Have you ever heard that quote “life’s too short to stuff a mushroom”? I’ve heard it a few times in the context of life being too quick to do something fiddly and unnecessary. I rather think this unfair to the poor stuffed mushroom, which is a rather splendid thing. It’s the ideal quick-but-nice dinner for a weeknight vegetarian, and served up with a salad or a bit of veg, becomes a really nice treat which has a fantastic effort-to-output quotient, being about as tricky as doing a quick pasta sauce.
Further puzzlement abounds once you learn that the originator of the quote was Lady Shirley Conran. The name will be familiar, but things will swim into focus once you learn that she’s the author of Lace (if you’re a 30-something with a mother you almost certainly saw this tome on her shelf at a given point, snuggled between the Jilly Coopers* and potentially – and if you’re me – Edwina Currie’s rather upsetting series of Government-set shagfests starting with A Parliamentary Affair).
She’s the wife of Sir Terence Conran – designer, restauranteur and retailer, and mother of Jasper (designer). She’s basically SUPERRICH (yachts, houses in Monaco etc) and so when she rather famously wrote these words, it rather begs the question – why haven’t you got the time, you layabout artiste? I get a bit cross when I read these sorts of things, because you start to think that what she’s talking about is the kind of upper-class sneering at middle class bourgeoise tastes like stuffed mushrooms and stuffed avocados and cheese and pineapple on sticks.
As a child raised on the glory of a Party Hedgehog (for preference, using a foil-covered half-grapefruit rather than a potato) and with a mother possessing a full set of avocado dishes, I take this sort of shit personally. It’s that patronising layer of spite implicit in the comment which assumes that I think it’s impressive to make this sort of food and that I’m such a dreary, sad little cliched snapshot of middle England. It isn’t, it’s just delicious, which is why I like to eat this stuff from time to time. Lay off our stuffed mushrooms, you nasty bint, and let us eat our prawn cocktails in peace. You can eat your Sardinian bottarga and amalfi lemons on bronze-die cut pasta and pay 35 quid for an entree at the River Cafe and I won’t say a damn thing about how cliched you are.*
Stuffed mushrooms are in fact not only DELICIOUS but stupidly easy. You can stuff them in the morning and bake in the evening and they take about 30 min in total. 45min if you include the washing up.
Stuffed Mushrooms and Proud of It
Serves 4 middle class wankers who don’t care what you think, Shirley
6-8 med-large mushrooms – portobello for preference but any large mushroom with a nice roomy cap will do – brushed clean with excess tatters removed, and gills trimmed. Reserve the stalks, and mince these finely
1 small onion, mined fine
1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 pack cream cheese (I used one flavoured with herbs because I’m EXTRA)
4 tbsp Parsley
1 finely sliced garlic clove
50g gram grated cheese – Gouda, cheddar or even Parmesan (yes Shirley, I know what it is)
- First, make sure your mushrooms are ready to go and laid out on their oven tray. Pop a little pepper in each (as you’re putting in salty cheese I shouldn’t worry about this at the moment).
- Heat up the oil and butter over a medium heat and fry the onion until golden and tawny. It should smell great. Add the mushroom stalk scraps and fry until soft
- Add the garlic and 3/4 of the breadcrumbs and turn over in the pan a few times to cook the garlic and toast the crumbs. Tip into a bowl and leave to cool for a few minutes.
- Add the cream cheese and parsley and mix into a sort of stiff paste. Season with plenty of pepper and a little salt.
- Spoon a few tbsp into each cap, distributing the stuffing evenly between mushrooms, and pat down, then top with the remaining breadcrumbs and cheese.
- At this stage you can refrigerate these for a little while until you’re ready to cook if you like. If you’re ready, turn the oven to 160C and bake on a non-stick tray lined with a little baking paper for around 15-20 min until golden brown on top, and utterly tempting. When cut into the mushroom will leak a little dark juice and be surprisingly meaty.
- Serve with a mixed green salad and some crusty bread, or with some green beans lightly dressed in oil and vinegar.
*A note for non-English readers. Jilly Cooper is the undisputed queen of thick novels starring posh English people who ride lots of horses (NO NOT LIKE THAT UGH WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU) having the sort of sex with each other where various anatomical features variously swell, throb, tumesce, thrill, and heave. They were read-under-the-covers-with-a-torch-so-your-mum-wont-find-out specials in my girlhood and were, quite honestly, the best sex ed I received as an adolescent.
**hmm, except I just did. Oh well, je ne regrette rien.