and you’ve just had some kind of mushroom, and your mind is moving low

My last blog post was kind of a downbuzz (an honest one, but like, never the damn less) so I’ve decided to come to you this time with some things that have made me proud of myself. Admittedly I’ve got one small initial burst of negativity: I’m SO annoyed that it’s taken me until now (it’s like what, the fortieth day of August or something?) to write a new blog post, but as with all things in my life, not achieving does not equal not trying. Which makes it all the more frustrating, naturally. But now that this brief flail is over, let’s move on to the positive things! All of which involve the cunning instincts of my tastebuds, in one way or another, so it’s all neatly related. 

First thing! Kicking off with some jaunty exclamation marks! If I go any harder with this punctuation it’ll be like I’m trying to convince myself of something!!! So, I was invited to attend a masterclass with Joy Spence, Master Blender of Appleton Estate in Jamaica. This was a sprightly and fascinating dissemination of information coupled with some truly superb rums, plus the singular delight of face time with the first woman in the world to occupy this role, who has been running things in her field for 20 years now. There were like, at least 30 of us there and we were given some unmarked bottles to make our own rum blend, to be judged by her sincerely distinguished palate, and I bloody won, didn’t I! Not only did I get a bottle of Appleton Estate 21 Year (which a surreptitious google search reveals to be hilariously expensive) I got it signed by her and I was all like, look I run a rum bar and I’m the first woman to manage it and this means so much to me as a bartender and as a woman, and she was extremely gracious and nice about it and it was just such a cool experience, you guys. 

I know lots of people say this but I’m really an extreme mix of confident and knee-shakingly uncertain of myself, which is why it was so lovely to have the blend that I instinctively put together be deemed as Good by someone so discerning. It would’ve been an amazing experience either way, but stuff like this just doesn’t happen to me all that often, you know? 

The next thing! Visa Wellington on a Plate has begun, and if you hear an ominous rumbling in the distance it’s the noise of every single restaurant and bar in town clamouring for the attention of the public in an extremely crowded environment (myself included.) This year stands out for me though because I submitted a cocktail to the programme on behalf of Motel (said rum bar that I run) and it got accepted and now it’s like…out there. People have come to my work to order a drink that I invented because they saw it published in the programme and it’s, I don’t know, it’s just such a big deal for me, in terms of backing myself and my cocktail-mixing abilities and instincts for flavour and so on. I never thought I’d get to this point! I literally kept the receipt from the first sale of the cocktail that I did because I’m so proud of myself. 

The cocktail, by the way, is called The Emotional Baggage Daiquiri and it has halloumi infused golden rum and Gunpowder rum and blackberry and flamed rosemary and it’s a whole lot but also extremely amazing, I’m pretty sure of that. And if you don’t understand the name of it then you’ve clearly never lived in Wellington. 

Finally, the recipe I’ve got for you today also has me kind of proud. You may have picked up from my last few blog posts that I’ve been overtired and underinspired. Well, the other night I was all overachieving in the field of insomnia, and as 6am approached and I was still awake and on the point of utter madness, all of a sudden I started thinking up recipe ideas. Really, really good ones. I think this is what is sometimes referred to as ADHD superpowers – basically it means that you suck at literally everything but every now and then you’ll be really intensely creative for about half an hour. What a trade off! Anyway I wrote down all the recipe ideas, including these mushrooms, stuffed with pine nuts and coriander seeds. I made them for myself and was thus not only replete with vegetable nutrients, I’d also given myself some content for this godforsaken blog, and done something nice for myself, by feeding myself.

My early morning insomnia-fuelled inspiration did not let me down, by the way – these mushrooms are SO delicious. Rich and juicy, with their flat rumps dusted in cornflour and roasted in hot olive oil till sticky and crispy, with the soft crunch of pine nuts and the lemony-earthy coriander seeds. Balsamic vinegar gives a mellow sweetness which balances the intense savoury umami (ooh, mami) of the mushrooms and the tahini, as well as providing the glue to stick all the stuffing to, adds to the richness of it all. Honestly, this is such a good dish and three mushrooms alone made for a satisfying lunch, but these would be great with a salad as a starter or multiplied to accompany some kind of roasted something. 

field mushrooms stuffed with tahini, garlic, pine nuts and coriander seeds

a recipe by myself

  • three large flat mushrooms
  • two tablespoons of tahini
  • two tablespoons of pine nuts
  • one tablespoon of coriander seeds
  • two garlic cloves
  • two tablespoons of cornflour
  • a pinch of ground cumin
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt

Set your oven to 220C/450F, pour a decent amount of olive oil into a small roasting tray – enough so that the base is completely slicked with about a millimetre of oil.  Place it in the oven to heat up while you deal with the mushrooms. 

Brush any dirt off the mushrooms and gently pull the stems out. Roughly chop said stems with the garlic cloves till they’re all uniformly small and like, chopped up. 

Mix the cornflour and cumin together and dunk the base of the mushrooms in it so they’re generously dusted in it. I just put the cornflour directly onto the paper bag that the mushrooms came in so I could bundle it up and bin it once I was done. 

Mix the tahini with two tablespoons of water to make a paste, then spread this thickly over the top of the mushrooms (as in, the spore-y cavity, the underside of the top, the bit where you’d expect to stuff a mushroom, idk, just look at the pictures) and divide the mushroom stem-garlic mixture between the three of them. Sprinkle over the coriander seeds and pine nuts and press everything into the tahini so it kind of glues it into place. 

Take the tray of hot oil out of the oven and place the mushrooms in it. Roast them for about 20 minutes or until the pine nuts are golden brown. Use a spatula or something to gently lever the mushrooms from the tray onto a plate, and carefully drain some of the olive oil into a small bowl. Mix the oil with the balsamic vinegar and sea salt and spoon it over the mushrooms. Garnish with fresh herbs if ya like. 

Every time I eat roasted mushrooms I’m all like, yes, this tastes of tramping in the woods and running my hands through damp soil and licking mighty oak trees and making a splendid cape out of autumn leaves and leading an army of truculent stags through the forest while butt naked, but really, don’t they taste mysteriously good? And how good are coriander seeds, little crunchy bursts of herbal intensity? And how damn expensive are pine nuts? Why is no one talking about this? 

So these are all things that I’m proud of myself for. I’m trying this thing where I try to not frame my life in such a negative way – self-deprecation included – so it’s a little new for me to be so openly supportive of myself, in fact it’s at the point where I’m like, literally proud of myself for being proud of myself at all. LIFE, huh. 

song title from: Jefferson Airplane, White Rabbit. Don’t eat the brown acid.

music lately: 

Willow Smith, IDKI believe the Smith kids are our future. 

Sneaky Feelings, Throwing StonesThe early eighties was a damn goldmine for New Zealand music, I swear. 

CC Dust, New Ways. File under “songs that make me emotional” (all songs ever are filed under that category, lol) 

next time: hopefully going to make more of my insomnia-recipes into delicious reality. 

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