Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RAVES!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 30/11/20

On The 'Shrooms

I've entertained you before (or perhaps horrified you; there's no accounting for taste) with my culinary adventures, dating way back to my lobscouse recipe, via my bacon butty recommendation and my cholesterol bomb (title Philip Challinor), and on to my advice on how to make quinoa remotely interesting.

We now come to the subject of mushrooms.

I have to say that I have had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with edible fungi down the years. I don't recall having them all that often as a child, despite punnets of them appearing constantly in the back of Terry from the Fron's large ex-British Road Services Parcels van when he used to come around the village every Thursday evening with fruit and veg.

(And it is at this point that I am - very annoyingly to My Reader™ - going to indulge in a rather large digression, as it is somewhat relevant and may be considered a companion piece to this brief history of our village's shops and wotnot).

You see, it wasn't just the static shops which provided us with our basic needs. There were local tradesmen who would come around regularly in their vans dispensing vittles and other essentials: there was Darlington the butcher from Summerhill (a village which, despite being less than two miles away, might as well have been Ouagadougou to a child in a car-less household), who would come around on Saturday mornings (and also on Tuesdays, I seem to remember) selling his wares from the back of a well-appointed (and clean, before any hygiene obsessive thinks of taking retrospective Action against the man) Bedford CA van; there was Idris from Bottom Road (as we used to call the road I live on now, rather than its official name of Penygraig Road) who used to come around once or twice a week with fresh veg; and there was Idwal Richards, who would come around six evenings a week (never on Sundays; this was Wales in the sixties and seventies) in one of a series of clapped-out BMC vans dispensing crisps, chocolate, pop and cigarettes to those in need. Idwal's approach could be ascertained by him sounding the van's horn as he came up the road (the horn and the clutch were, consequently, the first things to go on any vehicle he had). Something went out of the village's soul when ill-health finally prevented him from being our very own 'Grocer Jack' in the mid-70s.

We had ice-cream vans as well, of course (and we still do, and I'll give the bugger Swedish Rhapsody one of these days); the Midland Counties one we saw only occasionally, which was a pity because their ice-cream really was creamy, and had little ice crystals in it. The big, box-like Wall's van - with its five-note chime - was a daily visitor during the season however, manned by a very pleasant bespectacled bloke in the requisite hygienic coat. How much money I spent with him over the six or seven years he worked our estate I wouldn't like to speculate, but it was worth every penny I promise you.

And, as I said, there was Terry, which brings me back to the matter in hand.

My most frequent encounters with mushrooms as a kidlet was probably as one of the range of Heinz's Toast Toppers. These (at least at that time) were tiny cans which provided you with just about enough to cover one round of toast. Very handy for a small supper before bedtime. Until, that is, the evening when it came back all guns blazing at the nine-year-old me within a few minutes of scoffing it down, which unfortunate experience put me off Toast Toppers, mushrooms and even toast for quite some time.

(Which reminds me; do you know that there's a vegetarian version of Russian Roulette? You're blindfolded, and someone puts a plate of six mushrooms in front of you...except that one of them's a toadstool).

After the incipient nausea of even thinking about cooked mushrooms had worn off - a process which took a number of years (I had had a similar childhood trauma vis--vis ravioli, which I still haven't quite exorcised) - it wasn't until recent years that I started giving serious thought to them, apart from their being included in various chicken pies I had consumed.

I suspect that, in the end, it was the necessity of putting a bit more variety into my meals which finally forced me to confront the matter head-on and buy some, and they played an occasional part in my diet from that point on.

The trouble was that frying them was OK, but the cooking oil - be is rapeseed or even sunflower - left a horrible dry aftertaste which hung around for most of the evening. So it was time to consider another approach.

I was lying in bed late one night a few weeks ago when I started to wonder how one would do creamed mushrooms. Nothing for it but to grab my phone and start browsing for recipes. Perhaps I had been misdirected by the Toast Toppers, but what I found didn't seem to me to be creamed mushrooms as I understood the term; I suspect that Campbell's (condensed) cream of mushroom soup would have to be involved for that.

I did find an interesting recipe, however, and I present my own adaptation of it for your delight below. As ever, no responsibility can be accepted for the consequences of your own use of it.




And this is how they look:

Photo of a plate of fried mushrooms

And this was my tea today, with haggis (check the date) and potatoes:

Photo of a plate of fried mushrooms with haggis and mashed potatoes

(A hav'nae onny neeps in the hoose, an' the tatties are Smash, but ye cannae ha' everythin')

Bon appetit!