Intensely fungal may not be the sort of culinary description to sway most, but given its context – a lazy day of reading Simon Hopkinson in the sun, perched in the centre of a large rug in my large, empty back garden – and the fact that I’ve been craving knife-and-fork food for weeks, sway me it did. It wasn’t Hopkinson who convinced me (lashings of tongue and foie gras, anyone?); rather it was Nigel Slater, two days later, from this dog-eared, food-spattered favourite.
I am in love.
The first time we ate these mushrooms, grilled to perfect succulence on an oiled tray in the oven, my hunch that garlic should top the velvet gills was a good one, but not the chunky, lazy cut I had, lazily, favoured. Tweaking was required, because somewhere between grill and plate, something unexpected, something magical had happened.
There is immense satisfaction to be had from looking closely. I mean, just look at those velvet, earthy gills. Aren't they amazing?
The only thing I will add – and I’m certain that Nigel would approve - is that garlic and mushrooms are a sort of proverbial celestial match; pungent and earthy in a savoury, very luscious way. Garlic-addicted though we (mostly) are in these parts, handling the stuff before tea and toast at breakfast is a little too overpowering, even for me. So, before trundling off to bed, I peeled two cloves of garlic and crushed them roughly with a satisfying, pestle-heavy bash from on high, before sinking them into a deep pool of olive oil. No precious chopping here. All you want is their perfume. I strained the oil before the embarrassingly liberal libation that follows because the alternative – finely chopped pieces – will catch in the heat of the grill and burn. Not always bad, sometimes quite desirable, but not here.
But, hey, even an hour’s garlicky soaking is a good thing in my book. So in love.
Nigel Slater’s Grilled Mushrooms
Simplicity. Lifted, entirely, from Slater’s The 30-Minute Cook. Because, frankly, I can’t make it sound any better, nor any easier, than he. Though I would suggest that do cut out the stalks if your mushrooms are hat-sized. As were mine. Oh, and garlicky oil. Lots and lots of it. More than you may think wise. Then some.
‘Big velvet-gilled field mushrooms. As big as a beret. Brush them generously with olive oil. Put a knob of butter and a glug of oil in the upturned cup. Grind a little pepper and salt, and grill, on a low heat, constantly buttering and oiling till you have a gold, brown and black mushroom. As savoury and tender as a piece of steak.’
And at $2.50 each, far cheaper too.