baked mushrooms

by and large i find mushrooms a bit boring. i that i mean the ones you can buy in supermarkets all year round - either the small button mushrooms or the larger field ones. there are, of course, some mushrooms which to me are as exciting as asparagus or courgette flowers or pork scratchings: the oriental ones you can sometimes find in corner shops, or the dried porcini i used to use in risottos. the most exciting mushroom i have ever seen was in a farmers' market in belgrade (all markets are farmers' markets in belgrade - now that would be a slogan for advertisers) - it's called chicken of the woods, because of its appearance and texture, and it was sold by a jolly old man who could speak mushroom in at least 4 european languages.

anyway, i bought four field mushrooms the day before, thinking i might use them in a thai curry. i didn't make one in the end and i knew that if i didn't eat the bloody things soon, they would end up slowly shrivelling at the back of the fridge until they find their way into an omelette or a stir-fry.

not sure why 'normal' mushrooms fail to excite me. i think it's partly because they have a whiff of failed vegetarian cooking about them - the kind where they're used as pretend meat or to pad out otherwise dull dishes. when it comes to food, i am not too keen on pretend anything. that's why i find things like vegetarian mince extraordinary - you give up eating meat to then eat something that's pretending to be meat?? what the hell is that all about? for the same reason, i have made pretend puddings fewer than half a dozen times in a year since we started eating like this.

anyway, back to the mushrooms. there is a general rule in cooking which comes in handy when you are faced with boring vegetables: there are few things that don't taste better with the addition of copious amounts of butter. (actually, this applies across the board.)

i am pretty certain i stole this recipe from jamie oliver but not sure whether i've made bits of it up or not. it was something i saw on tv but i can't remember the exact ingredients or quantities. it tasted great so must be about right.

for two

4 large field mushrooms
50g butter, softened (take it out of the fridge an hour before you want to start)
5 sun dried tomatoes, chopped (if dehydrated, soak in boiling water for 10 minutes before chopping)
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely
5 sprigs of lemon thyme, leaves only, finely chopped. or use normal thyme but less as it's more powerful

preheat the oven to 200C.

in a bowl, mix together the butter, garlic, chilli, thyme and seasoning. place the mushrooms in a baking dish and smear the top of each with the butter mixture.

place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. we garnished ours with basil and had them with some salad leaves, boiled broccoli and a fried duck's egg each.


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