removed by cutting through the joint. This leaves a pocket for the mushroom stuffing.
  • Step 2 Chop 5 mushrooms and a little chorizo and stuff into the pockets created in the wings where the bone was removed. Close the pocket using a cocktail stick sewn through the chicken wing.
  • Step 3 Colour the wings in a pan or on a plancha in the EGG which should be set up for indirect cooking at 160-170C.  Start the wings about 15 mins before the breast. Turn to get good colour on the skin
  • Step 4 Once the wings have some good colour add the chicken breast skin side down to colour the skin and render any fat. When the skin is well coloured turn over to finish cooking the breast – cook to a core temperature of 70C
  • Step 5 Part way through cooking the breast add the mushrooms and chorizo that you weren’t able to pack into the wings and fry off in the rendered chicken fat.  These can be sprinkled over the salad when plating.  
  • Step 6 Serve the chicken wing and half the chicken breast on a tossed salad.  Sprinkle the fried mushroom and chorizo over the top and finish with some parmesan (or other hard cheese) shavings

 

Venison, Chestnut and Porcini Casserole

Venison, Chestnut and Porcini Casserole

Venison is such a lovely meat to casserole on the Big Green Egg.  The EGG seems to overcome that one problem you can have with venison – its tendency to dry out.  To be able to combine this with a seasonal ‘bounty crop’ was just too good a chance to miss.  We had been given some beautiful cubed venison which seemed to contain a mix of the more obvious stewing pieces of venison with some of the more tender braising cuts.  Unfortunately, this was all the information we had, nor did we know from which type of deer the venison came.  In reality any venison listed for braising or casseroling would be fine.  The most likely source would be shoulder venison.  We also had some  fresh chestnuts that we had picked when walking in Italy and had brought back to the UK in our cool box!  We also used our own dried porcini mushrooms that we had dried when in Italy which made the dish very special for us.

Preparation was relatively simple and was done on the stove top – but could have been completed on the EGG if it hadn’t been raining so heavily.  The mushrooms were covered in cold water and left for 5 mins.  This first water was poured away to remove any debris and then they were covered again with around 300ml of just boiled water and left for 20 mins.  Meanwhile our Dutch oven was heated and a little oil added, followed by the cubed pancetta and a couple of bay leaves.  We were using some homemade pancetta, but shop bought would work equally well. Once the pancetta pieces were lightly coloured and some of their fat had been rendered they were removed from the pan and set aside in a bowl.

The venison was then lightly floured with a seasoned flour and fried off in batches in the Dutch oven.  It is important to fry them until each piece takes on some colour.  These were then set aside too.  Then into the pan we added the roughly chopped onion and as soon as that was taking on some colour the chopped garlic followed by the carrots and finally the celery.  Usually in a dish like this we would chop the vegetables finely – but on this occasion we wanted a combination of finely chopped for flavour and coarsely chopped for texture and visual appeal.  These were all stirred through the oils to lightly sauté.  The herbs and spices were then added and cooked for around 15 mins in total.  It may be necessary to add a little more oil at this stage.   The tomato puree and some red wine were then added and the heat on the Dutch oven turned up to deglaze the pan.  In the absence of any juniper berries a slug of gin was also included.  Once the pan was deglazed the venison and pancetta were reintroduced together with the rehydrated porcini (chopped if too large.)

Finally the mix of beef and chicken stock, together with the porcini soaking liquor was added and the whole pan was brought up to a simmer.

The uncovered Dutch oven was put into the large BGE set up for indirect cooking at around 110-120C for around 2 hours (1.5-3hr depending on the toughness of the meat).  

Around 30 mins from the end of the cooking 2 large handfuls of cooked chestnuts (these had been boiled and peeled) were added together with a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly.

 

Venison chestnut and Porcini Casserole

November 25, 2019
: 6
: 40 min
: Straightforward

A venison casserole enhanced with the autumnal tastes of chestnuts and porcini mushrooms

By:

