Walnuts and cheese stuffed mushrooms

To carry along with an autumnal mood, here are two recipes which welcome nuts. Use walnuts for a mouth melting starter which can be a main dish if you serve these stuffed mushrooms on a bed of vegetables (Savoy cabbage for instance); prefer cobnuts for an easy to prepare but impressive nougat glacé. Why not try both?

A sweet: Nougat glacé and caramelized apricot

Serves 6
3 eggs (white)
80 g caster sugar (2 x 40g)
3 tsp running honey
50 g cobnuts (plus a few for decoration)
50 g pistachios
50 g almond (flaked or whole)
50 g dried apricots
50 ml whisky
300 ml whipping cream
1 tin of apricot halves

  1. The day before, cut the dried apricots into four and soak them in the whisky.
  2. Chop the different nuts, and toast them lightly in a pan. Then sprinkle 40g sugar to caramelize the nuts. Stir gently until the caramel coats the nuts. Let cool on a sheet of greaseproof paper and divide into small pieces. Don’t forget to do the same with whole nuts for the decoration.
  3. Beat the whites to stiff peaks. In a pan, pour the honey and add the remaining sugar. Bring to the boil until you reach 120°C (about 4 min).  Carry on beating the white and slowly pour the warm honey. Continue beating until the meringue has cooled (this is what we call Italian meringue).
  4. Whip the cream to stiff peaks and add to the Italian meringue. Then add the fruit (with the whisky) and the caramelized nuts.  Stir delicately. Place in a cake tin and freeze for 12 hours.
  5. Before serving, reserve 6 apricot halves, blend the rest with a little of the syrup to obtain a thick coulis.
  6. Sprinkle brown sugar on the halves and caramelize under the grill or with a blowtorch.
  7. Mould the nougat glacé, place a slice on each plate, a caramelized nut and an apricot half and finish with the coulis.

I like my nougat glacé to be really “nutty”. The original recipe does not include other fruit. Though I like adding dried apricot, especially when I serve it with an apricot coulis. Of course I’d rather use fresh apricots in season. You can vary the coulis: if you choose to make it with red fruit, then use dried cranberries in the nougat glacé; if you prefer mango, put dried pineapple in the icecream. I tend not to use candied fruit as this dessert would become an Italian cassata. But don’t hesitate to be creative!

The whisky
Go for a reasonably matured fruity whisky, according to the nature of the fruit you will add. With apricot, I like Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or (Glenmorangie Ealanta is perfect as well). Most Speyside whiskies (more on the bourbon side than the sherry one) will match well. This dessert allows a large spectrum of matchings, depending on the nature of the coulis. Caramelized nuts make a flexible bridge with all fruity whiskies.

Stuffed mushroomsA starter: Walnuts and cheese stuffed mushrooms

Serves 6
6 big portobello mushrooms
100 g matured cheddar (cut in small dice)
50 g grated comté
100 g pancetta
80 g shelled walnuts and chopped
1 small bramley apple (cut in small dice)
1 shallot chopped
1 celery branch chopped
40 g butter
1 glass of white wine
Salt, pepper

  1. Preheat the oven (180°C). Place pancetta in a pan. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain and set aside.
  2. Break off mushrooms stem. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, Cook and stir chopped stems, shallot, celery and apple dice, adding white wine after 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. When the vegetables have taken a golden colour, remove from heat and put in a large bowl.
  3. Add walnuts, pancetta and cheddar. Mix and place on top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle with grated comté.
  4. Cook for 12 to15 min in the oven.

The whisky
The earthy character of the mushrooms is the key. I will go for whiskies with a spicy, slightly oaky character, whiskies which remind of autumn scents: wet leaves, damp warehouse, humus, cider apples, cinnamon, ginger or pepper. Glenrothes 1998 or Aberlour 18 Years Old. A hint of peat can make good matching. Tomatin Cù Bocan would be perfect. The rustic profile of Old Pulteney 12 Years Old allows an harmonious combination as well.

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