I’ve been a bit quiet this week. It’s not that there aren’t things I want to cook in ‘Week In, Week Out’, which is actually very appealing: a glossy and vividly photographed coffee-table sized book containing a selection of Simon Hopkinson’s food writing from The Independent in the form of ’52 seasonal stories’, but none of the things that have actually made it onto my table have been very exciting. It’s disappointing, really, because I was all up for jointing my first rabbit. According to Hopkinson, “Any self-respecting French housewife would not be seen dead asking that her rabbit be jointed by the stall holder or butcher; she just knows how to do it as a matter of course.” Of course. And slow-braised rabbit shoulders with white beans and parsley sounded so perfect for the blustery weather. Or what about braised rabbit legs in red wine with smoked bacon, chilli and orange? Sounds delicious, don’t you think? Sadly, the local butcher was not co-operative. So it is I come to you with a recipe for mushrooms on toast.
These are very nice mushrooms on toast though – not that a recipe is really needed, but I started with the one from Lindsey Bareham’s ‘A Wolf in the Kitchen’, and you can tell from the fact that Lindsey Bareham collaborated with Hopkinson on ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’ that their cooking styles are quite similar. ‘Wolf…’ was one of the first cookbooks I ever owned as a student and I still rate it very highly for straightforward but unpatronising advice and a good range of decent recipes. It has mushrooms sauteed with garlic, bacon and spring onions and then tipped over toast spread with cream cheese. Mushrooms Armeniennes, apparently, comes from an Elizabeth David recipe and keeps the garlic and bacon, but with an additional stewing in red wine, which makes your kitchen smell as if you were making boeuf bourgignon, but in considerably less time than it would take to make it. If you should be looking for an excuse to open a bottle of red wine at lunchtime, this is it. If, like me, you’re not much of a lunchtime drinker, you can take the rest of the bottle round to a friend’s house in the evening (maybe with some cheese straws and financiers you made, which went down very well but are not from this book so I shan’t write about those).
Mushrooms Armeniennes Serves 4 for lunch
This is taken from a section on mushroom recipes specifically designed for the commonly available tame mushroom, as opposed to the more exotic wild mushrooms that are so popular – not always justifiably, Hopkinson feels - on restaurant menus. So don’t feel you need to use any particularly special mushrooms for this.
2 tbsp olive oil
4 rashers of bacon, chopped (the recipe says to remove the rind and add it back in later, but mine didn’t really have a rind)
about 700g button mushrooms
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper
300ml red wine
3 tbsp chopped parsley
4 thick slices of bread
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp. Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper, and reserved bacon rind, if using. Stir until all is coated with the fat and leave to stew, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil and cook rapidly for 10 more minutes. The recipe then directs you to tip the contents of the pan into a colander over a clean pan and let it drip for a few minutes, before reducing the liquid in the new pan separately. I was hungry so I just reduced the liquid in the pan with the mushrooms. Either way, you should be left with a small amount of syrupy, dark liquid. Toast your bread, and pour over the mushrooms and juice, checking for seasoning. Scatter with the parsley before serving.
Adapted from Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Week In, Week Out’.