Yotam Ottolenghi’s mushroom and tarragon pithivier

3 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
400g shallots, peeled
200g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
150g each shiitake, oyster and buna shimeji mushrooms, cleaned, halved, quartered and divided respectively
300ml vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper
200g crème fraîche
2 tbsp ouzo (or Pernod)
1½ tbsp chopped tarragon
1½ tbsp chopped parsley
900g all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Heat a large, heavy-based pan with a third of the oil and butter, add the shallots and cook on high heat for 10 minutes, stirring, until soft and brown. Transfer to a bowl. Add another third of the oil and butter to the pan, and cook the chestnut and shiitake mushrooms on medium-high heat for a minute without stirring. Stir, cook for a minute, then add to the bowl. Repeat with the oyster and buna shimeji mushrooms.

Tip everything back in the pan, add the stock and lots of salt and pepper, and simmer vigorously for eight minutes, until reduced by two-thirds. Add the crème fraîche and cook on low heat for eight minutes. Once a relatively small amount of thick sauce is left, add the ouzo and herbs, adjust the seasoning to taste and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, cut the pastry in two and roll both blocks into 4mm-thick squares. Rest in the fridge for 20 minutes, then cut into circles, one 27cm in diameter, the other 29cm. Leave to rest in the fridge again for at least 10 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Place the smaller circle on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper, spread the cold mushroom filling on top, leaving a 2cm border all around. Brush the edge with egg, lay the other circle on top and seal the edges. Use a fork to make decorative parallel lines around the edge. Brush with egg and use the blunt edge of a small knife to create circular lines running from the centre to the edge, just scoring the pastry but not cutting through it.

Bake for 35 minutes, until golden on top and cooked underneath. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe – Provençal Daube

This one is superb for winter weather, and pretty easy. A Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe with comments added.

3 pounds boned beef shank
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounce piece of salt pork, pancetta, or bacon cut into 3/4 inch chunks We usually use pancetta, it adds great flavour
3 1/2 ounces pork or bacon rind, cut into 3/4 inch squares
2 cups white wine
About 2 cups water or light beef stock
1 onion
4 cloves
4 garlic cloves, bashed with the side of a knife
2 bay leaves
A couple of sprigs of thyme
2 or 3 strips finely pared orange zest
2 carrots, cut into big chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 pound tomatoes, skinned, deseeded, and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the beef into larger-than-you-think, not-too-boringly-square pieces, trimming off some, but not all, of the fat as you go.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Fry the bacon and the pork or bacon rind until lightly browned (but not crisp). Do make sure you brown well though, brown=more flavour. Once you are done with this step, you may need to pour off some of the fat rendered from the bacon/pancetta, depending on how well you know your cardiologist. ) Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a large casserole. In the same oil, brown the beef, in 2 or 3 batches, and then transfer to the casserole.

Deglaze the frying pan with a little of the wine, then add the rest of the wine, heat until it boils, and pour it over the meat. Heat up the water or stock in the same way and pour that over too – enough to cover the meat by a good 3/4 inch.

Cut the onion in half and stick each half with 2 cloves, then add to the casserole along with the garlic, herbs, orange zest, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Season with black pepper, but don’t add salt yet (remember the bacon and pancetta will give up salt to the pot). Bring to a very gentle simmer and maintain it, either on the stove top over a very low heat or in the oven at 250°F, for 3 to 4 hours, until he meat is completely tender. At this point the stew can be cooled, and kept in the fridge for a day or two, which, as ever, would be no bad thing.This dish, while incredible the first day just gets better and better if you leave it in the fridge for a couple of days.

To serve the stew, make sure it is thoroughly hot – if it has been left to cool – and check the seasoning. Remove the onion (unless any of your guests fancies half an onion). Ladle the stew into deep plates or wide bowls, with plenty of the juice (which in this stew is meant to be thin and copious, rather than thick and reduced). You could serve it with potatoes – boiled, baked, or mashed. Or (an I rather like this option) with macaroni or some other noodly pasta, precooked and stirred into the daube a couple of minutes before you ladle it out. Alternatively serve with large chunks of crusty bread.

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Thyme and Gruyère

This one is a firm favourite, from a Rick Stein Recipe
3kg-4 kg unpeeled pumpkin, or butternut squash
2 olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
75g/3oz butter
2 medium onions, chopped
8 small sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only, extra leaves to garnish
2.25litres/4 pints vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
300ml/½ pint single cream
175g/6oz Gruyère cheese, coarsely grated

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. Cut the pumpkin or squash into chunky wedges and scoop away all the fibres and seeds. Rub the wedges with oil, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then place them into one large or two smaller roasting tins, skin-side down. Transfer to the oven to roast for 30 minutes, or until tender.
3. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, slice away and discard the skin and cut the flesh into small chunks.
4. Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the onion and half the thyme leaves and cook gently for about ten minutes until the onion is very soft but not browned. Add the roasted pumpkin, any juices from the plate, the stock and one teaspoon of salt. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
5. Leave the soup to cool slightly, then add the remaining thyme leaves and liquidise in batches until smooth. Return to a clean pan and bring back to a gentle simmer.
6. Stir in the cream and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls and place a small handful of the grated Gruyère into the centre of each. Scatter a few more thyme leaves on top and serve.