Portobello Mushroom Melts

Folklore and Super Mario have us believe that mushrooms endow us with superhuman strength and vitality. The ancient Egyptians believed mushrooms to be the plant of immortality. Some fungi are so prized that they fetch nearly £2000 a kilo. But all the aforementioned withers when you're trying to convince a committed mycophobe to sample something you've just cooked. I think the texture as much as the taste is what gets to people. I don't think mushrooms are an acquired taste per se (but then again I was shocked to hear some people think of olives in the same light). I think many people who have an aversion (and not a full-blown phobia) to mushrooms can succeed in overturning their dislike by trying different kinds of mushrooms (there are over 38,000 varieties) in all sorts of recipes. I realise there's no real motivation for people who've avoided mushrooms to venture into the Mushroom Kingdom (I can't help myself) but I believe more people should give mushrooms a chance!

One of the best ways to make mushrooms appealing is to choose a variety with a meaty texture (with a good helping of umami). Portobello mushrooms are perfect grilled, baked and in the ubiquitous veggie burger. I believe they can succeed in convincing your children or fussy other-half that mushrooms can be delicious. This recipe is so simple to execute for lunch or dinner that it's worth giving it a go. I baked my Portobello mushrooms with a garlic aioli (or toum in Lebanese Arabic), freshly picked young sage, pine nuts and a nice Provole cheese. You can substitute the garlic for pesto and the Provole for a stronger cheese (I'd be tempted to make this with Roquefort and walnuts).

4 Portobello mushrooms
4-8 cloves of garlic
4-5 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
8-12 leaves of freshly picked young sage
a handful of pine nuts
as much Provole cheese as you like
salt and pepper to taste

Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth. Crush the garlic (with a little sea salt) in a pestle and mortar. Slowly add the olive oil a spoonful at a time and work with the pestle until the garlic and olive oil emulsify. Layer the sage leaves, the aioli of garlic and olive oil, the pine nuts and cheese onto the mushroom caps. Place in a baking tray and cook at a medium heat until the cheese bubbles and browns and the mushrooms are your preferred texture. Serve immediately.


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