(tracing a circle on the ground)
Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites; and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To hear the solemn curfew; by whose aid,
Weak masters though ye be, I have bedimmed
The noontide sun, called forth the mutinous winds,
And 'twixt the green sea and the azure vault
Set roaring war - to th' dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire, and rift Jove's stout oak
The Tempest, William Shakespeare, Act V, Sc 1
I am not much of a party girl - to be honest, I'd pretty much always rather spend a Friday night in my bath with a book. That said, I am a huge fan of a very late night/wee morning hours supper. When friends and I arrive home after an evening of gin and dancing, I've been known to make sushi, a bastardised croque-monsieur, a batch of peanut butter and chocolate biscuits, a super-quick tuna pasta or, every now and then, a frittata. I love this part of a night out - a jolly, if slightly hazy, camaraderie that is cemented as we sit around a table, or on the bench top, or on the living room floor, picking over the events of the evening.
So when my friend Sonia reminded me of the passage above, I immediately thought of mushrooms on toast - one of my very favourite midnight suppers. Buttery sautéed mushrooms, thyme, lots of pepper and some crunchy toast; ingredients that are not only delicious, but (crucially) are pretty much always in my flat. However, for the kind of mushrooms that Prospero's elves might make, I'd have to look beyond the standard chestnut, portobello and button.
Thankfully, Broadway Market threw up this bounty:
Perhaps do as I did and save these glorious beauties for a special meal. You can always replace the mushrooms above with some more easily available ones when preparing a slightly less sober midnight feast.
It's fitting for this post that the last time I saw The Tempest on stage was, in fact, at midnight. It was one of the late performances at Shakespeare's Globe - a terrific idea when booking, though one that (as per my earlier comment about being in my bath with a book) is not necessarily something I fancy once the night arrives. I do wish I had had a serving of these mushrooms then...
400g mixed wild mushrooms (I used white clamshell, brown clamshell, eryngii, pink oyster, shiitake and chanterelle)
2 tbsp butter
6 sprigs thyme
Coarsely ground pepper and sea salt
2 large slices sourdough (I made mine from James Morton's recipe in Brilliant Bread)
6 sprigs lemon thyme
Squeeze of lemon juice
Truffle oil (if you're feeling properly fancy, and are sober enough to appreciate it)
Knife and chopping board
1. Chop your mushrooms into manageable sizes. The clamshells need to be separated from each other, oysters cut into a couple of pieces and eryngii sliced into thin lengths.
2. Warm the pan over a moderate heat and add a drizzle of rapeseed oil. As much as patience/inebriation will allow, cook the mushrooms in small batches, taking care not to crowd them. You want them to brown in places, and release some of their water, which will evaporate if you've given them space. Turn them and then remove to a bowl once they're cooked. Repeat until all mushrooms have been browned on all sides.
3. Tip all the mushrooms back into the pan and add the butter. Strip the thyme leaves from the sprigs and add them too. Toss the mushrooms around until they are hot and the butter has melted. Season generously with pepper.
4. Toast the sourdough until lightly golden (don't overdo it or you'll lose its wonderful chewiness) and spread with lots of ricotta. Top with the mushrooms, sprigs of lemon thyme, a sprinkle of sea salt, a squeeze of lemon juice and a trickle of truffle oil. Eat immediately.
ps. A little final note. I know I've mentioned this before, but I wanted to share with you a little teaser for my upcoming supper club. Can't wait to share the photos, recipes and (if you're in London) food with you!