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It’s been raining here – which means that the snow’s gone and we’re back to having a soggy garden instead of a frozen one.  I spent an hour or so catching up with the garden this morning, we hadn’t been spending much time together while the temperatures were below zero.  Turns out that while I’ve been huddled in the house grumbling about the cold, the garden has been carrying on regardless.  For one thing, there are hellebores flowering – prettying up the place, and at this time of year anything that pretties up the garden is very welcome.

Hellebore

Not so welcome is the mole who has taken up residence in the garden.  It would be fine if he kept himself to the bottom end where his mounds of soil aren’t a problem – in fact the hens are loving scratching through the soil he pushes up.  Trouble is, he’s now popping up (or his molehills are anyway) in the veggie patch.  I need to find a way to move him on before the season of serious planting begins – does anyone have any tried and tested ways of encouraging moles to relocate?

Molehill

As always, there are huge numbers of weeds to pull up, and this year I’m determined to do some weeding every day (well OK, most days).  Come the warmer, longer days of spring I want the soil to be ready for sowing – for once I’m going to be prepared instead of constantly playing catch-up.

Hellebore 2

I haven’t been harvesting much from the garden in the last couple of weeks – herbs mainly, and then mostly those growing in pots close to the kitchen door.  I used seasonal herbs with some shallots stored from last autumn to make individual mushroom crumbles for tea at the weekend.  Each mushroom makes an edible ‘dish’ for a creamy sauce topped with crunchy crumble.  I thought they looked quite cool, but novelty value alone wasn’t enough to tempt the picky eater to eat mushrooms – obviously I need to be more inventive.  The recipe was originally for the Guardian reader’s recipe swap in the new Cook section.  But they didn’t use it, and it seemed too good to waste – so I’ll share it with you here instead!

And I’ve just realised through reading Chez Foti’s great-sounding recipe for Pizza Puttanesca that these mushroom crumbles would probably qualify for Made with Love Mondays over at Javelin Warrior’s blog.  This is a new blog challenge for me – another source of fabulous recipes to try!

JWsMadeWLuvMondays

 Mushroom crumble

Creamy Mushroom & Herb Crumbles

Serves 2

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 shallots, peeled and finely sliced

50ml white wine

3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only

50ml double cream

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

35g plain flour

20g unsalted butter

20g dry breadcrumbs

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

2 large flat mushrooms

100ml vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.

First make the shallot and cream sauce – heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a small saucepan.  Add the shallots and sauté over a low heat for about 5 minutes, until they are soft but not browned.  Add the white wine and thyme leaves, and bring everything to a simmer.  Reduce the liquid to about half, then turn down the heat and add the cream.  Stir and leave to cook gently until the sauce thickens slightly.  Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

While the sauce is cooking, make the crumble topping.  Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the dry breadcrumbs, parsley and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.  Add the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil and stir through the crumble mixture.

Wipe the mushrooms clean and place them in a shallow ovenproof dish.  Top each mushroom with half of the cream sauce and half the crumble mixture.  Pour the stock into the bottom of the dish, to surround base of the mushrooms.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the mushrooms are meltingly tender.

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