A funny thing, mushrooms. There is a tree stump, large and dividing the path down the hill in the park on the way to school. Last winter and this has seen its base decorated with a curtain of mushrooms like a valance sheet, skirting the ground. The children find it repulsive and fascinating at the same time and trying to persuade them that it is similar to the ones you eat is a challenge. I may as well wave a cowpat in their faces.
Once you get past the toadstools and poison of our fairy-tales and don’t eat random ones that foxes and dogs have added to, mushrooms are a thing of great flavour and versatility. I’m too ignorant and scared to forage my own, so I buy from the shops and especially from Nicki’s Mushrooms when she’s around. I like living, thanks very much.
Bee and I ate barbecued mushrooms one late summer on the Greek Island of Paxos and they were a revelation. Marinated in olive oil, thyme and garlic they were smoky and sublime. I’ll always do a plate of them when we have a sunny summer weekend here in London and the barbecue gets uncovered and de-cobwebbed.
My other favourite, and this is the one I’m sharing here, comes from a small, wonky, oak-beamed tudor pub called The Spotted Dog in Penshurst, down in the Weald of Kent. It’s such a cosy place, just the kind of pub they’d use as a location in the Muppets Christmas Carol. The views are beautiful, the fires are hot and cosy and the building is old English charm itself.
We went for lunch quite a few years ago and a dish similar to this was on the menu. It was the blue cheese and mustard that made it. It was comforting, simple, rich and filling. It takes minutes to make, the mushrooms cook while the toaster is toasting and then you just bring it all together and serve hot and fresh, the mushrooms soaking up the creamy sauce and the bread giving that great contrast between crisp and soft. A crunch against the comfort. They used white mushrooms, which worked well. It’s up to you, just make sure you pile them high and use plenty of cream. It’s also good with some toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled over the top.
A selection of mushrooms. I used porcini, pieds bleus and girolles. Roughly two handfuls per person
A small handful of parsley, chopped
3tbsp creme fraiche for tang or double cream for richness
A large garlic clove, finely chopped
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
A sprig of rosemary
A sprinkling of breadcrumbs
A small wedge of Dolcelate, crumbled
Salt and pepper
Sourdough bread, toasted to golden.
Slice the mushrooms and heat a sauté pan with a good amount of olive oil.
Add the mushrooms and cook on high, tossing them about a bit for a few moments.
Add the garlic and half the rosemary and season well, then cook the mushrooms until they are starting to colour. Don’t let them get too soft though, they should have a little firmness.
Stir in the creme fraiche, mustard and cheese and grind in some pepper. Heat through and stir in the parsley.
Taste, adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve on the toast, buttered if you like.