It was back to work after a five-day break over Thanksgiving. Time off like that can really mess with your everyday routine. I found it hard to galvanize into any kind of action this morning. Of course, the fact that I ended yesterday with a raging attack of sinusitis didn’t help. I woke up this morning wanting to shy completely away from any sort of light. The fact that most of my job keeps me in front of a computer screen made most of today agonizing.
With the aid of alternating applications of soothing cups of hot herbal tea and medication, I managed to make it through a good part of the day. Then I had to get home, draw the curtains and tumble into bed. When I woke up, the light had already faded and the impending threat of an exploding head had receded slightly into the background. My stomach reminded me that I had missed lunch. I was ravenous, but disinclined to set foot in the kitchen. Luckily, that was when Amey got home.
The long but fairly busy weekend kept us from doing some critical grocery shopping, so all we had little in the fridge, aside from some mushrooms and a bunch of curly leaf parsley. It is days like this when I am very thankful for my obsession with spices and flavoured salts. They are more than worth their weight in gold.
With just those ingredients, Amey put together a dinner that we often have on other rushed or lean supply nights. It involved roughly chopping the aforementioned mushrooms, then massacring the whole bunch of parsley. He then minced a few cloves of garlic and was ready to cook.
This is what you do. You put a couple of turns of olive oil in a heavy bottom pan. Add some cumin and ajwain (carom) seeds to the pan. Then you toss in the garlic, parsley and mushrooms within a few minutes of each other. A bit of chilli, honey, Worcestershire, cream and sherry or rice wine and there you have it, dinner in a bowl. We’re not fond of raw parsley but love what the cooking process does to it. The parsley mellows out in the garlicky oil and turns it into a good foil for the woodsy mushrooms. What you get is a bracing and delicious meal, ready in a short time.
So how do you make dinner out of something like this? We normally place some of it in between two halves of a soft bun and make a sandwich (we tell you how after the mushroom recipe below). That’s what we did tonight. If you have eggs then you have several possibilities. You can toss the cooked mushrooms into some scrambled eggs, then roll some of that up in a wrap with some slivers of tomato. Or you fold it into an omelet. Or make it a frittata filling. You can poach some eggs and sprinkle the mushrooms on to them. Or you could place a fried egg on top of the mushrooms in your sandwich. I’m all for fried eggs on everything.
You could make some couscous or boil some pasta and ladle these mushrooms on either of them. Or you could bake a potato, add these mushrooms, spoon on some sour cream and chives and have a wonderful baked potato dinner. You can use them any way you want. They are supremely versatile. Use caraway instead of carom seeds for an alternative. Use garlic oil and pre-sliced mushrooms if you want the cooking to go even faster. If you have a stash of smoked salts like we do, use them with abandon. We’ve made this in the past with smoked salt and smoked chilli powder and love that added flavour. Top your mushrooms-on-toast-esque sandwich with halloumi. That is what Amey did tonight. But if you do so, make sure to adjust the salt in the mushrooms accordingly. Halloumi is quite salty. While the dish is tastier with wild mushrooms, even simple button mushrooms do pretty well with this treatment. Don’t cook the mushrooms completely dry. Sop some of that liquid into your bun. It tastes divine.
Thirty minute meals, they aren’t just a television phenomenon. A meal like this is ready in that time, with minimal fussing and cleanup required after you are done. It is ideal for sick days or busy ones. Now, I must take your leave. The pounding in my head is returning and I need to move away from this screen. At least, I am fortified after that meal and there is a dark room with my name on the door.
Mushrooms with parsley and garlic
Makes 5 sandwiches/serves 4 as a side
Mushrooms – 2 cups (mix of any you like), chopped into chunks or sliced
Curly leaf parsley – 1 bunch
Garlic – 6 cloves
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Ajwain seeds – 1/2 tsp
Thyme – 1 tsp, fresh or dried
Chilli powder – 1 tsp, (alternatively used smoked chilli powder)
Honey – 1 tsp
Worcestershire sauce – a turn of the pan
Rice wine or sherry – 2 tbsp
Cream – 2 tbsp
As much pepper as you can stand
Salt to taste
Olive oil – 3 tbsp
Lemon – 1/2 of one
– Place a heavy bottomed or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil.
– When the oil begins to shimmer, add the cumin and ajwain seeds.
– When they start to splutter, add the garlic. Lower the flame slightly and fry until the garlic turns lightly golden.
– Add the parsley and fry for a minute, then add the mushrooms, thyme and chilli powder. Stir everything to incorporate. Fry for a few minutes.
– Add the rice wine, cream and honey. Season with salt and crack as much pepper as you like over everything. Mix everything together and fry until mushrooms are cooked.
– Squeeze half a lemon over the pan.
Serve as a side or sandwich/wrap filling.
To make a sandwich:
– Take a medium-sized burger bun and apply mayo or butter to each half.
– Layer lettuce or some arugula on the lower half.
– Spread some of the mushroom mixture over.
– Top with halloumi or a fried egg as you please.
– Cover with top half of bun and dig in.