[Torben:] A couple weeks ago, we had the super cool opportunity to produce a poem/recipe combo for a live event held by Dinner Party Press. The Press was started in London but also operates out of Australia. The event, part of a series of four such events, brought food and poetry together. We were lucky enough to read alongside Eileen Chong and Emily S. Cooper, both of whom are both famous and brilliant. 

 

We did a bit of an experiment to produce the poem—that’s right fools, we’re doin experimental poetry—in which I was to listen along to Marijke preparing a recipe (a cherry cobbler) and write down what I heard. We initially thought I’d wear a blindfold, and pay close attention only to the sounds, but when it came time to cook, I left my sight alone. The resulting poem deals therefore not just with the sound of Marijke’s cooking process, but also with its appearance. This actually, I think, turned out to be better, because what we realized is that a lot of the steps kind of sound the same, or are nearly impossible to hear. Putting one tablespoon of baking powder into a bowl of flour is, at least to my ear, completely silent.

 

And now, to our knowledge, DPP is producing a podcast which will bring the live recordings together. Not only this, but also a pamphlet, in which some poems, writings, recipes, etc., will be printed! We’ll update you on that.

 

[Marijke:] And now for the recipe, which is both adaptable with different summer fruit and simple to pull off. It has the jubilance of a cherry pie, without the precision required to contain all the cherry juice inside a crust. Cherries really shine in this recipe and I was able to score some from my brother’s cherry tree to include. We hope wherever you are reading this, that you’re hanging in there and get the chance to bake this.

 

Recipe:

 

Cherry Cobbler*

 

Ingredients

 

Topping:

60 g sugar

1 tbsp. baking powder

Zest from one lemon

1 tsp. kosher salt

240g all purpose flour

125g unsalted cold butter, diced

300ml cold heavy cream

 

Filling:

1 kg pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)

120g sugar 

juice from 1 lemon

22g cornstarch

1 tsp. vanilla extract or paste

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

 

Finishing: 1 tsp. coarse sugar and 1 tbsp. melted butter

 

Suggestions:

 

I like to make the topping and chill it while I pit the cherries. I used a mix of fresh cherries picked from my brother’s yard and frozen cherries for the 1kg needed; you don’t need to thaw frozen cherries before using and they’re a good shortcut. Any other berries or stone fruit like peaches and nectarines can be substituted as well, use whatever is available and seasonal.

 

The cobbler can be baked in a pie or round cake tin with a 9 inch diameter or a square 8 or 9 inch baking pan. Even a cast iron skillet can work, just make sure it is very clean.

 

Instructions:

 

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. 

This is the perfect time to use a plastic bench scraper if you have one. A pastry blender, or simply two butter knives will also work. 

Add your chunks of butter and use your chosen implement to cut the butter through the flour into small pea-sized pieces. Don’t be too thorough: it’s better to work fast and keep the mixture cold; if any chunks are too big they will be sorted later.

 

Once you are at the pea stage, make a well in the centre of the bowl and pour in your cream. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to drag the cream through the flour mix and stir a few times until it’s mostly combined.

 

Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter and turn the bowl onto the parchment,

scraping any bits stuck to the bottom. Use your bench scraper or hands to lightly knead everything together in a couple motions. There shouldn’t be any dry flour or cream visible.

 

Pat your dough into a rough square about one inch thick. Use your scraper or a butter knife to cut the dough into 4 (grid shape). Stack your four pieces on top of each other and lightly pat to a 1.5 inch tall square.

 

This will make your biscuits very flaky and layered (try it out with any scone or pie dough as well, it’s a genius technique). Wrap the dough and throw in the freezer if you have one, or fridge while you prepare your filling.

 

Put your pitted cherries (or chosen fruit) in a medium bowl. Add remaining filling ingredients and give it a good stir. The cornstarch is what thickens the filling; make sure it’s not in any clumps and coats the fruit evenly. 

 

Let the filling sit for 5-10 minutes to macerate the fruit and let your biscuits firm up in the fridge. Pour cherry mix into your baking pan. When your dough feels firm, place it on your counter. 

 

Now be creative; I like to cut the dough into circular biscuits but you could use any cookie cutters or a knife to make different shapes. 

