Deborah McKinlay’s new novel That Part Was True is the story of two people who have never met, but fall for each other through letters and a mutual love of food. Here, Deborah tells us about the recipe that means the most to her.
When my mother was young, her father told her that children did not like mushrooms. Having proved him wrong she never tried that trick on me. I have always loved them. For a while we lived opposite a school and I can remember looking out our windows, scanning the playing field for white helmets, before heading over there with a paper bag. My own son is not a huge fan, but enjoys the picking. We have had some wonderful September holidays in Somerset when our daily walks yielded enough for me to have more than one meal of them – something I am only otherwise tempted to by scallops.
Sometimes, though, the field is far away and the flavour of the supermarket shelf version is diminished by the lack of expedition. At some point, faced with a plastic punnet, I came up with the following recipe in the hope of adding some outdoor oomph. It is, like my writing – and, now I think of it, much of my life – more of a concoction than a strict formula, based on making the best of what was at hand. Add your own walk.
40-50 grams butter
About a teaspoon of olive oil (to stop the butter from burning)
Half a small onion, or a couple of shallots (chopped)
1-2 cloves of garlic
Punnet of mushrooms (button, if you want it to look nice)
Coffee mug full of chicken stock
Squirt of lemon juice (somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon)
Tablespoon of dry sherry
Couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
Thick slab of lightly toasted wholemeal bread
Melt the butter and oil in a heavy pan on a medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic; cook till soft and beginning to colour. Add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms are well browned (on both sides) add the chicken stock and thyme, lemon juice and sherry. Turn heat down and leave to simmer till the stock is mostly absorbed (about 10 minutes).
Serve on the wholemeal toast, with some grated parmesan and a bit more thyme and fresh black pepper. (Goes well with grilled tomatoes)