And once again, I am bringing to you my early life experiences and well, twisting it. It might make you think I had a fairly adventurous childhood; but the truth is, I had a traditional childhood that made me the way I am, and fortunately, as a rebellious flag-bearer, have survived and grown up to be an awesome cook!
Growing up in a very traditional Bengali household (not those defined by Sanjay Leela Bansali), the staple food was good, wholesome, non-vegetarian food; which defined what Bengali food meant. Yeah, I mean it. Food for us Bengalis, food means much more than just got it, eat it scenario. And in today’s fast paced life, we rarely do justice to it. But, for us it evolves faster than evolution and that how and also why this blog was given birth, just to bring that “evolution” and “experimentation” to the world outside.
Coming back to mushrooms, I had a story book, that introduced me to a rather not known or available ingredient at that time; viz. mushrooms.
Now, I’m not as old as Martha Stewart, but well, effectively, I have grown up in a small town. And mushrooms for me, were something frogs rested on. Yeah, I know seems extremely ridiculous now, but back then when you didn’t get mushrooms so easily, it was exotic and a food to be savoured by the rich or the “foreigner” (we didn’t distinguish between people who came from outside of India. They were all ‘foreigners’ and they were all privileged.). It was also gross and untouchable (in India, the untouchable context is what we read in history books; and this one is included). Just stating facts not looking for an outburst. Well, I am sure most of you who are my age or older would have grown up with a similar idea about mushrooms. Put your hands up if you did! Well, now, things have changed.
Over the years, I was exposed to the various flavours of mushrooms in the culinary sector. I realised that mushrooms aren’t just for frogs to get all ribbit, ribbit; and that, they exist without the amphibian and they do pack a solid punch (not the frogs, the mushrooms.).
Having experimented with mushrooms in various forms, my favourites are dried mushrooms. They are packed with strong and subtle flavours at the same time and don’t require too many ingredients to make them into a delicious, DELICIOUS recipe. Today’s recipe is made-up of a lot of adjectives. It’s beautiful, innovative, expressive, flavourful, delicious and yet very, very simple. It’s one of those main courses that look stunningly gourmet, but is a breeze to make. I call it my forage in the forest. And soon you’ll see why.
Forage in the Forest
This recipe actually uses simple ingredients like potatoes and any variety of dried mushrooms (available to you, at least 2 kinds), and basic ingredients usually available in our kitchen pantry. The recipe has a few different elements, but, trust me, they are very easily put together.
It does involve a bit of skill (you’ll see), but that indeed is the joy of cooking. Or the way I like to put it, minimum pain, lots of gain! So here goes the secret.
For the Mushroom Filling
Dried Oyster Mushrooms – 1 ½ cups
Dried Shitake Mushrooms – 1 ½ cups
Hot water – to soak the mushrooms
Salt – to season
Pepper – to season
Parsley – 1/4th cup (fresh and chopped)
Cream – 3tbsp
Parmesan cheese – 2tbsp
Cumin powder – 1tsp
Butter – 2tbsp
Garlic – 2tsp (finely chopped)
For the potato logs
Potatoes – 2nos (per dish)
Butter – 2tbsp (melted)
Chilli powder – 1tsp
Salt – to taste
Coriander powder – 1tsp
For the forest
Spinach – 1 bunch
Water – to blanch the spinach
Salt and pepper – to season
Grated ginger – 1tsp
Olive oil – 1tbsp
Dill – ½ cup
Dried shitake mushrooms – ½ cup
Dried oyster mushrooms – ½ cup
Butter – 2tbsp
Lime juice – 1tsp
Salt and pepper – to season
For the sauce
Cream – 1 cup
Milk -1 1/2 cup
Salt and pepper – to season
Cheddar – 1/4th cup
Okay now I know that it seems like tons of ingredients, but come to think of it, the ingredients are very few, and they are repeated in each step. Well, pretty much. Now, seriously, if you want to put up an eye-popping and palette drooling main course up at home, some effort has to go into it right? So, here’s the recipe. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is.
Prep the potatoes and make the mushroom filling
- To prep the potatoes, peel them, cut off the tops and core the potatoes to form a sort of tunnel in the centre like shown in the picture.
- Next whisk together the ingredients for the log (other than the potatoes of course) and set aside. Make sure the salt is well mixed.
- Now, with a fork make vertical lines on the body of the potatoes, like so.
- Pour the wet ingredients for the log over the potatoes and massage well.
- Now for the mushrooms. In a pot of very hot water, soak the dried mushrooms for about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Drain the water and chop the mushrooms. Not into a mince, but into really small pieces.
- In a pan, add the butter. Once melted, add in the garlic and let it brown.
- Add the cumin powder, cream and parmesan cheese and cook on a very low flame until the mixture bubbles.
- Once the mixture bubbles, add the chopped mushrooms, and the seasoning, and cook for about 7 minutes on medium heat. You should get a thickened mixture.
- Add the chopped parsley, toss and stir for an additional 2 minutes. Done. Set aside to cool.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degree Celsius (if you need to know what pre-heating entails, check my last post http://notkidding.in/munchkin-pumpkin/).
- Once the mushroom mix has cooled, stuff the mix into the tunnelled and now butter and flavour soaked potatoes.
- Cover an oven tray with foil, and butter it with the leftovers from the butter mix from the stuffed potatoes.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Take the tray out, turn the potatoes and bake again for 15 more minutes.
- By the time the potatoes are done, they will look like golden jewel logs, stuffed with the most delicious and earthy filling.
- First up mix the seasoning in the butter and mix well.
- Toss the mushrooms in the butter and bake them at 200 degrees for 20 minutes.
- Next, blanch the spinach. Blanching means boiling water, salting it and then just put the spinach in it and let it be for about 2 minutes and then take it out and run it under cold water.
- In a pan add 1tbsp of oil, once heated, add the grated ginger, and once that browns, add blanched and chopped spinach, dill, lime juice, seasonings and saute. Set aside.
The Sauce (Finally)
- This is the final element and make sure you make it just before serving.
- Plate the entire dish as per your aesthetics, and the make the sauce.
- First, in a sauce pan add the milk and the cream. Let it get warm on a medium heat.
- Season it with a light hand (keeping in mind the cheddar you are about to add), and add the cheddar.
- Stir well to combine all ingredients on a low heat.
Putting it all together
- To plate it, first add the forest, place the baked mushrooms so that they are like a surprise element.
- Place the logs over the forest of spinach.
- Drizzle with the sauce. Done. Pheeewwwww!
- Season and taste at each step, there is nothing simpler you could go wrong with.
- Make the sauce the last and top it just before serving. Just takes about 5 minutes. People can be patient for a delicious plate of goodness.
- I know there are various elements and steps, but read it as a cohesive main course, and it is bloody simple.
- The plating is totally up to you. I prefer plating it this way, but use your skills and do it the way you want to. The bigger picture being, all these flavours work wonders together.
There you go. If you love this one, and let me tell you, this is my longest post so far, follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Make this delicious beauty (I know the recipe is long, but it is easy and how and I can’t but help reiterate it!). If you still think I am twisting your arm into creating a supposed masterpiece, tell me. And, I will be more than happy to take your suggestions in. So until next time, Delicious Cooking!