Moving back to the North East after a long spell away, it makes my heart sing to see the likes of Roots and Shoots (Roots & Shoots Farm Shop, 6 North Guards, Whitburn, Sunderland 0191 5 294 496) in sunny Whitburn, Tyne & Wear.
Roots and Shoots are true to their word in that they do indeed sell all kinds of roots and shoots. Their emphasis is on seasonal produce (tick box) and local produce (tick box). A simple yet effective formula, and one which which we need more of if we are ever going to get this country out of the comfort zone of the giants and back supporting their own people who are working hard to earn their daily pay. Without wanting to sound hypocritical, I'm just like anybody else with a busy life and a family, we all pop into the superstore for our shopping now and again. But I urge people to hunt out their local suppliers and at least give them a chance. Order an organic bag and see what the quality and price is like before giving all of your money to the big boys. You will feel better for it.
Rant over. I popped in last week and was lucky enough to get my hands on a couple of huge flat mushrooms and a bag of chestnut mushrooms, the last of the day. Before I had even paid for them, I knew what I was going to do that evening. Stuffed mushrooms. The meat of the vegetarian world and a recipe that can be tweaked to your heart's content.
My version was one of those throw it together jobs without consulting any recipe that seemed to work so well. Sorry food police, but once you know the basics you can afford to be a little blase. To do the huge mushrooms any justice, I wanted to stay slightly faithful to the Italian classic recipe of using the stalks along with onion and garlic combined with breadcrumbs and egg. To give it moisture I added a little single cream. To give it texture, I added walnuts. Lemon and thyme gave it the punch of complimentary flavour that work so well with mushrooms. All in all, it was a fantastic meal which needed just a little dressed watercress and a tomato and onion salad.
I'm not sure if the meal would have generated the same spark of magic had I bought the ingredients from a huge superstore. I would prefer to think not. I know that my local supplier would have been proud and along with a flavoursome and filling tea, that is all that mattered.
2 Giant flat mushrooms, stalks removed and finely chopped
200g Chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
2 Shallots sliced
2 Cloves garlic sliced
A handful each of fresh thyme and parsley, finely chopped
Lemon juice and zest of half a lemon
100ml single cream
50g Walnuts roughly chopped
25g Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C, GM4.
2 - In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the shallot, garlic and chopped mushrooms. Stir and cook until softened and coloured. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
3 - Add the herbs, lemon juice and rind, cream, Parmesan cheese and walnuts. then add the breadcrumbs a handful at a time until you have a stuffing not too dry and stiff. Season.
4 - Place your giant mushrooms in a baking tray and drizzle with a little olive oil and a little seasoning. Pile the stuffing equally into each mushroom. Grate some Parmesan cheese over each mushroom and place on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-40 minutes.