Ingredients
  • 25g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g pancetta (or smoked bacon) lardons
  • 1kg venison shoulder, cut into 2-3cm dice
  • 1-2 tbsp flour
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic sliced finely
  • 3 celery sticks, coarsely and finely chopped
  • 2 large carrots, coarsely and finely chopped
  • A sprig of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A pinch of ground cloves
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 200ml red wine
  • 200ml of mixed chicken and beef stock ! Suggest one stockpot of each
  • 1 tablespoon recurrant jelly
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 large handfuls or 1 pack of cooked chestnuts added near the end
  • 400g mushrooms sliced added at the end
  • 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
Directions
  • Step 1 Cover the mushrooms with cold water and leave for 5 mins. Pour away this first water. Cover again with around 300ml of just boiled water and leave for 20 mins.  
  • Step 2 Heat the Dutch oven and add a little oil followed by the cubed pancetta and a couple of bay leaves. Once the pancetta pieces are lightly coloured and some of their fat has been rendered remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl.
  • Step 3 Flour the venison with flour lightly seasoned with salt and pepper and fry off in batches in the Dutch oven till the meat takes on some colour. Set aside.  
  • Step 4 Add the roughly chopped onion to the pan and as soon as that was taking on some colour add the chopped garlic followed by the carrots and finally the celery.  Stir through the oil to lightly sauté.  
  • Step 5 Add the herbs and spices and cook for around 15 mins in total.  It is may be necessary to add a little more oil at this stage.  
  • Step 6 Add the tomato puree and some red wine and increase the heat on the Dutch to deglaze the pan.  In the absence of any juniper berries add a slug of gin.  
  • Step 7 Once the pan is deglazed reintroduce the venison and pancetta together with the rehydrated porcini (chopped if too large).  Add the mix of beef and chicken stock together with the porcini soaking liquor and bring to a simmer.
  • Step 8 Put the uncovered Dutch in the large BGE set up for indirect cooking at around 110-120C for around 2 hours (1.5-3hr depending on the toughness of the meat). When within about 30 mins of the end of the cooking add the cooked chestnuts and a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly.  Heat some butter in a large frying pan and cook the chopped fresh mushrooms until they start to wilt. Season well and cook until they take on some colour then tip into the venison pan and stir through.
  • Step 9 Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the casserole is too fluid – mix a little cornflour in cold water and add some of the stock to this and then stir through the casserole and cook for 10 mins more. Serve with mashed potatoes and add some freshly chopped parsley
Another seasonal special – fried Mazze di Tamburo (Parasol mushrooms)

Another seasonal special – fried Mazze di Tamburo (Parasol mushrooms)

When we were in Italy we were very fortunate to be given some Mazze di Tamburo (Parasol mushrooms).  These were found in the local chestnut groves and although we had seen them growing, our knowledge of wild mushrooms is such that unless we are with someone who clearly knows what they are doing – we leave them well alone!  We can buy our fungi in the local vegetable shop (these will almost always have been found by local people who actually know that what they are picking is safe!).  These however were a gift from someone we trusted and this made them all the better! (more…)

Simple Seafood Stir fry – with video

Simple Seafood Stir fry – with video

This is the first video we have included in our blogs but it seemed the easiest way to show the BGE Wok in action!  We have had the BGE Expander system for some time and have warmed to its versatility.  It certainly brings some further flexibility to cooking opportunities in our large BGE.  One of the possibilities is to (more…)

Red Deer Osso-Bucco

Red Deer Osso-Bucco

We had very much enjoyed the Osso-Bucco we made on the Big Green Egg last year (see here) so when we came across some Red Deer shin cut in the same way as veal for Osso-Bucco it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.  The pieces were smaller than when using veal but that would give the advantage of hopefully more marrow being released into the sauce when the meat was braised.  As the venison was likely to be a little more robust than the veal, the sauce was made with a little more tomato and a combination of Bay, Thyme and Oregano to match the richness, so a further step away from the Milanese original but exciting because of that!

The venison was no thicker than the veal we used last time but the diameter of the pieces was less.  I did wonder if we could dispense with the butchers string tied round each piece to preserve the meat intact, but in the end we decided to tie the pieces anyway These were then lightly floured and seasoned, then gently caramelised in butter in the Dutch oven to intensify their flavour.  They were then set to one side.

A little more butter was then added to the pan and the onions were sautéd to slightly soften, then the carrots and celery were added and lightly cooked.  At this point we added 4 garlic cloves, the zest of 1.5 lemons, 2 Bay leaves, some dried Thyme and Oregano and cooked for a few minutes more.  There is no place for mushrooms in an authentic Osso-Bucco – but they had worked well for us last time and seemed even more appropriate with venison, so these were added together with whole and halved stuffed green olives  that we had to hand!.  We also added 2 cans of chopped tomatoes to add further richness to the sauce.  Then all that was needed was to add the white wine.  The heat was turned up to begin to concentrate the sauce.
After about 10 minutes the meat was tucked in between the vegetable mix and the dutch oven was moved out of the kitchen and onto the Big Green Egg.  This had been set up for indirect cooking at around 120C.   Once gently bubbling, hot chicken stock was added.  The pot was allowed to simmer in the closed EGG without its lid.  As we have said previously cooking without the lid on the Dutch oven works well in the EGG as the EGG naturally retains moisture in the food being cooked so the pan does not tend to dry out, but the absence of the lid allowed the whole dish to pick up some very gentle ‘smoky tones’ from the charcoal. This time we also added a little Chestnut wood to the fire to add further gentle smoky overtones .

