Wild Mushroom Vol-au-vents

I always look out for wild mushrooms at this time of year, as they are so good and abundantly available.  I wouldn’t ever go foraging on my own, despite owning several mushroom books, as I don’t have enough knowledge, but I’d definitely be up for an organised foray with an expert.

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I picked up some really nice wild mushrooms early this morning at the market. My selection included oyster, shiitake, maitake and a few field mushrooms, but creamed mushrooms would be good with any selection of fresh, earthy wild mushrooms.

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I think its best to eat mushrooms as soon as possible, they go slimy and pretty nasty if you keep them for too long.  I don’t like to leave them wrapped in plastic either, a paper bag or basket is best.

I made creamed mushrooms with my batch and mushrooms on toast is the perfect quick supper for this time of year.

Wild mushrooms

With the rest of the mushrooms, I decided to make retro mushroom vol-au-vents.  My prawn and avocado vol-au-vents recipe is actually my most viewed post, so I thought I would have to do the other vol-au-vents that I remember from the family Christmas parties from all those years ago.

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The mushroom vol-au-vents were one of the first things to go from the buffet table (unlike my poor Grandma’s prawn ones).  They were always made from those creamed button mushrooms from a can and placed into frozen pastry cases.  I was never a fan, but I thought it was time to bring back the retro mushroom vol-au-vent and use fresh, wild mushrooms, thyme and home made cases (I did buy the ready-made puff pastry though!)  The result was a really nice, seasonal treat that makes the most of the wild mushrooms that are around right now, but would also be great on a Christmas buffet table as a tasty nostalgic reminder.

Mushroom vol au vents

Ingredients:
A selection of wild mushrooms – I used two punnets
Knob of butter and a little splash of olive oil
1 onion or a couple of shallots, finely chopped
Small bunch of thyme, leaves picked
1tsp Dijon mustard
2-3tbs cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sheets of puff pastry, or you could use frozen cases
1 egg, beaten

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F
Cut out the bases for the vol-au-vents and place on a lined baking sheet or parchment.  I got 12 bases from one sheet.  Then cut out another 12 from the second sheet of pastry and cut holes out of the second set with a smaller cutter.

Brush the bases with beaten egg and place the rings onto the bases.  If the pastry warms up and becomes difficult to handle, place it in the freezer for 5 minutes to firm it up.

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Brush the tops with the egg and bake for 12-15 minutes or until they are golden, crisp and all puffed up.  You can also brush the ‘holes’ with egg and bake those alongside the pastry cases.  Leave on a cooling rack while you make the filling.

Tear up the mushrooms or roughly chop and strip the thyme leaves from the stems if they are woody and give them a chop too.

Heat the butter and oil until foamy and add in the finely chopped onion with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  When they are translucent, add in 1-2tsp of thyme leaves and then the mushrooms.  Cook them until they are nice and golden and then stir through a little cream and check the seasoning.

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At this point, you can serve the creamed mushrooms on some toasted, buttered sourdough, or fill the vol-au-vents.  I had enough for both!

Mushrooms on toast

For the vol-au-vents, I simply press down the centre that rises up as they bake (I don’t bother docking the raw pastry with a fork) and fill with the creamed mushrooms, sprinkle over a little more thyme leaves.

Serve as a canapé with or without the lids depending on how retro you want to be!

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These are really good in a larger pastry case too, served with a green salad as a first course or a light lunch.

Rustic Nectarine and Blueberry Crostata

This is the ultimate summer tart really. A tender, flaky crust, filled with frangipane, fresh nectarines and blueberries.

Nectarine blueberry crostata5

These nectarines were so fresh, sweet and juicy, they were almost too good to use in this tart – almost! Any stone fruit and berries would work in this, but nectarines are my favourite summer fruit and work really well together with the blueberries.

The frangipane cream on the base of the fruit plumps up as it bakes in the oven, so as the tart expands, you can see little bits of the delicious almond mixture peeping up through all the juicy fruit.

I love making free form pies like this as they are so easy and the crust is so forgiving! It doesn’t have to be perfect; this is a lovely rustic and home-made tart, the perfect dessert on a hot summer day.

Nectarine blueberry crostata1

Ingredients:
Crust:

240g of plain/all-purpose flour
2tbs soft brown sugar, packed
½ tsp salt
170g butter, cut into cubes and refrigerated
Iced water

Frangipane:
60g ground almonds
60g room temperature butter
½ tsp almond extract (optional)
Zest of half an orange
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 tbs plain/all-purpose four

Fruit filling:
50g soft brown sugar – you might want to use more if your fruit is not overly sweet
2 tbs plain/all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
4 nectarines, each one cut into 8 wedges
1 small punnet of blueberries
1 tsp vanilla extract

Topping:
1 egg, beaten with a little milk to make a wash
Demerara/Turbinado sugar for sprinkling – about 2tbs

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Method:
Place the flour, sugar, salt and butter into a food processor and pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Add the iced water 1tbs at a time, while pulsing, until it just comes together. Turn out the dough, form into a circle, wrap in cling film and leave to chill for 30 minutes.

