Mushrooms with Fried Capers and Thyme

If ever there were three flavours meant to go together, this is them! When you fry capers the flavour really changes from salty to a fragrant one that was made to go with thyme and mushrooms. It’s so easy. These mushrooms were picked late autumn from around the base of our olive trees but you can get good mushrooms from the supermarket.

Ingredients

  • Mushrooms – as many as you can fit in your pan without overcrowding.
  • 1 Tablespoon of capers
  • Sprig or two of thyme
  • Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Knob of butter (optional)
  • Your favourite bread toasted

Method

Put a good dollop of olive oil (yes thats a technical term! ) into a frypan and heat on a moderate flame until it runs freely around the pan.

Drop in the capers, they will spit and dance around the pan . Cook until crispy and open. Then remove from the pan and set aside.

If you are going to use butter, reduce the heat to low, drop in the butter followed by the mushrooms and half of the thyme. Cook these until the mushrooms have a golden crust. This removes the water in them and really brings out the flavour.

Toast your bread and then drop capers and remaining thyme into mushrooms. Serve right away on your toasted bread. Add some pepper if you like but be careful with salt if you used butter.

I picked these this morning and ate them as I’m writing this recipe. I have to tell you that the flavours are just amazing.

Crunchy toast, beautiful fragrant capers, thyme and mushrooms. Try it and your lips will love you for the rest of your life!

Rabbit (optional), Chicken and Flat Bean Risotto

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken thigh fillets
  • 1 rabbit
  • Runner beans
  • 2 large brown onions
  • 4 vine ripened tomatoes
  • Thyme
  • Bulb of garlic
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Butter
  • Arborio rice
  • A nice chardonnay
  • Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

If you are going to use rabbit in the dish it’s best to soak them in brine. We have a plentiful supply as rabbits love young olive trees!

Cover the rabbit with water, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and a dash of vinegar and soak for 24 hours. It makes a huge difference and gives a softer flavour.

Add some extra virgin oil to a large pan and add the rabbit after quartering. Keep this on a medium / high heat until the rabbit has browned. Add a whole peeled onion and thyme then cover with filtered water and gently simmer for two to three hours. The meat needs to be soft and the water will absorb the fats and flavours to become a rich stock that we will use to make the risotto. It’s easy to do this in a slow cooker on high if you have one.

At the same time (unless you are using a slow cooker) heat the oven to 180C and place one tomato for each person in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with olive oil, add the whole bulb of garlic with the skins on and a sprig or two of thyme. Dash with salt and pepper and pop in the oven until nicely darkened and soft. Keep the pan small so the fruit absorbs all the flavour.

After the rabbit has cooled, pick off all the meat from the bones, cover and set aside. Strain the liquid into a large jug using a sieve. This will be used later.

Put a large high sided pan on a medium heat. Add a generous amount of Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil and about 100 grams of butter. Drop in chopped chicken thigh fillets. I normally just cut them in half and cook until nicely golden brown on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to remove them into a bowl.

Finely chop the remaining onion, add to pan and keep it moving until translucent. Then add the arborio rice (I normally use at least 500g to feed the family) and keep it moving. My grandmother taught me to make the rice sing, that is let it crackle a bit. This prepares the rice to absorb the wine and flavours.

Next add the chardonnay. Now I use a large wine glass and add one to the rice then refill it and sip away as I’m cooking…just to be sure of the quality:)

The key with a risotto is to keep stirring it gently. As the wine begins to absorb, add a little stock, no more than half a cupful at a time and stirring all the time. This makes the risotto super creamy and silky as it releases starch from the grain.

When the rice is almost done, add the last bit of stock and return the rabbit meat, chicken and finely chopped flat beans (in my case runner beans from the garden) to the pan. Reduce the heat to the lowest you can. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Grate about 200g of parmesan cheese and, when the risotto is ready, fold through and plate up.

Plating Up

I like to serve this in a big bowl. Place the risotto in the bowl with the tomatoes placed on top. Squeeze the garlic out of the bulb onto the tomatoes and drizzle with the juices from the tomato dish and a little extra Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Tomatoes, Garlic Sausage, Manchego Cheese and Herbs

Ingredients

  • 6 good sausages (go to a butcher they are just better)
  • 6 nice ripe tomatoes
  • Herbs – basil & flat leaf parsley
  • Manchego cheese
  • Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

This is so easy and such a treat to eat. Slice up the tomatoes at least 1cm thick and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Then, either on a BBQ or a griddle pan, quickly cook them on a really high heat until the bars make a black line on each side then set aside on a large plate in a single layer.

Add the sausages and cook through. Slice these up and cover the tomatoes. Then shave the cheese (I use a potato peeler) and sprinkle with chopped herbs. Drizzle with Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil and one or two grinds of black pepper.

Char Grilled Zucchini, Peas and Mint

I love this it just tastes like summer. Fresh, sweet and fantastic with just about anything.

Ingredients

  • Zucchinis. I grow these every year and have both yellow and green to add a bit of colour.
  • Peas. If you have fresh peas that’s brilliant, but snap frozen baby peas work almost as well.
  • A big bunch of fresh mint.
  • Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  • Salt & black pepper.