 

Work quickly so the dough stays cold, however if you need to you can pop the completed cobbler in the freezer for a couple minutes if the dough is too soft. The colder the dough is the flakier and taller the biscuits will rise.

 

You will likely have extra dough left; these make excellent snacks if you meld together any

leftover dough and cut into 2 inch square pieces and bake alongside your cobbler. 

 

There can be a bit of fruit visible on the top once you’ve covered it with biscuits, the hot air exposure will help the mix thicken and reduce. 

 

Brush the biscuits with melted butter and scatter with coarse sugar. Place the pan on the baking tray (to catch drips instead of them hitting the bottom of your oven) and throw your scrap biscuits on beside. 

 

Place in the oven for 10 minutes, lower heat to 350F/175C and bake for 30-40 minutes more. Rescue your scrap biscuits after about 20 minutes total and eat while you wait for your cobbler.

 

Pull your cobbler out when the top is evenly brown and you can see the fruit bubbling merrily on the edges. Let cool for at least 20 minutes or the filling will be soupy. 

 

The cobbler lasts well for two days, especially if reheated in the oven for a few minutes to crisp up the top again. I especially like this served with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

 

*Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe, with significant adjustments.

   

The Seven or Eight Deaths is a work of historical fiction about the author’s ancestors, who persevered through extreme hardship. More than bare history, it is a family saga that spans a century; a story of maternal love, and of how that love lasts through many violent and transformative experiences.

Mariastella—the protagonist and the author’s grandmother—lives for more than a century. She grows up in Calabria, Italy, and moves to the States as a young woman. Stella is nuanced and charismatic, and dreams of independence. She wants to work and save to buy her mother a house, to spend time with her sister Cettina, and fantasizes about her idyllic village, Ievoli.

Her fate, however, is to marry and bear children. Mariastella had disdained the idea of marriage and child birth after seeing its effects on her mother, Assunta, who lived through an abusive marriage. Being a wife in Assunta’s time meant doing whatever her husband wanted, “obeying and serving.” Assunta had to have sex when her husband when he wanted, regardless of her own desires, and must immigrate to America for him, leaving her ailing mother behind. Being a wife in Mariastella’s time proved no better: the ordeal begins when, on their honeymoon, her husband rapes her. 

The author highlights the catch 22 of immigrant mentality—Stella and her siblings need to carry on the family traditions and religion, but also fit into the new country and adapt by learning English and changing their appearances. Throughout the novel, Grames looks forward into the futures of relatives and friends mentioned in the story, developing their characters. The reader, as a result of Grames’s attention, has an information-rich idea of the world that the characters inhabit.

Food plays an important role in the story. Several of Stella’s near death experiences involve food—a pot of boiling oil for frying aubergine; an angry pig trampling her for a treat. However, gathering around the table and sharing a meal often brings the family together (even if these moments of unity are fleeting). Assunta is described as an excellent cook who learns Italian-American recipes when she moves to Connecticut, and Cettina follows suit and helps to prepare mountains of food to feed all the men in the family. Stella refuses to set foot in the kitchen, which is her way of rebelling against societal expectations. 

 

There are some Italian superstitions about food, like using mint leaves to “ward off the evil eye”, which appear several times in the story. Food also serves as a marker of the family’s financial success. During the wartime years, when Stella’s father runs off to America, they are barely able to afford ingredients for minestra, a vegetable soup made of odds and ends. The girls go to work harvesting olives and chestnuts and learn how to hide some in their clothes to bring home. Right before they leave Italy, they attend a carnival and their mother gives them a few coins and tells them to pick a treat. They choose doughnuts with chestnut honey, an aromatic relief from their otherwise bleak lives. Once they arrive in America, and begin work on a tobacco farm, they start eating meat for the first time at their father’s insistence. Beefsteak, fried chicken cutlets, and polpette appear on their table.

In my recipe, I attempted to synthesize a dish from the novel’s many meals, that could be placed at the center of the Fortuna family dining table. It is inspired by the fragrant chestnuts picked right from the tree, the angry pig going after his snack, and the (qualified) success the family found in America where they could at least eat a nice spread for Sunday lunch. 

