The dark days are over with a bit of walnut bashing and a cheeky winter salad

Have to say that after a dark, wintry week at work, bashing a few walnuts with a rolling pin was pretty satisfying.

A work colleague mentioned a beetroot, mushroom and walnut salad – three ingredients I had in abundance. So here it is – a made up recipe based on a made up recipe based on something somebody ate in a restaurant once.


Ingredients: 4 medium sized beetroot; 200 grams small to medium size mushrooms (ours were some sort of button/field hybrid either would work quite well); 8 slices of prosciutto;  250 grams baby spinach; 1 medium red onion; 150-200 grams soft goat cheese; balsamic vinegar; olive oil; approximately 8 walnuts broken into pieces.

To roast the beetroot: Heat oven to 200 degrees; chop the stalks and tails off the beetroot then wash and pat dry with paper towel; lightly brush with olive oil; wrap in foil; roast in oven for 35 minutes; remove from oven and peel (you will need to let them cool down a bit first); slice beetroot into centimetre thick slices.

To roast the mushrooms: While the beetroot is roasting slice mushrooms into 10 millimetre thick slices; line an oven tray with baking paper and lightly brush the paper with olive oil (or use olive oil spray for an easier healthier option); lay out mushrooms and lightly brush (or spray) with olive oil; season; pop into the oven in the last 15 minutes of cooking the beetroot; turn mushrooms once half way through cooking time.

To crisp the prosciutto: Line an oven tray with baking paper; lay out prosciutto slices on the paper; pop in the oven during last five minutes of cooking beetroot; remove when the prosciutto is crispy.

To make the salad: Finely slice onion and combine in a bowl with baby spinach and crumbled goats cheese; in a separate bowl mix 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper then taste to make sure you are happy with the balance between oil and vinegar; add dressing to salad mixture and combine.

Putting it all together: Assemble individual serves by placing 2 good size tong-fulls of salad mixture on a dinner plate followed by some beetroot and mushroom slices then prosciutto and walnuts.

Could not resist a gratuitous walnut photo – they are home grown, hand picked and looking disturbing but interesting in a posh bowl after all.




We shall by morning / Inherit the earth / Our foot’s in the door

Sylvia Plath really summed it up. Mushrooms really are freaky strange if you think about them in an abstract way.

But less ephemerally, cooking the little guys up on a medium to low heat in olive oil, butter and garlic and stirring them through risotto is the business!

Yum !

Ingredients :

500 grams mushrooms sliced;  2 cloves garlic crushed; butter; olive oil; 1 brown onion diced finely (or equivalent amount of any other type of oniony vegetable); 2 cups arborio rice; 1 cup white wine;  500 mls vegetable or chicken stock; 1 cup water; 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley; parmesan


Melt a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Add garlic and onion just before the butter is melted. Cook until onion is softened. Add the mushrooms (plus salt and cracked pepper) and cook until liquid is coming out of the mushrooms. Set mushroom mixture (including liquid) to one side in a bowl.

Bring stock and water to the boil together in a saucepan. Keep liquid simmering on a medium heat.

Melt a teaspoon of butter and a big dash of olive oil in the saucepan you used to cook the mushrooms. On a medium heat, add the arborio rice and stir until it is coated with the butter and olive oil. Add the white wine and stir as needed to keep the rice from sticking until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Repeat the same steps with the stock mixture. Adding about 3/4 of a cup of liquid at a time and stirring to stop the rice from sticking.

Continue this process until the rice is on the firm side of al dente. Do not panic if you are running out of stock before the rice is ready – just boil some water in the kettle and use that.

Turn off the stove but leave the saucepan on the hot plate. Add the mushroom mixture (including the black liquid) and parsley. Season and combine. Remove from heat. then serve with grated parmesan on top.

You can stir through sour cream after removing the risotto from the heat if you like a creamier style risotto or add dried porcini mushrooms to the stock mixture if you like a mushroomier one!

Serves 4. The mushroom mixture can also be served on its own as a side dish.



Brown paper bags can be reused to store your mushrooms. If mushrooms go slimy this un-slimes them!