I’m a big fan of mushrooms, onions, garlic and cream as individuals. Together they create an exquisite taste, or as Aristotle used to say, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. It’s a nice starter or side dish and is also known to be very popular around the late-night ‘atmosfire’, as a second braai of the evening.
WHAT YOU NEED (serves 4–6 as a snack)
2 tots butter
1 tot olive oil
1 onion (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (crushed or chopped)
500 g whole mushrooms (brown, button or any mixture of these or others sold commercially for culinary consumption)
1 sprig thyme (stalk removed)
1 tsp salt ½ tsp black pepper
1 cup cream (250 ml tub)
slices of bread (toasted on the fire – to serve)
1 tot finely chopped parsley (optional – to serve)
WHAT TO DO
Heat the oil and butter in a potjie or flameproof pan over a hot fire, add the chopped onion and fry until they become very soft and begin to turn light brown on the edges. Depending on your heat, this will take about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, mushrooms and thyme, then fry until the mushrooms soften and start to brown (your pan needs to be very hot so don’t be shy about having a few flames under it). Initially, the mushrooms might struggle to fit into the pan, but they will shrink as they cook.
Season with salt and pepper, then pour over the cream and bring to the boil. Simmer the cream for a few minutes, stirring often, until it reduces and forms a thick sauce (it’ll darken slightly and turn a shade of grey, like the mushrooms). Timing is pretty important. You need to remove the potjie or pan from the fire when the sauce is thick, but before it has reduced too much and all the sauce is gone. If you don’t have time to reduce the whole cup of cream, just use half a cup, but be aware that the meal won’t taste quite as awesome.
Use a large spoon to scoop the creamy mushrooms onto the toasted bread and serve immediately, topped with finely chopped parsley.
The quality of bread used has a direct impact on the end result and your enjoyment of the meal. These days we have a wide variety of great breads available in South Africa and, compared with meat, special breads are relatively cheap so buy the best available. When you walk into an artisan bakery and you feel a bit unsure of yourself, just ask for a sourdough bread. When serving braaied food with a slice of bread, you want to butter the bread on one side and toast it over medium coals for the final few minutes of your braai until golden brown. The idea is to have it ready with the rest of the meal. For any braaied meal that I suggest you serve with bread, you get bonus points if you serve it with freshly braaied roosterkoek.