I often get asked this question online about pairing food. How do I know what goes with what?
Well, the answer is as simple as the ingredients, actually. Savoury things need something to cut the salt and hence a neutral vegetable or fruit goes best. A fine example can be a roast chicken breast goes wonderfully with a raspberry sauce (or jelly for the matter). Similarly, sweet treats demand a bit of saltiness and acidity. A salted shortbread topping and a mild ginger cream would be ideal to balance a cinnamon-poached pear.
With the simpler things I like to cook, mushrooms are probably my favourite. Packed full of essential minerals and healthy carbs, these veggies are best when cooked for a very brief period.
The earthiness and almost-barbecue flavours of the mushrooms are well complemented by the slight bitterness of the spinach. Grab a pan and let’s get cooking.
Ingredients to serve one person:
- 200 grams button mushrooms. Half the small and medium ones, quarter the large ones
- A handful of baby spinach leaves with their stems on
- Butter – one tablespoon (You can substitute with any cooking oil. Try coconut oil!)
- Three cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- A small onion, roughly chopped
- Dried thyme – a pinch
- Salt and pepper as required
- Two tablespoons of heavy cream (optional, light cream works fine)
- Chopped coriander leaves to garnish – 1 tablespoon
Prep time: 5 minutes | Cooking time: 10 minutes
Chop the mushrooms, onion and garlic as instructed. Heat a small pan or skillet over high heat and add the butter.
Lower the heat and let the butter brown slightly. This will give it a rich, nutty taste (thank you, Heston Blumenthal!). Careful to not take the butter too far or it’ll burn.
Now, add the chopped garlic and onion. Fry them on high heat for 2 minutes till they have turned slightly brown. Drop the mushrooms in. Stir well for a minute and then lower the heat.
The reason we are alternating between raising and lowering the heat is that we want the mushrooms to be a little hard on the outside and soft on the inside. You want to feel them as you bite. Many a time, people overcook mushrooms and you are left with a mushy, soggy, almost a chewing gum texture.
Spread the baby spinach leaves over the mushrooms evenly. Lower the heat and cover the pan to cook for another 2 minutes. The spinach with wither away and release some water. That will help steam the entire pan.
Remove the pan and add the salt, pepper and thyme. It is important to season after the mushrooms and spinach have shrunken because now you know how much to add. If added at the beginning, you will over-salt the dish and that’s never a good feeling.
Pop the lid back on for another minute and the excess water would have gone. Take it off the heat and add the cream if you want. Remember to keep stirring as you add else the cream could split if the pan is too hot.
Garnish with some chopped coriander and serve warm over a piece of toast and side of fried eggs. Yum!
This one of my favourite breakfasts ever. Something about this dish reminds me so much about the Darjeeling hills and the warm, home-made breakfasts I had there.
I really hope you give it a try – it’s a really simple dish! Happy cooking.