Monday, June 22, 2009

Mushrooms & mozzarella: LLG's guide to putting on weight rapidly

I am currently on a reducing regimen. Over the two weeks I spent at my mother's house in the country I was face down in the trough for at least 50% of the time, and put on 6lbs/3kg. In two bloody weeks!

The sheer, unadulterated bliss of having all the ingredients on hand to cook whatever I felt like, in my mother's wonderful, fully equipped kitchen with her as an enthusiastic participant to boot all added up to avoirdupois overload.

So, it's with this in mind, that I share one of my all-time favourite recipes, which I cooked, er, three times whilst I was there. Dreamed up by myself one day in London when all I had in the fridge were mushrooms and a ball of mozzarella di bufala (random, I know), it's deliciously addictive and takes maybe ten minutes from prep to mouth. Sure, you can practically feel the fat cells multiplying on your thighs, but, sod it, we all need comfort food now & again.

It can be eaten with any starch. Basmati is good, mashed potato is other-worldly but turns it into a bit of a performance so I don't bother unless I have leftovers (or shhh M&S cook-chill), and I'm mainly using quinoa right now as it cooks so quickly. If using rice, put it on to cook before you start the main dish.

To start the journey to food heaven/hell (you decide), you need a couple of handfuls of as fresh as possible white mushrooms. (Look for mushrooms with gills as pink as possible, rather than dark brown: you want that lovely just yielding texture they get when cooked, as opposed to the sloppiness of week old ones.)

Then a ball of fresh mozzarella. It doesn't have to be buffalo:

buffalo mozzarella, mozzarella di bufalaBut it does taste magnificent. But, please, whatever you do, do not use a brick of mozzarella or grated mozzarella as it doesn't melt in the right way for this dish. Or, heaven forfend, 'domestic' or Danish mozzarella. That stuff is just plain wrong.

Add a tablespoon of butter to the frying pan. Once melted, add some chopped garlic, and tip your mushrooms and a generous scattering of Maldon Salt (or kosher salt). Turn the heat down a little to let them cook.

The point here is to get them to release all those lovely mushroom-y juices, so you need to avoid reducing the liquid comes off them. You can always cheat and pop a lid over the frying pan for a few minutes (but not for too long, as steamed mushrooms always taste a bit weird).

Then tear (do not chop) your ball of mozzarella into the frying pan. This was a very large ball (am pig), you could easily use half this amount for the mushrooms shown. Turn the heat to very, very low.

And put the lid on your frying pan for about 3-4 minutes, until the pan looks like this. DO NOT STIR. This breaks up the mozzarella and you end up with a pan of string. Whilst the cheese is melting, pour boiling water over some quinoa in a saucepan and place a lid over it so it cooks quickly.

Drain the quinoa and add to pretty soup bowl, check seasoning of mushrooms & cheese, add black pepper (you want freshly ground here for the texture and the same goes with the sea salt), spoon delectable mixture & cooking liquor over quinoa. Shovel into mouth.
How many does this feed? Well, one of the reasons I got so porky was that I ate all the above on my own. But less greedy piglets could probably make the amount of mushrooms shown above stretch between two if you made a simple lettuce salad to go with it.