 

Recipe:

To be frank, I’m not an obsessive recipe follower and don’t expect our readers to be either. If you use a different pasta shape you find in your cupboard, it will still be delicious. If you use bacon instead of pancetta, it will be delicious. If you don’t want to buy a bottle of wine, use stock, and it will be delicious. The more easygoing a recipe is, the more likely it is to be cooked. The flavours in this pasta are complex and comforting and if you can multitask it can be ready in half an hour (and it’s only one pot and a baking tray to wash; victory!) 

Ingredients:

1 kg of cubed squash (we used Red Kuri squash which has a chest nutty flavour that complements the dish very well)

100g pancetta

3 cloves sliced garlic

1/2 bunch of sage, chiffonade (roll and thinly slice the leaves)

1/2 whole nutmeg, grated

500g fettuccine 

1 medium onion, small dice 

125 mL dry white wine

200g roasted chestnuts, peeled and chopped (instructions below)

30g of butter

50 mL double/heavy cream 

60mL olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Method:

First step is to get your squash roasting. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C while you cut it into small diced pieces; I used red kuri squash which has thin skin and left it on but peel your squash if you prefer. Place the squash on a lined baking tray, drizzle with half the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast squash for 20 minutes or so, until tender but still slightly firm. During this time, you can place a large pot of salted water on to the boil for your pasta and chop the rest of your mise en place. When the water comes to a boil, cook your pasta for one minute less than the package instructions, reserve a mug of pasta water, and drain. In the pot you used for the pasta set over medium heat, add your olive oil and pancetta. When the pancetta has started to crisp, add your onions and cook for 6 minutes until they are starting to become translucent. Add the garlic and sage and cook 2 more minutes. Deglaze your pan with the white wine. Check your squash; if it is ready add it to the pot. Add in the cream, butter, chestnuts, nutmeg, and a grind of pepper. Toss your noodles into the pot and stir them into the sauce. Lower the heat to low. Check the seasoning and viscosity; add a splash of starchy pasta water if needed, and leave for a couple minutes to come together. Plate up and serve with the rest of the white wine. 

Chestnuts: I couldn’t find any cooked chestnuts so I roasted my own. I bought 400g assuming the shells would weigh about half that of the nuts. I cut little x’s into the chestnuts with a paring knife and put them on a baking tray. I roasted them at 375F/190C for about 25 minutes until the shells were peeling away. I let them cool for a little while and then peeled them; it was quite easy to get the shells off. I cooked them the day before I made the pasta and put them in an airtight container in the fridge. 

 

“Fifty years had passed; parents and siblings had died, and the family homes we should have returned to had disappeared for those of us who passed our days in this park.” (8, Miri Yū, 2019)

Tokyo Ueno Station is the story of Kazu, a homeless man living in Ueno Park. Many homeless people find themselves in the same situation, and author Yu Miri spent time talking with them while she was researching her novel. The story she tells about Kazu is typical: he came to Tokyo to earn money to send back to his family, by working in construction in the lead up to the 1964 Tokyo olympics. He works first in Tokyo, and then in Sendai, sacrificing his family life and leading a solitary existence. A series of tragedies leads to Kazu’s eventual isolation from his family, and to homelessness in the park. 

The story is beautifully told, and beautifully translated by Morgan Giles. That the book gives a voice to one of society’s forgotten people is virtuous. Miri moves back and forth between the past and present in order to demonstrate the living presence of Kazu’s memories and regrets. The sentences are often short and direct: unembellished prose for a life without ornament. The book is certainly bleak, but it is altogether human, and worth reading in order to learn about the experiences of the Other, those voiceless people about whom society has forgotten. 

Food reappears throughout the book. (A book that pays close attention to food is a book committed to realism. Eating is a fixture of everyday life, and so much society and psychology revolves around eating.) One of the meals discussed in the book is eaten on a date; Kazu overhears two men discussing it in the park: 

“We both got rice with one grilled eel fillet on top. And without even asking she sticks her chopsticks in my bowl and takes half my eel. She said one fillet just wasn’t enough for her. Meanwhile I’m left with all this rice and nothing to eat it with, so what else can I do? So there I am, eating rice seasoned with Sichuan pepper. In an eel place.” (89)

And Kazu remembers consuming simple ceremonial meals at funerals and memorials:

“The meal began, and as we ate root vegetables stewed in soy say, kinpura gobō, pickles, potato salad, and onigiri with vegetables mixed in, Katsunobu and I drank so much sake together that I was unsteady on my feet.” (117)

But the meal that we chose to work with comes from the following passage, in which Kazu is describing food that the homeless of Ueno Park would consume:

“We never lacked for food.

