When Sundays taste like a piece of the good life
We talk often (in fact, it sometimes seems that food writers talk of little else) about the joys of seasonal eating. Personally, I can admit I’d never really lived seasonally until my time in India and after 10 years I’m still more in tune with what’s being eaten in India at any given time of the year than anywhere else. I had a moment over Diwali, for instance, of thinking about the daulat ki chaat wallahs arriving in Old Delhi to set up shop, hawking their lovely wares throughout the cooler months before disappearing in a cloud of milk froth back to their village as things start to heat up around Holi. From that reverie, I moved on to shakarkandi, the winter street snack I can never get enough of, gajar ka halwa and the dazzling array of winter greens that are starting to arrive on the neighbourhood vegetable cart.
In Scotland, we definitely talk about seasonality more than we actually practise it. After all, if we were to eat totally seasonally, our winter months would be pretty bleak, an abundance of oats and turnips and not much else—on a good day, there might be a handful of foraged nettles to go with it. Now, most people in Scotland mostly eat food that has flown many miles to be on our dinner tables. We might enjoy our local strawberries and raspberries in summer, and look forward to turkey, parsnips and Brussels sprouts at Christmas, but generally we like to be able to buy things like citrus fruits and asparagus all year round, even though oranges are at their best in winter and asparagus with any flavour has a very, very brief moment in spring.
Even if I don’t eat strictly according to the seasons in the way my parents and grandparents did, I definitely still eat certain things at particular times. My days are always shaped and punctuated by food, not just breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m also a big believer in mini-meals, little snacks that have their own perfect time. Elevenses, for instance, is a very underrated opportunity to eat, a way of rewarding ourselves for a couple of hours’ work with that carrot halwa or small piece of cake.
I also associate days of the week with certain types of meal, frugal healthy meals on Monday after the weekend; comforting dishes on Tuesday and Wednesday to help me through the working week; a blowout with wine on Friday to get the weekend started, and so on. Today’s recipe is for an evening meal (and I use this term loosely) that, for me, should only be eaten on Sunday evening.
A perfect Sunday like the one we enjoyed last weekend, when a bright but chilly autumn day tempted us out for a walk in the woods, where the last of the late autumn leaves on the birch trees were shining translucent yellow and orange against a deep blue sky. Later, pink-cheeked and ravenous from our exertions, we enjoyed a traditional Sunday roast chicken. The British roast lunch is a meal that allows you to eat your own body weight in crispy potatoes and leaves you feeling like you couldn’t eat for a month—but somehow, miraculously, by mid-evening there are always the stirrings of an appetite, not for a full-on meal, but definitely something.
What follows is that something to round off a perfect weekend. It’s hardly even a recipe, more a (strong) recommendation for what to eat this Sunday evening while reading the papers and reflecting on how good life can be.
Mushrooms on Toast
■A cube of butter
■1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
■300g mushrooms (field mushrooms rather than the fancy morels, oyster or chanterelle varieties—you want the old-fashioned meaty types), wiped clean and sliced
■2 thick slices of good-quality, hearty bread (i.e. not sliced white from the corner shop)
■ A handful of parsley, chopped
Melt the butter in a pan large enough to hold the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms along with a pinch of salt and give them a good stir. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute or so, until the mushrooms are soft and their juices running. Meanwhile, toast and butter the bread. Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper, then pile the mushrooms on the toast.
The Way We Eat Now is a column on new ways of cooking seasonal fruits, vegetables and grains.
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