When the weather is good no one wants to spend time in the kitchen and, when the Boyfriend arrived home from the supermarket the other day with a large box of button mushrooms, I didn’t much feel like frying them or using them in an omelette strognoff or making a mushroom stroganoff or risotto or any one of the thousand and one things I use mushrooms for. I normally prefer the meatier, large flat Portobello mushrooms but, after spending the weeks in Morocco poring over Claudia Roden’s salad recipes in A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, I had an idea for these styrofoam buttons.
I’m not a fan of boiling vegetables – it’s all too easy to overcook them and you lose so much of the flavour in the water – so I’m always on the look out for alternative ways of cooking them and I’ve read a lot about the à la greque technique (in the Greek manner), which is vegetables cooked in a mixture of oil and vinegar, or lemon juice, with seasonings added. Claudia’s variation on this theme is called Mushrooms in Olive Oil.
I threw everything into the pan quickly, simmered it until the mushrooms were tender and then we headed off to a nearby park to sun ourselves. Coming back an hour later, with some fresh crusty bread, the mushrooms made a delicious light supper. The mushrooms were juicy and well-flavoured, there was plenty of dressing to be mopped up and, with a chunk of crumbly cheddar, we were more than happy. A cool supper – or could be a good lunch – for a hot day.
Mushrooms in Olive Oil
Button mushrooms – 250g, cleaned and quartered
Olive oil – 3 tablespoons
Water – 1 tablespoon
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Lemon – 1, squeezed and zested
Dried thyme – ½ teaspoon or 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
Garlic – 1 clove, sliced thinly
Heat the oil and water in a deep frying pan and stir in the salt, pepper, lemon juice and zest, dried thyme and sliced garlic. Bring to the boil and add the mushrooms, simmer gently until tender – 7 to 10 minutes – pour into a serving dish and allow to cool.
Taste and season before serving, if necessary. The intensity of the seasonings may drop as the dish cools. Serve at room temperature. Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a light meal, with crusty bread and cheese to follow.
Adapted from Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food.