I thought I was being really smart picking February as the month to go vegetarian, more on that here, but then the realisation hit me last weekend. Valentines Day is less than a week away. Not that I've ever been a huge celebrator of Valentines Day in a romantic sense. For me, my family have always celebrated Valentines Day together with heart-shaped toast for breakfast, lots of pink and red treats, and homemade cards for my mum. Since moving away from home, my clan can't always get together for Valentines Day, which we combat by posting a card and bunch of flowers to my mum. However, I still try to keep the tradition of having a big celebratory meal at home, with upgraded heart-shaped foods (sorry toast!).
So this year when faced with the prospect of a vegetarian Valentine feast, I whole heartedly threw myself into trying to put together a menu that my Carnivorous Valentine would enjoy.
I know a lot of vegetarians that don't like mushrooms. I know a lot of meat eaters don't like mushrooms. But I don't know anyone that doesn't like cheese (please don't be the first!). And cheese smothered mushrooms, correction, blue cheese smothered mushrooms are the starter to everyone's hearts this Valentines Day.
Obviously when faced with blue cheese there are two immediate pairings which spring to mind, bacon, which is out, and walnuts. I love walnuts, an affair that was instilled by my grand-mère every time we visited her as children, and they add texture and a great nutty flavour to this dish. Mixed with lemon, parsley and crème fraîche, the cheese and walnuts lift this mushroom to great heights. And for those doubters, I can honestly say this is absolutely delicious and would make a stand out starter for your Valentines Day menu, but why stop there why not have it tomorrow for dinner with salad. This dish should not be constrained to romantic occasions alone, add it to your supper list for a week night treat!
I should say for those vegetarians out there, do not be alarmed by my inclusion of Saint Agur after last week's rennet rant (read that for a laugh, knowledge or a recipe for Spicy Stuffed Onion Squash here). It is made with vegetarian rennet. If you're not vegetarian you could use any soft blue to hand like Roquefort or Gorgonzola, but it just so happens Sant Agur is my favourite so I'd use it anyway.
Give this a whirl for a fresh take on the stuffed mushroom, we served it with a rocket, walnut and cranberry salad with a honey and mustard dressing.
Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms with Walnuts and Lemon
(serves you and your Valentine..or just you)
4 flat mushrooms
50g Saint Agur
2 tbsp crème fraîche
1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a tray with foil and place the mushrooms top down on the tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. If your mushrooms are quite large you might want to cut out the stalk and chop it up and mix it in with your stuffing. Put the mushrooms in the oven for 10-15 mins.
Step 2. Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. Once the mushrooms are done, take them out and add a heaped tbsp of the stuffing mix to each mushroom. Then return the mushrooms to the oven for another 10 mins.
Step 3. Remove the mushrooms from the oven. You could serve with salad like me or with a hunk of good bread. It's up to you, if you want eat them straight from the tray in your pyjamas after a heavy Girls Day night out. I won't tell, I'm your not so secret Veggie Valentine.