The pot was then cooked very gently for around 3hrs making sure the meat was kept moist by the surrounding sauce.
An occasional gentle stir allowed us to make sure the venison remained below the surface of the liquid and let us keep an eye on the cooking process.

As the dish cooked it took on a wonderfully unctuous character as the sauce became richer and looked to be a good match for the venison.  The venison softened but held together well.  The meat was removed from the sauce, covered with foil and set aside in a warm spot whilst the sauce was finished.  Sometimes, at this point it is worth adding a suspension of cornflour in cold water if the sauce is a little runny and just a fresh sprinkle of herbs in the last few minutes of cooking.  The sauce was finished by adding a few dots of butter and stirring.  The string was removed from the meat before serving with the sauce.  It works really well with plain rice though my favourite is with some crispy roast potatoes and broccoli or a root vegetable.  This is a delicious dish and the sauce with the enriched bone marrow is delightful, but it does have one downside and that is we are yet to find a delicate way of plating it!.  This has been the same with the Veal Osso-Bucco that we made earlier and with this Venison version too.  I think if we could find a supplier with whole shin we would get them cut at around 4cm thick. I think they would then hold their shape a little more easily and that would make plating easier too.

A note for next time – with the size of our dutch oven there was perhaps a little too much meat to manage easily – so next time perhaps reduce the volumes a little!!

Red Deer Osso-Bucco

February 19, 2019
: 6-8
: 1 hr
: 3 hr
: 4 hr
: Straight forward

Osso-Bucco made with Red Deer Venison in a rich tomato enriched sauce

By:

Ingredients
  • 2.1 kg of Shin Venison
  • Length of butchers string to tie round each piece of meat
  • Seasoned flour
  • Knob of butter
  • 3 large Onions finely diced
  • 2 Large carrot finely diced
  • 6 sticks of celery finely diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves whole
  • Lemon zest
  • Bay leaf
  • Dried Thyme
  • Dried Oregano
  • 2 Glasses of white wine
  • Chicken stock/2 chicken stockpots
  • 2 Large cans of chopped tomatoes / fresh tomatoes
  • Handful of whole and halved stuffed green olives (optional)
  • Chestnut mushrooms (optional)
Directions
  • Step 1 Tie some butchers string around the circumference of the meat to hold it together whilst cooking. Lightly dust with seasoned flour and caramelise in butter in the Dutch oven. Then set to one side.
  • Step 2 Add a little more butter to the pan and sauté the onions to slightly soften. Then add the the carrots and celery and cook lightly.  
  • Step 3 To this gently cooking mixture add the whole garlic cloves, the lemon zest, a bay leaf and some sage and cook for a few minutes more.  Add the sliced chestnut mushrooms, olives  and together with a can of chopped tomatoes bring back to the simmer.
  • Step 4 Add the white wine and turn up the heat to begin to concentrate the sauce.  After about 10 minutes tuck the meat back into the vegetable mix and put the dutch oven into the Big Green Egg set up for indirect cooking at around 120C.   Once gently bubbling, add the hot chicken stock (or stockpot) and leave to simmer without the Dutch oven lid, in the closed EGG.  
  • Step 5 Cook very gently for around 3hrs making sure the meat is kept moist by the surrounding sauce.  Gently stir the sauce occasionally without disturbing the meat too much.  
  • Step 6 If the sauce requires any thickening do so with a little cornflour premixed in some cold water and finish off the sauce by adding a few dots of butter and stirring it in once the meat has been removed.
  • Step 7 Remember to snip off the string used to hold the meat together before serving.

 

Osso-Bucco

Osso-Bucco

Osso bucco is a classic Italian dish which, as long as you don’t translate it into English (bones with holes), has lovely romantic overtones and memories of Italian holidays.  The dish is based on slow braised veal, but the bones, or more importantly the marrow from those bones, adds a delicious something else to this dish – whatever you do – make sure that the bones do go back to the kitchen ‘hollow’ with anything that still resides in their centres after cooking eaten and relished.  The dish can also (more…)

Mushrooms stuffed with pancetta and blue cheese

Mushrooms stuffed with pancetta and blue cheese

In 1975, the writer Shirley Conran published the book Superwoman, targeted at busy women, and with it, coined the phrase ‘Life is too short to stuff a mushroom’.  Well yes I am taking that out of context but here is an opportunity to stand that idea on its head!  Here is a stuffed mushroom recipe that could not be quicker or easier to prepare, and in addition, it is rich, rewarding and indulgent (which translates as – not a low calorie dish!!)