For the frangipane, use a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat the almonds, butter, zest and salt together until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg, almond extract and flour until smooth. Chill this until completely firm. I cheated and stuck it in the freezer while I prepared the fruit.

Nectarine blueberry crostata

For the fruit filling, my nectarines were super sweet, so they didn’t need too much sugar, but if you find yourself with rather tart fruit, then you can add a little more sugar.

I placed the nectarines, blueberries, four, salt and vanilla into a bowl and tossed gently until everything was coated. Everything was very juicy, so I didn’t need any extra liquid, but a squeeze of orange could be added at this stage too.

To assemble the tart, roll out the dough into a large circle on a lightly floured piece of parchment, or non-stick liner to a thickness of around a £1 coin.

Scrape the frangipane into the centre of the dough and smooth out with the back of the spoon, or an off-set spatula, leaving a good 2 inch border all the way around.

Leaving any extra juices behind in the bowl, pile the fruit (or very artistically arrange) on top of the frangipane, still leaving the border behind.

Brush the dough border with the egg wash and fold the crust up and over the filling, pleating and gently pressing down to seal the crust in place. The centre of the tart will remain exposed.

Brush the outside of the crust with the egg mixture and sprinkle the Demerara/turbinado sugar generously to coat. Then chill the tart until the whole thing has firmed up – around 30 minutes – 1 hour.

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Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F

Place the tart, still on the parchment or liner, onto a large baking sheet and bake in the oven for around 45 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden colour and the frangipane filling is cooked through. The tart will expand and spread out a little as it bakes and the frangipane filling will puff up and around the fruit.

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Transfer to a wire rack to cool for around 10 minutes if serving warm with vanilla ice cream, or leave to go completely cold. The tart will firm up as it cools, making it a perfect dessert to take on a picnic.

Roasted Acorn Squash Quiche with Chestnuts, Bacon and Stilton

There are so many lovely pumpkins and squashes around at the moment and I love trying as many as possible.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche

I think my favourite way of cooking squash is to roast it in the oven. Either simply with olive oil, salt and pepper, or adding spices and chilli.

These quiches contain roasted Acorn squash and I have left the skins on as they are fairly thin and roast up really nicely. Sometimes the older and bigger squashes have very thick skins and I tend to peel those.

Along with the squash, these quiches have crispy, smoked bacon, chestnuts and plenty of Stilton cheese, so lots of big flavours going on. I don’t add any salt to the eggs and cream as I think the bacon and Stilton add enough salt of their own, but this is my preference.

This recipe makes four individual quiches. I used 12.5cm, deep fill tartlet tins with removable bases, but you can easily make one large one.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche2

Crust:
400g all-purpose flour
1 pinch of salt
230g very cold butter cut into cubes and chilled again
95ml iced water

Ingredients:
2 Acorn squashes, topped, tailed, halved and seeds removed
5 extra-large eggs
¾ pint double/heavy cream
300g Blue Stilton cheese broken in to large crumbles
320g Good quality smoked streaky bacon
180g pack of prepared sweet chestnuts, roughly broken up
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs olive oil

Method:
Add the flour, salt and butter to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until the butter is the size of small peas, or rough breadcrumbs. Add the iced water a little a time while pulsing the food processor, just until the dough just comes together. You might not need all of the water.

Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic. Leave to chill for 30 minutes.

On a floured board, roll out the pastry and then, taking care not to stretch the dough, line the tins with the pastry, re-rolling until all the tins are done. Place the pastry cases in the fridge and chill for another 30 minutes.

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Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Line the pastry cases with parchment paper or foil, fill with baking beans and place in the oven to blind bake for 15-20 minutes. Take the pastry shells out of the oven, remove the paper and beans and then return to the oven for further 5 minutes or until the pastry feels dry. Leave to cool before adding the filling.

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Pre-heat the oven to 220°C/430°F

Cut the halved squashes into slices, just over 1cm thick and rub them all over in 1tbs olive oil with 1tsp of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Roast them in the oven until the squash is tender and catching on the edges. This will take around 20-25 minutes, depending on how thick the slices are.

While the squash is roasting, fry the bacon until the fat renders out and it is crisp, set aside on kitchen paper to cool before chopping into small, bite-sized pieces.

Lower the oven to 180°C/360°F

Place the blind baked pastry shells on a baking tray to make transporting to the oven easier.

Place a couple of slices of squash in the bases of each quiche, then layer over the bacon, chestnuts and chunks of Stilton cheese. Divide the filling between the 4 cases and top each one with another couple of slices of the squash.

Whisk the eggs, cream together with more freshly ground black pepper and pour over the quiches until each one is full.

Taking care not to spill, place the tray with the quiches in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes or until just set in the middle. The quiche will be nicely puffed and golden brown and will smell very good indeed.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche slice

This quiche is really good hot or cold and half of one of these makes for a really nice lunch with a little salad.

Squash, bacon & Stilton Quiche plate1

The big autumnal flavours of the quiche make it perfect for an autumn party, picnic, Thanksgiving or Christmas and just the thing for a lunchbox.