There was an unspoken agreement with many of the long-established restaurants in Ueno: after they had closed for the night, many places did not lock their backdoors. Inside, clearly set apart from the food waste, the unsold food would have been neatly portioned out and bagged.

Convenience stores, too, would put together bentos, sandwiches, and pastries past their best-before date in the area next to the dumpster, so if we went before the trash was collected, we could claim anything we wanted. When it was nice out we had to eat the food that day, but when it was cold, we could keep it in our huts for days and heat it up on camping stoves.” (9) 

We chose to put together our own bento boxes, that you can easily recreate. And part of our goal in writing this post is to inspire people to think about food waste, and what they can do to help those who are food-insecure. After the recipe, we have put together things you can do to help, as an individual and as a business.

Recipe:

There are infinite combinations of bento box fillings. These are some of our favourites:

Base: Short grain brown sushi rice seasoned with rice vinegar. Traditionally served with an umeboshi plum to represent the Japanese flag with the white background and red circle.

Veggies: snap peas with sesame dressing, seaweed with miso dressing, pickled vegetables like cucumber and daikon

Umeboshi plums: placed on top of the rice, this is an edible representation of the japanese flag

Protein: soy marinated egg, thinly sliced sashimi-grade salmon or tuna served raw, tonkatsu chicken or pork. We didn’t include an egg in our box as Torben is allergic but here is a recipe to make soy eggs: https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/03/ajitsuke-tamago-japanese-marinated-soft-boiled-egg-recipe.html

Traditionally, bento is meant to be eaten at room temperature. This means bento is perfect for a packed lunch. Here is the recipe to replicate our bento box:

Ingredients:

Rice: 

1 cup short grain sushi rice (we prefer brown)

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. soy sauce

Veggie pickle:

1 English cucumber or 4 small Japanese cucumbers, sliced

1 small daikon, peeled and sliced 

⅔ cup rice wine vinegar

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. Soy sauce

1 tsp. Sesame oil

1 tsp. shichimi togarashi, optional 

For 1 Box: 

3 oz. sliced sashimi grade salmon

1 umeboshi plum

¼ cup cucumber daikon pickle

¼ cup seaweed salad

1 cup sushi rice

Sliced avocado, optional

The Recipe

Instructions:

Rice

Rinse rice with cold water in a colander until water runs clear. Drain well. Transfer to a medium pot you have a lid for. Add a pinch of salt and 300 mL cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir rice, cover, and reduce heat to low (do not stir or it will break). Cook until water is evaporated and rice is cooked, 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 10 minutes.

Mix rice vinegar, sugar, and soy in a small bowl. Stir into rice and let sit until ready to use.

To make the pickle: cut cucumbers and daikon into thin slices. Combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt together and add ½ a cup of boiling water, which will help to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour liquid over veggies and make sure they are submerged (you can place something on top to keep them weighed down if needed). The longer the veggies pickle the more intense they will taste, after an hour or so they are usable and can be kept in the fridge for 10 days. 

To make the seaweed salad, we used dried wakame seaweed which we rehydrated in boiling water until softened. It grows in size when rehydrated so one handful will be enough for a couple servings. We then drizzled the seaweed with sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar and sprinkled it with togarashi seasoning. 

To prepare the salmon, use fluid slicing motions and a sharp knife to slice into thin long strips against the grain of the fish. Use the freshest salmon you can find and eat it within a day.

To assemble the box, start with about one cup of sushi rice. Place the umeboshi plum in the center of the rice. Place the pickles and the seaweed salad in the second compartment. 

 Tokyo Ueno Station really highlights the huge gap between classes and access to food. The food wasted due to preventable reasons could easily be feeding the hungry with some organization and dedication. Below we have listed some ways of being more responsible with our use of food, both from an environmental and humanitarian motivation.

