In this era of Covid and cancelled plans a little absence is hardly a surprise but nonetheless I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted! I have spent most of September knocked on my ear with a bad cold — not Covid, at least according to the four rat tests I did — but not at all pleasant. Aside from sneezing with metronome regularity, the most noticeable feature of this cold was that it rendered me both ravenously hungry and completely stupid. A unique and infuriating challenge: desperate for lavish meals, a backlog of writing work calling me, and barely able to concentrate on even the most lowest-common-denominator television. Somewhere around day nine, after a brief and congested visit home to see my parents (and to deplete their resources of tissue and eucalyptus oil); I made this sandwich. It pleased me greatly, I thought it was delicious, but I was still insensible with cold; fortunately for you it draws inspiration from two separate reputable sources so the odds are in your favour that it actually is quite good.
It’s not very attractive, let’s get that out of the way first: pale bread, pale creamy onions, pale mushrooms, and of course I forgot to buy parsley for garnish, though I’m not sure just how much pale expanse it could’ve masked, all things considered. And yes, we eat with our eyes first, but we also literally eat with our mouths, so that’s the sector we should be most concerned with appeasing. I read about a sandwich filled with clove-scented fried onions in Niki Segnit’s rollickingly entertaining book The Flavour Thesaurus, and its simplicity and warmth appealed; to further bulk out the sandwich I remembered the marinated mushrooms from Nigella’s pasta recipe that I blogged about a few weeks back — yes, this is outfit repeating, but the cold really did make me dopey as hell and this was all I could think of. (To be clear, repeating recipes is obviously fantastic in real life, just not so practical in a food blogging content way.) The sensation of soft onions fresh from the pan against the cool, vinegar-tanged mushrooms is a contrast sensation that jolts you back to life in the same way that ejecting and blowing on a piece of uncooperative technology sometimes does the trick.
The cloves offer comforting yet bracingly strident warmth and sophistication — I could only find whole cloves, which made for a more subtle flavour profile, next time I absolutely want the unequivocal hit of ground. Their presence contributed to the name of this recipe (you’re telling me a clove fried this onion? et cetera) but there’s plenty else going on: punchy, autumnal rosemary, the meekly savoury onions, the sophisticated rasp of red wine vinegar. There’s nothing stopping you adding more elements to this sandwich; fewer would be fine too — I’d happily eat a bun filled to dripping with the onions alone. And who knows, the cloves, looking like tiny rusty nails dropped into the frying pan, may have helped hasten the cold’s departure with all their purported antioxidants and other vague health-giving properties.
Clove-fried Onion and Marinated Mushroom Sandwich
Ugly but delicious, and surprisingly luxurious for its humble ingredients. Recipe inspired by an entry in The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit.
- 4 button mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons extra for frying
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 sprig rosemary
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 large onion
- 3 whole cloves, or a scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons dairy-free cream of your choice (optional)
- 1 fresh baguette
1: First get the mushrooms soaking up their marinade. Slice the button mushrooms (not too thinly, but not too thick either) and toss in a bowl with two tablespoons of the olive oil, the tablespoon of red wine vinegar, the teaspoon of maple syrup, the leaves from the sprig of rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside while you get on with the onion.
2: Finely slice the onion and gently fry in the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil with a sprinkling of salt and the cloves. If you’re using ground cloves just stir them in, and if you’ve got whole ones, squash them a bit under a wooden spoon or bash them with a heavy knife to help release more of their fragrance, and make sure to push down on them as you stir the onions. Now, it’s up to you whether you want these onions brown and crisp or soft and caramelised, the only difference is heat and time. I wanted them tender and golden, so I kept the heat low and stirred them for about ten to fifteen minutes. Once you’ve got them where you want them, stir in the cream (if using) and remove from the heat.
3: Split your baguette in half, and spread a thick layer of the creamy fried onions over one side. Top with a layer of marinated mushrooms, clamp on the other half of the baguette, and eat, messily.
Makes one substantial sandwich.
Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus. Toasty, hypnotic, otherworldly, makes me feel like I’m floating away but also like I’m extremely in the present moment.
This Bitter Earth/On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter and Dinah Washington. These two songs are exquisite on their own, but mashed together? I honestly had a little Stendhal Syndrome moment when I first heard it as a bonus track on Richter’s gorgeous album The Blue Notebooks; it was recommended to me and now I’m recommending it to you.
The Whole World by OutKast ft Killer Mike, an unbelievably satisfying track, from Andre 3000’s Cole Porter-esque prelude to Killer Mike’s whip-snappishly dynamic verse and Big Boi’s words skittering around the beat like marbles in a Tupperware container.
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