- Food & Drink
I look for love in all the wrong places. In crisp packets and biscuit barrels, chocolate bars and sandwiches. It’s a strange sort of love. One that’s born out of unwholesome things. But I can’t help seeking it out, even though I know it’s no good for me.
Earlier this year I had to do some travelling for work. Not very serious travelling. Just the kind that meant early starts and late returns. I’d catch an empty bus in the dark, then ride a half-full train across grey fields and hollow towns. It was a brutal, pitiful commute that left me ragged and exposed. The yawns, newsprint and burnt coffee scratched at my edges and I knew I’d end up in the arms of my bad boyfriend before the first day was over.
In fact, I don’t think I lasted the first hour. It started with a cheese and ham croissant toasted in the culinary equivalent of a trouser press. A compacted crust of yellow grease and pink meat, I ate it hot from a paper bag on the platform. I liked the feel of the cold air on my fingers and the molten heat in my mouth.
A large cup of milky coffee on the train. A bag of biscuits in the morning meeting. A tray of sandwiches made with wet bread, sour mayo and gristly chicken. Crisps. Lots of crisps. KitKats and Twixes dunked in sunbaked brown tea. Pizza. Mushy pasta. Doughnuts and rounds of toast.
I ate till I hurt. Till I felt stretched. Till I was solid. The food gave me ballast. It made me heavy and, even though I was stripped and raw, it kept me together. I was thick with food and every mouthful felt like consolation.
I knew it was doing me no good. But I trudged through the week, filling my pockets with shiny, plastic wrappers, unable to stop. On the Saturday, when I woke up with the dawn, I knew it was time to be kind.
I made myself tea and breakfast. I took my time, enjoying the sensations of cooking. The green smell of parsley and the damp soil sweat of mushrooms baking. It felt good to cook. To move slowly and thoughtfully. All week I’d lived with the illusion that I was treating myself. In that warm kitchen, cooking mushrooms and eggs, I finally was.
Baked Mushrooms, Poached Egg & Gremolata
3 medium flat mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
A small handful of flat leaf parsley
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
A pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
1 medium egg
Preheat your oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4. Slice the stalks out of the mushrooms and dice them. Peel and finely chop 1 garlic clove. Mix the mushroom stalks and garlic together. Rub a little olive oil into each mushroom and pop them in an ovenproof dish. Spoon the garlic mix into each mushroom. Season and bake for 15-20 minutes till the mushrooms are tender.
While the mushrooms cook, make the gremolata. Finely chop the remaining garlic clove, the parsley leaves and stalks and mix them both with the lemon zest and a pinch of chilli flakes if you’re using them. Set aside.
Put a pan of water on to boil. When a few bubbles appear in the pan, crack an egg into a cup and slide it into the pan. Very gently cook for 2-4 minutes till the white is set but the yolk is still runny (or carry on till the yolk is set, if you prefer).
Arrange the mushrooms on a warm plate. Lift the poached egg out of the pan and sit on the mushrooms. Spoon over the gremolata to serve.