What you can do to help:

individuals 

  1. Eat less meat and fish 
    1. Make eating meat an occasional treat, not a staple of your diet. 
    2. If you are going to have meat or fish, use it as a garnish instead of as the main thing on your plate. 
  2. Eat everything you buy 
    1. Save food that you won’t be able to finish in time, instead of throwing it out. You can freeze it, make a big pot of soup or frittata with odds and ends, or give it to someone else. Also check out Olio, a very cool new app dedicated to reducing food waste: https://olioex.com
    2. Only buy what you need to make a recipe. If you only need 1 carrot for a recipe, don’t buy a bag! Shop at a farmer’s market or a grocery store that lets you buy things individually.
  3. Donate extra shelf-stable food to a local charity. Grocery stores will often have donation bins. 
  4. Find ways to volunteer in your community, by working in a community garden or in a soup kitchen. 
  5. Think of those around you who could benefit from a delicious healthy meal. For people dealing with illness, old age, a new baby, and conflict, a thoughtful gesture like delivering a meal or even extra groceries can be really meaningful and comforting. 

Businesses

  1. Donate leftovers to charities. Organizations will often be willing to come to you. Saves you taking out extra trash bags!
  2. Discount food before you close. Too Good To Go  links customers with food that would otherwise go to waste. 
  3. Donate food scraps to help compost community gardens. 

Please comment if you have more suggestions about reducing food waste and hunger. Reading this book inspired us to take action and we hope you will feel the same. 

 

Rachel Cusk’s Outline is about a novelist who goes to Athens to teach creative writing. The work seems loosely autobiographical: a book written by a divorced writer about a divorced writer. This is called ‘autofiction’; some well known examples are James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers

Autofiction is an interesting type of work. An author is bound to know their own psychology best—that is, they have direct access to their own mind, while only indirect knowledge of the thoughts of others. Therefore, writing a novel about oneself is the best way to “write what you know.”

But Cusk doesn’t spend her whole novel talking about herself—quite the contrary. The story is told through a series of conversations with those she encounters. The protagonist ends up on the receiving end of prolix monologues.Each character we meet, one after another, all tell her their unabridged life story. 

In this, the true nature of the novel is revealed. Itis a novel about gathering information for the production of a novel, a story about telling stories. The scrupulous rendering of each character, through the language that they use, is a master class in character building.

Often the characters reveal themselves over the dinner table. Rachel Cusk’s protagonist goes for dinner with Paniotis, a friend from publishing, and a novelist named Angeliki that she is meeting for the first time. Angeliki’s character is shown immediately through her chagrin of the restaurant that Paniotis has chosen for them to dine at. Angeliki is described as very elegantly dressed but having “a face so extraordinarily anxious” that “anyone looking at it could only feel anxious too on her behalf” (103). She is on a special diet ordered by her doctor and must converse with the waiter for several minutes to modify the menu; the scene is reminiscent of Sally’s ordering style in When Harry Met Sally. The meal they eventually order is described as follows: 

“There was a carafe of pale yellow wine, a dish of tiny green olives on their stalks that looked bitter but tasted sweet and delicious, and a plate of cold, delicate mussels in their black shells,” (Cusk, 2014).

   

Cusk’s descriptions of the food and setting of the novel, Athens, immerse the reader in the story. Even the way the narrator describes the olives as looking bitter is a subtle hint to the character’s perceptions—shown rather than told. The swelter of the Greek summer makes the briny sweet olives and chilled mussels sound perfectly refreshing with a glass of white wine; you can almost feel that relief while reading the book. 

The meal of a crisp white wine with green olives and cool meaty mussels can easily be prepared in minutes, and shared with guests or eaten alone on a hot summer night. The mussels can be served hot right after they are cooked, or allowed to cool before eating. We would recommend a crusty baguette to soak up the mussel liquor afterwards. 

The Recipe

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 kg. fresh mussels, debearded and cleaned; check for any broken or open shells

2 tbsp. Greek olive oil

2 shallots, sliced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 bulb of fennel, sliced (save the fronds for garnish)

½ bunch of soft herbs (we used tarragon, parsley, dill), picked and chopped 

250 ml dry white wine 

Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper

 

To serve:

Small green olives

Baguette

White wine (we would recommend Assyrtiko, a popular Greek wine known for its crisp mineral flavour)

 

Instructions: Place a big pot that you have a lid for on medium heat with the olive oil. Add the shallots and sweat with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes. Add the sliced fennel, sweat 5 more minutes until becoming transparent. Add the garlic and soften, then the mussels and white wine. Add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and place the lid on. Lower to med-low heat and check after 5 minutes. Once the shells have opened it is ready. Remove from heat and place in a serving dish. Either eat right away or cool and serve cold with the bread, olives, and white wine.

