Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ruby Chard and Mushroom Tagliatelle

Though we've had some lovely warm days recently autumn is definitely here. On the bus home last night the light wind was causing a flurry of leaves to fall like giant raindrops leaving golden splodges on Brixton Road and this morning at seven there was insufficient daylight. And it was drizzling. I guess the poor excuse we had for a summer this year is definitely over. Time to look forward to autumn.

It is a season of wonderful foods, more substantial than summers fripperies and often with wonderful colours to go with flavours that have developed over the last few months of warmth if not sunshine. At the market on Saturday Booths had great piles of pumpkins and squashes and apples and crinkly cabbages calling out 'eat me, eat me!' Metaphorically you understand. I bought some big flat field mushrooms with deep brown gills and fell in love with the flashness of the ruby chard - you don't have to be looking at it for long to know why it is called Beta Vulgaris. The stems positively glow jewel red offset with huge soft leaves the colour of a mossy pond. I did not resist.

So Tuesday's dinner had to be pasta, enriched with butter rather than cream, depth added to the flavour with a few dried porcini and their rehydrating bath. Perfect autumn food. The recipe is from a River Café recipe supplement from the Guardian a long time ago that I saved and found again.

Ruby Chard & Mushroom Tagliatelle

500g ruby (or other) chard
250g flat field mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
15g dried porcini
50g parmesan
120g unsalted butter
300g egg tagliatelle

Put a medium sized pan of salted water on to boil. Cut the stalks from the chard and slice into inch long pieces, roughly tear the leaves. Boil the stalks for five minutes then add the leaves and cook together for a few minutes till tender. Drain and cool, then chop roughly together.

Meanwhile, soak the dried porcini in 150ml hot water. Trim and finely slice the mushrooms. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Grate the Parmesan.

Drain the porcini - keeping the soaking liquid - and chop them roughly.

Heat a large pan of salted water to boiling. Then melt half the butter in a separate large thick bottomed pan and when it just starts to fizz add the fresh mushrooms and cook until lightly brown. Add the garlic, the porcini and 4 tablespoons of their soaking liquid. Season and cook together for a few minutes until the flavours combine and the liquid is reduced. Stir in the chard and the remaining butter.

Cook the tagliatelle in the boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, add to the chard and mushrooms, toss thoroughly and serve with the Parmesan.

What you end up with is a perfect autumn dish. Looks, smells, tastes - the lot.
Useless information department - in Australia chard is called spinach and spinach is called English spinach. I'm guessing if they have ruby chard they just call it Vulgar!

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