This dish was devised by Jackie as a starter for 3 when we were debating what to have on an indulgent Sunday evening before a main course of slow cooked pork breast ribs following Adam’s recipe (here).  We had brought 3 lovely large field mushrooms from our local Saturday market and a raid on the fridge revealed a small portion of home cured pancetta and a piece of blue stilton no longer in its first flush of youth! Together with a small handful of pine nuts and a spoonful of cream the ingredient list was complete!

The mushroom was sprayed on the outside with a little olive oil (from a commercial one cal spray) and the stem of each mushroom was removed and chopped into a frying pan.  The pancetta pieces were added to the pan and fried off with a touch of olive oil.  The fried mix was then distributed between the 3 mushrooms and a little blue cheese and some pine nuts sprinkled on each.  Finally the mix was topped off with half a tablespoon of cream in each mushroom.  As we were slow cooking on the EGG we added the mushrooms to the grill and left well alone for 30 mins or so.  The mushrooms were brought inside and popped under a hot grill for 2-3 mins to caramelise the surface (though this could have also been done with a blow torch).  A ‘word to the wise’; do let it cool for a few minutes after grilling before eating as the taste improves (to say nothing of reducing the risk of burning the roof of your mouth!!)

The opportunities for playing with different fillings depending on what you have in the fridge are numerous – if you have a favourite – do share it with us on the site!

Baked stuffed mushrooms

March 16, 2018
: 3
: 10 min
: 30 min
: 40 min
: Easy

Large field mushrooms stuffed with pancetta, cheese and pine nuts

By:

Ingredients
  • One large field mushroom per person (this was for 3)
  • 100g home cured pancetta pieces
  • Small piece of blue stilton
  • Small handful of pine (or other) nuts
  • Half tablespoon of cream (x3)
Directions
  • Step 1 Remove the stem from each mushroom and chop these into a frying pan.  Add the pancetta and fry off with a drop of olive oil.
  • Step 2 Distribute the mix between the 3 mushrooms and add a little crumbled blue cheese and some pine nuts.
  • Step 3 Top off with half a tablespoon of cream in each mushroom. Place the mushrooms on the BGE set for indirect cooking and leave for 30mins or so.
  • Step 4 When cooked through, remove from the EGG and put under a hot grill for 2-3 mins to caramelise the surface.
  • Step 5 Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving
Melanzane alla parmigiana – Aubergine, tomato and parmesan bake

Melanzane alla parmigiana – Aubergine, tomato and parmesan bake

Melanzane alla parmigiana

This is such a sumptuous dish and a perfect vegetarian dish to serve to anyone who says they do not like vegetarian food. We first had it in a hotel in the Dolomites in Northern Italy. In winter, a mountain ski lodge, but this was the summer and despite being in the mountains the temperature had been in the very high 30’s during the day, and even now at nearly 8pm the temperature was still around 30C. We had ordered off the set menu and the first dish was called ‘Timballo di Melanzane alla Veneta’. Within my very limited Italian what it was going to be was unclear, and when served it might best be described as ‘unprepossessing’, but that first mouthful was an absolute revelation ……………….. and I have never been quite able to recreate it ………………… or at least that is how I remember  it!
Jackie tells me she thought it was ‘quite nice’ but that those we have made since have been so much better. I prefer my slightly more romantic notion which allows me to keep striving to create a dish that lives in my imagination!
As we ate we realised that there were layers of aubergine, tomatoes, and cheese. In my memory there was an unsurpassed savory richness, lifted by the sweet fresh, sun ripened tomatoes, enhanced with garlic and basil. The richness came from the combination of the cheese and tomatoes working together with what seemed like thin slices of roasted aubergine. Anyway, a little internet searching a couple of days later revealed far too many recipes for this magical indulgence – so I pieced together themes from different recipes that I thought we may be able to do on the EGG – we were travelling in Europe and the Mini BGE we had with us was going to limit the size we were going to be able to try for our first interpretation of ‘Melanzane alla parmigiana’. This recipe records our first attempt, it was not perfect, or that pretty – but by candle light that did not matter – and the taste was very good …………… but not quite there yet.
We found some lovely fresh aubergines and a couple of handfuls of tiny baby tomatoes (though from experience I would now really recommend using tinned tomatoes for this in general). There are all sorts of suggestions for preparing the aubergines, sautéing in olive oil where they do really work as an olive oil sponge, oiled and then grilled, oiled then baked, and one healthy option where they were blanched in boiling water! As we had the EGG and a small, 4.5 inch, cast iron frying pan, for this first attempt we planned a combination of fried and grilled.
The aubergines were first cut lengthways into 5mm slices, sprinkled with salt and left in a colander to drain for half an hour. This was done traditionally to remove the bitterness from the aubergine which I believe has now been bred out of them – it does however season them well for the next stage and dehydrates them a little which seems to help the grilling.

