In my parent’s front garden there is an old tree, thick and gnarled with age. It serves as a kind of landmark for me, the first piece of home I see as I walk down the old red brick street. It’s also a bloody nuisance as it has become incontinent in its old age and leaks sticky sap over anything parked too close.
Of more interest to me, however, is the enormous mushroom that has sprouted from one of the crooks in the tree’s trunk. It’s a brown, flat thing, about the size of an average fish platter. Huddling under its cap are colonies of smaller white mushrooms, nuzzling the gills in King Mushroom’s underside. It was a fantastically unsettling sight the first time I dragged my shattered body and mind up the drive at 6.50am and it loomed from that lovely old tree.
I love mushrooms dearly and I find it hard to understand the widespread distaste for them. My brother’s amongst those who can’t stand mushrooms, and I can’t help but think he must never have had a good one – the rubbery, bitter things that hunch at the corner of a greasy spoon fried breakfast certainly don’t count.
I am a little ashamed to admit that it’s only recently I’ve branched out beyond the supermarket standard buttons, chestnuts and portobellos, but I’m delighted I did. It’s like the first time you try a real beer or a mindblowing wine – the old staples feel stale and dull in comparison.
One of the delights of this dish is that it can be anything you wish. I made this for Ali and I on our first full evening at our new place in Whitechapel. For me, therefore, it will always hold a little romance. It could equally be a quick hungover lunch or a comfortable supper on a clear cold evening. Up to you.
Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. As always, measurements are rough & the exact type of mushroom doesn’t matter too much – these are just my favourites. Oh, and if you can’t get down to a market, Sainsbury’s does a pretty decent exotic mushroom selection which will do the job for £2.
Mushroom Bruschetta with Leek, Artichoke Hearts & Truffle Oil
- One thick stick of good, crusty baguette, halved lengthways and widthways to form two long flat slices
- 60g enoki mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 60g oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 60g shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 60g shiroshimeji mushrooms, roughly chopped
- One leek, sliced into 2 inch strips
- Four cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- Half a white onion, sliced and halved
- 150g chargrilled artichoke hearts (the kind that come in oil), roughly chopped
- A big chunk of butter. I used about a third of a pack in the end.
- 15cl vegetable stock or mushroom stock
- 15cl white wine
- A little white truffle oil or good olive oil
- A little dukkah
- Salt & pepper
In a big, heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter over a medium heat until it begins to foam. Add the onion and stir until it becomes translucent and softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, until the onions are starting to take on a little colour.
Meanwhile, turn on the grill and season the flat side of your slices of bread with a pinch of dukkah, salt and pepper on each. Drizzle with the truffle oil or olive oil and set to one side to be grilled later.
Add the leek, mushrooms & artichoke hearts to the pan and cook for a few minutes, or until the leek has started to go a little limp. Add the wine and vegetable stock and turn up the heat until the liquid’s properly boiling. At this point, put the bread under the grill. Keep an eye on the mushroom pan and take off the heat once all of the liquid has evaporated – this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, at which point the bread should be perfectly toasted.
Spoon the contents of the pan over the bread and eat messily with your hands alongside a very cold bottle of dry white.