Monday, August 16, 2010

We had Sarah visiting, who doesn't eat meat, and although she intermittently eats salmon we'd pretty much rung all the interesting salmon-related changes we could think of, so I decided, perhaps foolishly, to cook a Gordon Ramsay recipe for mushroom torte. This involved part-baking large, whole flat mushrooms (just ten minutes in the oven) and then letting them cool while you prepare a mushroom duxelle. This turned out to be mushrooms whizzed in a blender into millions of tiny pieces and then sautéed with butter, oil, tarragon and you're supposed to add a dash of sherry or madeira, but having neither I used white wine; this is then cooked until the moisture has evaporated, leaving you with very aromatic tiny fried mushroom, into which you mix an egg yolk and some breadcrumbs. The next thing you do is make crepes. Then, you take a big mushroom, spread it with the duxelle, put another mushroom on top, spread that also with the duxelle, put another mushroom on top of that, then wrap the triple-decker mushroom sandwich in crepe, so it looks like this:

then you encase the whole crepe-wrapped mushroom sandwich in puff pastry and bake it in the oven.

Why the crepe? you ask. I thought about this and came to the conclusion that the crepe is there to absorb juices that leak out of the enormous tier of mushrooms, juices which would otherwise make your puff pastry casing soggy. It's the same principle that makes people who make beef wellington insulate the beef from the pastry with a layer of cooked mushroom. So in they went to the oven and came out looking like this:

Cutting into them revealed that they were very mushroomy indeed, as you can see.

All in all, though, they were a bit disappointing. Perhaps you need to be a better hand with puff pastry than I am, but I thought they were a bit heavy and stodgy and uninteresting, and lacked the fabulous juicy meatiness of Nigella Lawson's celebrated mushroom sandwich (a baked portobello mushroom served in a bun spread with mustard, the greatest veggie burger I know). They needed something else in there, and I kind of knew it when I was putting them together, something that would ooze out and bring the whole thing to life, like cheese perhaps. In the meantime, only I succeeded in finishing mine although Sarah and Ioanna were kind about theirs. The salad was a lot better, just a bag of salad from Sainsbury's with some Scotmid romaine lettuce leaves and sliced fennel bunged in to liven it up.

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