Autumn means comfort food. After all the salads and light meals throughout the hot summer our thoughts turn to casseroles, big bowls of pasta, thick velvety soups, risottos. I love this time of year. Finally, that blustery south easterly wind is blowing autumn to our shores. The nights are lengthening and the days are getting shorter. I would say this is definitely my favourite of the four seasons. I am not so keen on the rainy, windy, dark winter months but this time of year when the mornings and evenings are clear and crisp with just a hint of moisture in the air and the intense heat of the summer has disappeared to be replaced by deliciously cooler days filled with sunshine and blue skies is the time that I come into my own. I feel a renewed energy and my kitchen once again beckons me into it’s warmth and I create magic, comforting meals, steam rising in a delicious aromatic fog from the pots to envelope me. When my husband comes in from work in the evening he breathes deeply and appreciatively and settles down to tell me about his work day and ask about mine, our hands wrapped around a glass of red wine, the difficulties of the day slipping away while we chat or sit in companionable silence, sipping on our wine and enjoying the delicious meal that I prepared a bit earlier. I love a creamy risotto and could enjoy it often if I weren’t watching my carb intake but sometimes it just makes the perfect meal. Recently we have been able to purchase the most gorgeous exotic mushrooms here in South Africa and, after almost two years of not being able to eat them, I am loving them! These little babies come onto the shelves of our food stores courtesy of Nouvelle Mushrooms and are fabulous!
A couple of years ago I really got into cooking my own risottos and at the same time I also became rather keen on mild blue cheese after tasting some at a Simonsberg tasting. So, a few weeks ago, I decided to combine these wonderful ingredients and made the most deliciously creamy exotic mushroom and blue cheese risotto. I promised that I would post the recipe but then my computer started playing silly buggers and I had to wait. Anyway, my carnivore hubby asked again last night if I would make the risotto as we had picked up more mushrooms but unfortunately I did not have any arborio rice left….so instead it became a fantastic Meatless Monday meal.
CREAMY EXOTIC MUSHROOM AND BLUE CHEESE RISOTTO WITH WALNUTS
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves : 4
30ml Olive Oil
200g Exotic Mushrooms, wiped clean and the bigger ones chopped up
200g Baby Button Mushrooms wiped clean and thinly sliced
2 Medium sized Onions – peeled and finely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic – peeled and finely chopped or grated
4 or 5 sprigs fresh Thyme – leaves only
500g Arborio Rice
180ml Dry White Wine
1 ½ Liters Chicken or Vegetable Stock *
30g Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese
150g Simonzola or other Blue Cheese
Freshly ground Black Pepper
15ml chopped fresh parsley
20g Walnuts – dry roasted in a pan and set aside, chop roughly when cool
*I love making my own stocks at home but if I don’t have any and time is short I only use my fave NoMU Fond product in Lamb, Beef, Chicken and Vegetable Flavours – this fabulous concentrated liquid stock product contains no artificial colourants, flavor enhancers or preservatives and are gluten-free!* WINNER!
Talk about sliding in on a banana peel screaming “I made it!” But then again…..that seems to be me these days. Tardiness is my second name – when it comes to blogging that is! When I saw on Cooksister! blog that Jeanne was hostessing the Monthly Mingle for April and that her choice was “Topless Tarts” I was pretty excited because just a couple of days before I read her post I had actually made a savoury tart/quiche for my bookclub which I hosted in April…yes, I have to say “in April” because today is already May! Can you believe that??? We are almost at the half mark for the year and personally my head is spinning. Way way too fast for me. My days seem to pass in a blur. I have never been as busy as I am at the moment and I am battling to manage my time. All of a sudden I am “working”, even though I am at home all day and not leaving at 7 or 8am and returning at 5pm. My day is taken up with emails and social networking, liasing with sponsors, meeting with others, lots and lots of communication. It has also been holiday time here in SA with lots of long weekends and public holidays in between so I have done my share of grandson sitting as well. Result? Very little to no time left for blogging. Food blogging involves photographing food that you have cooked. Photography involves editing. Then there is the writing. I just don’t get around to it as I would like to. I have folders and folders of photographs waiting for me to edit. Hence my reason for now skidding up to the finish line triumphantly hoisting high my post for Topless Tarts! And I am only skidding in because the deadline of 30 April was extended until midnight tonight Thank you Jeanne, I know you say you inherited your own tardiness from your blogmamma hehe!
Anyway, on to my Topless Tart. It was my turn to host our monthly bookclub and I always like to make a savoury and a sweet tart for the occasion. This time I had in my
arsenal errr fridge a packet of pancetta that I had been given to sample by Richard Bosman, Mr Charcuterie as I like to call him. So I started thinking about what I could make with the sliced pancetta and, besides things like pasta and other delicious dishes that I could come up with I really wanted to use it in my tart. I also happened to have some plump beautiful fresh figs that I had picked up at the market a couple of days earlier and a wedge of Blue Tower cheese! A delectable image started forming in my brain of ‘the tart’. Add some caramelized onions and fresh thyme from my patio herb pots and I was good to go.
This is what I came up with:
PANCETTA FIG AND BLUE CHEESE TART WITH CHOCOLATE CARAMELIZED ONIONS
400g Shortcrust Pastry – you can use bought but I like to use my own very easy recipe
100g Sliced Pancetta – each slice cut in half
1 Wedge Blue Tower Cheese – or any other type of mould cheese that you prefer
6 to 8 Fresh Figs – washed and halved – keep 1 whole for the middle
10ml Runny Honey
2 Large Onions – peeled and finely sliced
20ml Olive Oil
1tsp Brown Sugar
3 sprigs Thyme – leaves only
5ml Chocolate Balsamic Creme – I was fotunate to get a bottle of this as a gift from Jamie when she visited from France in February (grate a bit of dark chocolate into your onions if you dont have and use 5ml normal balsamic)
Freshly cracked Black Pepper
5ml Dijon Mustard
Salt & black pepper to season
To make the pie
Preheat the oven to 200deg Celcius
Defrost (if frozen) the pasty then roll out to the correct size, line you pastry dish, prick all over with a fork then blind bake the pie crust for about 15 minutes. Remove the baking beans and paper and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
Set aside until you need it. (Follow baking instructions here if you have never used pastry before) Leave the oven at 200deg Celcius
Place a deep frying pan over a low to medium heat, add the oil and butter then gently saute the onions and thyme until they are soft and translucent and start browning – about 10 minutes or so
Add the balsamic (grated chocolate if you are using it) and sugar, stir in and continue caramelizing over a low heat until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions are a dark caramelized brown
In the meanwhile make the custard by beating the eggs together with the mustard, milk and cream, season with a bit of salt and pepper
Spread the onions around to cover the base of the pastry case
Pour over the custard filling
Set your sliced figs around in the pattern that you want. Cut the whole fig through into quarters but not right through the bottom. Squeeze the fig open into a flower and place it in the centre of the tart
Crumble the Blue Tower cheese over the top of the filling
Layer the pancetta prettily over the top, sprinkle on a few sprigs of thyme then drizzle with the honey
Grind some black pepper over then bake for about 20 minutes until the pancetta is crispy and the custard just set
Serve at room temperature or warm.
I served mine topped with some fresh baby Italian rocket leaves from my herb pots and it was delicious!
I reckon there are going to be some awesome topless tarts hanging around her blog right now.
Good company to keep?
Enjoy! And have a good week!
An ooey gooey creamy risotto bursting with flavor