 

 

 

Toast, performed at The Other Palace, is a stage adaptation of Nigel Slater’s memoir. It tracks his development as a young chef, and the story underscores the role food plays in our social interactions. It brings people together, and drives them apart.

The story of Slater’s youth is told through moments around the table and in the kitchen. It begins with Nigel and his mother baking together. It is not so much the cooking that his mother enjoys, but the time spent with her son in the process. She is presented as the ideal mother, and their relationship is happy and harmonious. All the more tragic then that during the first act, his mother’s heath steadily deteriorates (the illness is more obvious to the audience than to the nine yearold protagonist).

After her death, Nigel’s relationship with his father becomes strained, and sometimes violent. Mr. Slater remarries quickly, to Nigel’s dismay. At this stage Nigel has begun to take cookery classes at school, and is a promising baker. When he brings his creations home, his stepmother becomes jealous the praise he receives from his father, and she begins to bake in a competitive spirit. She bakes a glorious lemon meringue pie, and also some of Nigel’s mother’s signature desserts, in a malicious spirit. She is in fact the quintessential wicked stepmother—it is hard to say whether Slater has accurately depicted the woman.

Nigel begins to spend more time away from home, taking a job in the kitchen at a local hotel. There, he is encouraged by his boss, who supplants his stepmother as the nurturing force in his life. When, tragically, his father also passes away, Nigel has already developed the courage to move away from home and pursue a career as a cook in London. Food has become his solace and identity. During this time he is also coming to terms with his sexual identity and realizes that he needs to leave his small town to be accepted and find his own community.

The distinction between the audience and the players is bridged by food in this play: periodically, the audience is given food to eat along with the cast. The actors also break the fourth wall by interacting with the audience while sharing treats, which is a charming touch.

The acting in the production was very well accomplished; there were four actors playing various roles as well as the actor playing Nigel. The small cast really captured the personalities of all the characters. The mother portrayed very well the urgency of someone who knows their days are numbered, and who tries to make the most of that limited time with her child. And the staging was very professional. The set was highly mobile: what served as kitchen counters also served as a rotating dance floor

We would recommend seeing the play if you’re able; there is also the original story published in a book as well as a film adaptation.

To capture the essence of the story, of course we had to make toast. Mrs. Slater certainly isn’t very good at making toast but it’s the love and care behind it that is so comforting to him. Inspired by the dish Nigel cooks for his mentor at the hotel, we made mushrooms on toast.

Slater wrote a collection of mushroom recipes for the Guardian that gave us an insight on how to prepare our recipe and why the dish is so important to him.

“When I am asked (for the 200th time) to name my favourite food, I invariably mutter, ‘Mashed potato.’ In truth, that is more a comfort thing and has more to do with my state of mind than my tastebuds. What I should really say is, ‘Mushrooms on toast.’ But they need to be quite perfect; that is, cooked thoughtfully, tenderly and with almost obsessive attention to detail.”

 

The Recipe

Ingredients:

Thickly sliced crusty white bread

1 tbsp. fine quality butter

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 sprigs thyme

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

5 cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced

one handful of salad greens; peppery arugula or watercress is nice

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Although this is a very simple recipe, have all of your “mise en place” ready. This is a professional term for having all your ingredients in their place, ready to use. Have your bread cut and ready to toast, your mushrooms ready to sauté, and your salad greens washed and dried. Get your mushrooms on before you toast your bread and try to time them to be ready at the same moment.

First place a medium/large sauté pan on a medium heat (You need enough room to have all your mushrooms in one layer). Drizzle your oil around in the pan, and when it is hot add your garlic and thyme. The thyme will crackle a little, which tells you when to add in your mushrooms. Give the pan a good stir, then let them brown for a few minutes before moving. Once the bottoms have coloured, add in your salt and pepper and continue to cook until the the mushrooms have released their liquid and then absorbed most of it again, remove from the heat.

As soon as the toast is ready, slather it in good butter “wall to wall”. Place a pile of salad greens beside the toast on your plate. Spoon the mushrooms and their juices over the toast; discard the thyme stems. Sit down and revel in the perfect piece of toast.