February 19, 2015

The mushroom debate - Love it or leave it? |~Malai Matar Mushroom~

Mushroom, that one ingredient that evokes as many opinions as does any political debate, is one of my very favorites. I am yet to find any other vegetable (well almost..) that stimulates such strong reactions, that ranges the whole spectrum from total love to utter dislike. No wonder its known as the “meat” of the vegetable world, thereby opening itself up to such strong reactions from the vegetarians. I look at it this way – if something evokes such ardent responses (just like any opinionated person you might encounter), it definitely carries mettle and so it does. Soft yet spongy, chewy yet melt-in-your-mouth - it kindles all sorts of sensations as one bites through that succulent piece of earthiness. 

The "mushroom" love bug caught me quite early and my very first food memory of this powerhouse was when my Dad would come home after an early morning outing to Barabati stadium, where rows of wild mushroom vendors would line up. It was more of a chance that you got hold of them since they would show up only when they had enough mushrooms to sell, which ensured that those were wild rather than cultivated ones. So Dad would be back with the intensely fragrant and flavorful shiitake /brown mushrooms while we would start throwing ideas at my Ma.Till date the wooden, that atypical earthy "mushroom" aroma transports me back to the early morning hustle-bustle in our kitchen. I love every kind – from meaty portabella to the slender enokii mushrooms to the earthy crimini. Each has a distinct flavor, identity and personality that dictates their best fit.

Recently, mushrooms have been making it to my “must-buy” section of our grocery list. From omelets to pastas to- of course my very favorite mushroom masala. I use it with an enthusiasm that can only match my propensity for eggplants. Just like eggplants, what makes them so unique is their ability to soak in new flavors all the while standing strong with their identity. After trying out numerous variations of the mushroom masala, one fine day we craved for the creamy matar mushroom sans the overpowering creamy and bland gravy. Here’s the one that I concocted that has the perfect balance for our palate – melt-in-the-mouth mushrooms with just the right hint of creaminess with a blend of slightly sweet peas. Here you go:

Melt-in-the-mouth mushrooms and sweet peas soak in the smooth tomato gravy with just the precise hint of creaminess from roasted cashews. Serve it with warm chapatis or parathas.

1 lb Shiitake/Crimini/White button mushrooms
3 Tablespoons Oil
1 inch Cinnamon

1 Large onion chopped
3 Tablespoom Ginger garlic paste
1 Cup Tomato puree
3 teaspoons Chili powder
1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
4-5 Roasted whole Cashews made into a paste
2-3 teaspoons Heavy cream (Optional)
1/4 Cup Green peas

For the dry masala
3 teaspoon Cumin seeds/ Jeera
5 nos. Whole Cloves
2 nos. Whole Cardamom pods


  1. Slice the mushrooms as thick/thin you like & set aside. 
  2. Add oil to a pan over medium high heat and saute the   onions along with the cinnamon stick till the onions are     lightly golden brown (5-6 mins). 
  3. Then add 3 T of ginger garlic paste and fry over medium heat. Add little water to the paste once it dries out and repeat the process till oil floats on top.
  4. Then add in the tomato puree in small amounts making sure it dries out each time before adding the next batch of tomato puree. The masala should be bright red in color. Note: Choose dark red ripe tomatoes for the best color.
  5. When oil floats on top, add in chilli powder and turmeric powder and stir over medium low heat. 
  6. Then add in the peas and mushrooms and toss well. Saute for 2 mins till mushrooms shrink a bit. Then,add 1/2 C of water and bring it to boil. Add in the cashew paste and heavy cream if using. Simmer over low heat for 15 mins.
  7. In a separate dry pan, add the ingredients for the dry masala (3 tsps of jeera, 5 cloves and 2 cardomom pods). Dry roast till fragrant and grind to a powder.
  8. Sprinkle the dry masala over the gravy just before switching off the heat.

Quick, simple and with the a relatively short grocery list, this mushroom gravy is sure to wow all the mushroom lovers out there. Move over paneer - you have competition :D

Till next time!