Saturday 28 June 2008

Winter Solstice Galettes

Last weekend we had a winter solstice dinner party. Celebrating the shortest day of the year requires rich dark festive food. My regular readers will not be surprised to hear that nut roast immediately springs to mind for me and that is what we had last year. But this year required new challenges.

Yarrow came over to cook with me and we decided on a dish out of the inspired Wild Garlic, Gooseberries … and Me for the centre of the meal. Denis Cotter calls it Galette of Braised Turnip, Portobello Mushroom and Pecans with a Red Wine Sauce. I used Scottish turnips (known as swedes or rutabaga elsewhere) but mostly stuck with the recipe. Cooking together means I am a bit vague on some of the steps but have tried to write notes on how we made them.

It is always nice to cook with an old friend. When it came to sieving the sauce, Yaz looked at me and said, do you remember pushing chickpeas through a sieve for falafels? That night, in a student house where we both lived, was one when we ate very late because those little blighters just didn’t want to go through that sieve. No wonder we both shuddered at the thought of sieving anything. We don’t always agree on everything in the kitchen but we were both happy to just blend the sauce. It was only when we were spending too long searching for the cloves to discard, that we agreed we couldn’t avoid the sieving.

The sweating over the sieve was worthwhile. This is a dish I would recommend you keep for a special occasion as it requires some time and patience to prepare. It is perfect for a dinner party because it can be prepared earlier and then popped in the oven to warm through just before serving. But it is worth every bit of effort and looks spectacular (although foolishly I chose the one imitating the leaning tower of pisa for my photographs). It was absolutely delicious and intense but less filling than a nut roast. It had the rich meatiness of nuts and mushrooms and a dark brooding sauce.

Here is our menu:

Main Course:
- Turnip, mushroom and pecan galettes
- Red wine sauce
- Brussels sprouts with Cointreau
- Sprouted green lentil and bulgar bread

- Winter fruit platter with chocolate fruitcake

To Drink:
- Warmed meade

We set table with my good linen. Yarrow did some fancy napkin folding and brought over a candle with coloured flame that he had bought at MoMA in New York. Before eating, we raised our glasses of meade and made a toast to the solstice. A fine way to celebrate the darkness of winter and look forward to longer days.

Turnip, mushroom and pecan galettes
(from Denis Cotter)
Serves 4

2 large turnips (or swedes), peeled
60g butter, melted
100ml white wine
100ml vegetable stock or water
Salt and pepper
4 large portobello mushrooms
Extra melted butter or olive oil
100g pecans
100g cream cheese
Sprigs of fresh thyme for garnish

Preheat oven to 170 C or 325 F. Cut the turnips into thin slices. Denis says to make them square but this seemed too wasteful to us and our turnips were not that big to start with. Place in a large roasting dish. Mix together melted butter, wine and stock (or water) in a small bowl. Season. Pour over the turnips.

Place roasting dish in the oven and bake til tender. This took us about 90 minutes. You can cover with foil as Denis suggests but we didn’t. I wonder if they would have cooked quicker if we had covered them because Denis suggests about 30 minutes. He also says that the liquid should all be gone but ours wasn’t. I used it up when cooking the brussels sprouts with Cointreau.

Place mushrooms in a baking tray and spray with olive oil (as we did) or brush with butter or oil. Turn up the oven to 190 C or 375 F and cook the mushrooms for 10-12 minutes or til tender - you will know they are done by the heavenly smell. If like us, your turnips are not yet done, then place mushrooms on top shelf and turnips on a lower shelf.

Chop the pecan nuts roughly in a food processor. Add the mushrooms and process briefly til just coarsely chopped. You want some texture rather than to make a puree. Alternately you could roughly chop the pecans and mushrooms with an old fashioned knife and chopping board. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in cream cheese.

Now assemble your galettes. First divide the turnip slices into four piles (about 4 per stack) on a baking tray. If they are of different sizes as ours were, stack them largest on the bottom and smallest on top. Starting with one pile, evenly spread a layer of mushroom and nut filling on the largest slice, and repeat til you place the last slice on top. If your slices have gone slightly concave during braising, it is easiest to spread the filling on the concave side. Press down gently on the galette. Repeat with three other stacks. Brush tops with melted butter.

Place the baking tray with the galettes in the oven for about 7-10 minutes to heat through before serving. Serve with red wine sauce and brussels sprouts or cabbage cooked with a bit of orange zest and juice. Garnish galettes with sprigs of fresh thyme.

Red wine sauce
(from Denis Cotter)
Serves 4

400ml red wine
200ml tomato passata or pureed tinned tomatoes
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ stick of celery, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 whole cloves
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter (optional)

Place all ingredients except butter in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend (we used a hand held blender) and push through a sieve. Return to the pan to simmer and reduce by half. Just before serving, reheat and whisk in the butter (but I can’t remember adding butter so am not sure if we did).

On the stereo:
Best of: Blur


  1. Is Yarrow's name actually Yarrow? It's lovely.
    I've been meaning to try this out for a while now. Will perhaps wait until Autumn but I will try it!
    PS Also shudder at the thought of sieving. Especially soups. I'll stick with slightly lumpy, thank you very much!

  2. Gorgeous hearty-looking dish!

  3. Thanks Wendy - yes Yarrow is his name - and suits him! Cooking hell surely involves sieving but it does make the sauce look lovely in this dish. Will be interested to hear when you make it

    Thanks Ann - I'm glad you think it gorgeous as I grimaced a little at the gap between my memory and the photos!

  4. Looks fantastic! We had a Summer Solstice party here - even if it was only for two! :)

  5. On the eve of our Summer Solstice we were on our way to out holiday driving past Stonehenge at midnight, it was extraordinary people were flocking to the area to be there for sunrise, I am not at all "New agey" myself but there was somthing in the atmosphere in the area that night that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

  6. thanks Jenn - glad to hear you celebrated - it is nice to make an effort to make a special dinner for two - that is what I did last year

    thanks Hippolyra - our summer solstice here is Christmas so I wish I had taken more notice of it when I was in the UK. It would be quite special at stonehenge.

  7. Sounds like a wonderful party, and a great menu! I, too, avoid the sieve whenever I can in those situations (I once made raspberry coulis and it took about an hour to push it all through, with the seeds left in the sieve). Those galettes sound stupendous!

  8. thanks Ricki - the galettes were fantastic and I think the sieving seemed less onerous as yarrow did a lot of it but it is usually good reason to avoid a recipe - maybe chefs like Denis Cotter like it because they have someone to do it for them?


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