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A semi circular pale blue bowl with a flat base. Seven brown mushrooms are stuck to the base.Rajasekharan Nair, (Untitled) Mushrooms in a Bowl,
c. 1990, Polychrome wood

Mystifying mushrooms

Mushrooms, or fungi, separated from plants together with animals over a billion of years ago. Technically they are closer related to us humans than any other plant-based organism. Below the forest ground, fungal bodies extend themselves in nets and skeins, binding roots and mineral soils, and communicating through tiny threads called mycelium. These travel underground, connecting the roots of different plants in an area, even different species, allowing them to communicate. They are also very robust and are masters of survival: the first living thing to emerge from the soil of the blasted landscape after the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 was a mushroom.

Simultaneously they are delicious culinary treats. Their aromas are not pleasant, but mouldy and heavy, disturbing even, evoking a sense of sadness in some. Amongst many mystifying tales around what was Buddha’s last meal is evidence around sukara-maddava or truffle-like fungus that was found in Bihar and fed by the monks to Buddha. Soon after consuming this Buddha died and attained nirvana.

They grow fast and stubbornly in a dark and damp environment, some glow at night, some are poisonous, some rare and some create enormous economic value. Enjoy devouring these wonders on toast.

Mushroom on toast with caramelised onions by Riya Kumar & Linika Kumar

“My family and I are always on the lookout for recipes that use bread. We love mushrooms and the addition of caramelised onions really elevates the flavour.”

List of ingredients

For 2 people
Time: 30 minutes

1 packet Button mushrooms
2 Onions (sliced thin)
4 pieces of Bread (bruschetta or whole-wheat)
2 tablespoons Goat cheese (crumbled)
Salt
Pepper
3 tablespoons Olive oil
3 cloves of Garlic (finely chopped or crushed)
Oregano or mixed herbs
1 teaspoon Sugar

Method

Wash and pat the mushrooms dry. Cut into four pieces.

In 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the onions with a little salt and cook until translucent.

Add the sugar and caramelise. This may take 5-7 minutes. Keep aside when done.

To the remaining oil, add the garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper.

Sauté lightly on high heat until water disappears.

Switch off the heat and mix in the herbs.

Preheat the oven at 180 degrees celsius for at least 5 minutes.

In the meantime, on bread, spread a thin layer of caramelised onions topped with a generous layer of mushrooms.

Toast until the bread is done.

Remove and add the crumbled goat cheese.