Meanwhile a little olive oil was heated in the 8 inch BGE drip pan which we had with us – really too large for the Mini BGE it was all we had that was large enough to make the dish and allow closure of the lid – just! The chopped shallots were added to the pan and softened, then the sliced garlic cloves were added and cooked a little before the tomatoes were added the halved baby tomatoes first to lightly fry off then the tinned tomatoes and red wine.

This was then all allowed to simmer until the volume was reduced by about a third. The tomatoes were mashed  until reasonably smooth, seasoned and had a little basil and sugar added then left to simmer for a further 10 mins.

Now the EGG was again free, the aubergines were washed, dried, brushed with oil and grilled or fried on the BGE with the lid closed being careful not to burn the aubergine.  They are easy to burn if you have been too sparing with the oil. These were set aside on a paper towel in a vain attempt to convince myself we were removing the excess oil!

The tomato sauce was decanted into a bowl to allow access to our one pan. This was washed and then lightly greased and spread with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by a layer of aubergines packed tightly, mozzarella, parmesan and seasoning. This was then repeated until all the ingredients were used finishing with the tomato sauce. I had certainly miscalculated the shrinkage that would occurred in the aubergines and this was going to be a very light supper!

One of the recipes I found suggested adding a layer of stale breadcrumbs at the end and then topping this with the remains of the cheese.Italian bread goes stale so quickly we had a ready supply! The breadcrumbs were tossed with a little olive oil and Parmesan and sprinkled on top. Put back in the EGG it was baked for about 40 minutes. I was hoping for a lovely bubbling crispy top but that was not to be.

As I had suggested the 8 inch drip pan was really a little too big preventing good circulation of heat into the dome. As a result the top looked a little bland and the sides rather than the top a little crispy. The pan was removed and the dish allowed to cool slightly and then it was served warm with some basil and freshly ground pepper.
This first attempt was an imperfect dish to be sure, but one that captured a lot of the essence of the one that inspired it. Rich, sumptuous and surprisingly meaty with a real umami essence. It was also good enough to know that over the months we would modify this a little and cook on a more appropriately sized EGG. Whilst very pleased with the development of the dish it still doesn’t quite match my holiday memory of that first mouthful in the Dolomites. When it does we will post the next installment – watch this space!

If you have a favourite recipe for this dish do please share it in the comments section

 

Melanzane alla Parmigano

February 15, 2018
: 2
: 1 hr
: 1 hr 30 min
: 2 hr 30 min
: Moderate

Baked aubergine, tomato and parmesan

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 Aubergines sliced lengthways into 5mm slices
  • 2 hands full of baby tomatoes halved
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • 4 shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Glass of red wine
  • 100g Mozzarella
  • 75 g Parmesan
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Fresh Basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  • Step 1 Slice 2 aubergines lengthways into 5mm slices and sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander to drain for half an hour.
  • Step 2 Meanwhile, set the BGE to a dome temperature of around 180C and heat a little oil in the 8 in. drip pan, add the chopped shallots and cook till translucent then add the sliced garlic cloves cooking a little before the halved baby tomatoes go in lightly frying them off before adding the tinned tomatoes and red wine. Allow to simmer until the volume is reduced by about a third. Mash the tomatoes until reasonably smooth, season and add a little basil and sugar and simmer for a further 10 mins.
  • Step 3 Once this is completed and the EGG is again free, the aubergines should be washed, dried, brushed with oil and grilled or fried on the BGE with the lid closed being careful not to burn the aubergine.
  • Step 4 Decant the tomato sauce into a bowl and wash and lightly grease the 8 inch drip pan. Spread with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by a layer of aubergines packed tightly, mozzarella, parmesan and seasoning. This should then be repeated until all the ingredients are used, finishing with the tomato sauce. Toss the breadcrumbs with a little olive oil and Parmesan and sprinkle on top. Put back in the EGG and bake for about 40 minutes. When cooked remove the pan and allow to cool a little
  • Step 5 Serve warm with some basil and freshly ground pepper.
Porcini in the pan

Porcini in the pan

Porcini are really fabulous and I still find it very exciting to walk into a little shop here in Tuscany and see a basket of newly picked Porcini. This is something I am yet to see in the UK – but although (more…)