Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No room for mush

Lesser morsels

Growing up in a Tam-bram household can do strange things to you. It can, for instance, make you believe that mushrooms are not very vegetarian, or they are what a closet carnivore would eat in a vegetarian household. Little wonder then, that we never went down that road for several years.

My mother still doesn’t eat them, and my father sniffs at them like he were a puppy.

But when I had my own kitchen, I set the rules and began experimenting with produce that was hitherto not in my domain. Like mushrooms, broccoli, avocado, and other so-called exotica

The beauty of the mushroom is that it can be a follower, yet retain its individuality at the same time. So while it happily blends with bean sprouts, peppers, pakchoy and other members of the stir-fry family, it can also call the shots on its own, just with a dash of thyme (see recipe)

Café Mondegar in Colaba made the most divine garlic mushrooms at one time. These were mushrooms, dipped in a garlicky batter and then fried, almost like pakodas—they were a divine way to start a Sunday brunch with a mug of beer (those were the days when working on Sunday was against my religion)

I don’t know how sanitized the Mondy’s menu has got now, but if you are around, do ask if they still make it. Might give me an impetus to revisit and bask in nostalgia.

I do notice that most households still have mushroom reservations. May be it has to do with the fact that you are never sure you have washed all the slime and mud off. Or that they perspire a lot, and don’t take very well to heat, and hence have to be cooked real fast and on high flame. But the fact is that they actually blend with almost anything. For instance, Sardar at Kala Chowki makes a divine Mushroom masala, which might be scoffed at by purists, but is a hit nevertheless.

Of course, they look really good dressed up with arugula or grilled to perfection with Provolone cheese, like they are at Grand Hyatt’s current Mushroom Magic festival at Celini. But for most of us who don’t normally have access to Porcini, Cape, Chanterelle, Oyster, Portobello and Morel, the regular ones available at the local market will do for now.

Sautéed mushrooms with thyme

This is one of my therapy meals, with a glass of red wine when I am not about to give a damn, but still want to eat something nice, something classier then khichdi

One packet mushrooms

Dried Thyme



Chop mushrooms into quarters.

Melt some butter in a pan and add a teaspoon of thyme to it.

Toss the mushrooms in the butter on high flame for two minutes. Serve.

Mushroom pulao

Improvise your regular pulao by throwing in a few mushrooms, or try this recipe:

One packet of mushrooms

One medium onion

4-5 pods garlic

2 green chillies, slit vertically


Basmati rice

Two or three cinnamon sticks

4-5 pepper corns


Fry the sliced onions in a tablespoonful of oil till golden brown. Add pepper corns, chillies, cinnamon, tomatoes and cook till the gravy comes together.

Toss the mushrooms in, and cook on high flame for two minutes. Add the chopped garlic.

Add one cup of basmati rice, previously soaked and drained into it. Toss the rice with the vegetable mix.

Add two cups water and cook well on slow flame, stirring occasionally, till all the water drains off.

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