I keep reading articles exhorting me to move meat to the status of a relish and to make vegetables the star of my meals. That's not a bad solution for people who don't want to give up meat altogether but are cognisant of the arguments against its production and consumption. While it's unlikely I'll ever become a vegetarian (bacon!), let alone a vegan (cheese!), I do try to keep a healthy balance.
Sometimes the meat or fish element will be just a handful of bacon lardons or anchovies to add depth and flavour. Sometimes our meals are entirely vegetarian and we grow quite a lot of what we eat. I've never tried cultivating mushrooms although I do remember my sister keeping a fungus-impregnated log under the stairs many years ago. As I recall, she didn't get much of a crop.
We're fortunate though in having a number of mushroom farms in Suffolk. I met Patrick Hearne, boss of organic growers Capel Mushrooms, recently. He was telling me rather wistfully he remembered when mushrooms were a luxury item, but today they're cheap enough that most of us chuck them in our supermarket trolleys without a second thought.
I love mushrooms and this recipe makes a fast, tasty and economical weekday supper. It's equally good over rice, tagliatelle or just buttery mashed potatoes.
Mushroom Goulash (serves 2-3)
1 tbsp oil
3 large shallots (about 200g) peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
500g mushrooms, sliced (I like chestnut mushrooms)
1 heaped tspn paprika
1/2 tspn caraway seeds
50 ml vegetable stock
120 ml sour cream (or double cream soured with 1 tspn lemon juice)
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Melt the butter with the oil in a deep frying pan and cook the shallots gently until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
Put the mushrooms in the pan, increase the heat to medium and fry for five minutes, until they've given up some of their moisture. Stir through the paprika and caraway seeds and cook for a couple more minutes.
Pour in the stock and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, then add the sour cream. Allow the mixture to thicken if necessary and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice if it needs sharpening. Stir through the herbs, saving a few to garnish. A salad on the side and you're good to go.