Method

Heat a BBQ or griddle pan up to a high heat. Whilst it’s heating, slice up the zucchini on an angle.

Place then on the bars and flip over when they have developed char marks. When done on both sides set aside.

Next get a large frypan and cover the bottom with a thin layer of Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Place on a low heat until the oil runs freely around the pan. Drop in the zucchini and peas and warm through. Then add finely chopped mint and drop onto a serving plate. Yum!

Slow roasted persian lamb

This is another favourite in our family, succulent juicy and full of the flavours of persia.

Ingredients

  • Leg of lamb (New Zealand or Welsh are the best).
  • Preserved lemons (whole lemons packed in salt).
  • Advieh (A mix of warm spices -cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and dried rose petals).
  • Black toasted sesame seeds.
  • Raw sesame seeds
  • A whole chilli
  • A whole bulb of garlic
  • 2 cups filtered water

Method

Preheat the oven to 130 C. Take the leg of lamb and rub with Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil making sure it’s completely covered and very glossy. Then dust with Advieh.

Advieh is easy to make I like to use the same amount of all the dry spices and add about a dozen dried and chopped rose petals. I like to pick rose petals from gardens (Ask first though!)

Next take the preserved lemons and scrape off the flesh and discard. Roughly chop the peel and generously sprinkle this on top of the spice mix. Top with a chilli split down the middle and a whole bulb of garlic.

Then dust with raw and blackened sesame seeds. Place the lamb in a large oven dish with the two cups of filtered water.

I use a dish with a lid but if you don’t have one, cover with foil. Place in the centre of the oven and cook for at least 4 hours. As the lamb cooks it fills the room with the most amazing fragrant smell. The hardest part of this dish is to not open the oven door!

Its cooked when super tender.

Take out of the oven and leave covered for 15 minutes to help moisten the meat.

Plating up

I just pop it on a plate and the family cuts off what they like. When we eat this we have some persian bread, hummus and a bright salad. If I’m being really posh I’ll dust the salad with pomegranate seeds. These are not always available but really add to the dish.

Sauteed Agria Potatoes, Garlic and Rosemary

Ingredients

  • Agria Potatoes (2 -3 per person)
  • 3 – 4 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
  • 4 – 5 cloves of Garlic with skins on
  • Coarse Sea or Himalayan Salt
  • Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

Peel the agria potatoes and halve, if small or quarter if large. Put them in an appropriate sized saucepan, add filtered water and bring to the boil. Watch the potatoes carefully as they need to be boiled until the edges just start to break down.

Remove from water and drain in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and allow the water to drain and evaporate away so the potatoes dry.

When dried, place a large frypan on the stove top and cover the bottom with a generous amount of Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Heat over a medium to high heat until the olive oil moves freely around the pan.

Place the potatoes in the pan one by one without overcrowding. Periodically shake the pan from side to side to stop them sticking. Allow a deep yellow crust to form on each side of the potatoes before turning them. When two sides have been cooked, add the garlic with skins on. This stops the garlic turning bitter and overpowering the potatoes.

When you turn to the final side add the sprigs of rosemary. I like to add these whole and remove them along with the garlic just as you plate up.

Plating

Simply place the potatoes on a serving plate and make sure you add any additional oil left in the pan as it will be infused with garlic and rosemary. I add a sprig or two of uncooked rosemary and a little cracked black pepper. These crispy potatoes are just amazing, crunchy, garlicky and an absolute winner.

I like to eat these with chargrilled zucchini mint and peas alongside some spring lamb chops. Yum!

Black Kale, Lemon and Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Ingredients

  • Bunch of Black Kale (use around 5 leaves per person)
  • Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Coarse Sea or Himalayan Salt
  • Lemons ( 1 lemon for every 4 servings)

Method

Wash the kale with cold water and strip the leaves from the stem. I find this a really satisfying job. Put your fingers each side of the stem and rip upwards to separate the leafy greens from the coarse stem.

Place the separated leaves in a good sized bowl (I use a stainless steel one). Fill the kettle with filtered water and bring it to the boil.

When boiled, carefully pour the boiling water over the kale. Take care as it likes to bounce off the leaves and you don’t want to get scalded. If you need more water reboil the kettle.

Place a large saucepan lid over the kale and time for 3 minutes. While the kale is in the boiled water, prepare another large bowl by filling with ice and filtered water.

After three minutes, strain the kale (using a colander in the sink) and then drop into the ice water. It will turn a vibrant dark green as the cold revives the kale. Let the kale stand in the cold water for at least 3 minutes.

When cold remove from the water and squeeze firmly so all excess water is removed.

Place the kale on a chopping board and chop into 1cm strips.

Plating the dish

Take the kale and loosen it onto your serving plate. Drizzle with Tuscan Downs Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Juice the lemons and pour this over the top of the oil and kale. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

This is one of our family favourites. After rugby on cold Saturdays we have this kale served with hot sausages and baguettes as a well deserved lunch.