This is a recipe from Elizabeth David. I have been dipping into her collection of articles ‘An Omelette and a Glass of Wine’ recently and when I read this particular recipe in an article on summer holidays I knew it was one I needed to try. We have a grape vine growing entwined with a hop on our garage wall. The grapes aren’t ready yet, they are still tiny balls of unyielding green but last year they tasted surprisingly sweet for an English grown grape. I have no idea of the variety but they are really lovely eaten frozen with a square (or two) of chocolate, and last year I made grape jelly, which took a lot of boiling before it reached setting point. With this year’s heat I am hoping for good things from the grape harvest. In the meantime we have eaten more than our fair share worth of the leaves. It is very simple to make and absolutely delicious. The vine leaves add a winey flavour to the juices that I, for some reason, was not expecting. When you think about it, of course, it makes absolute sense. The photo before is uncooked, because to be honest when it is cooked it looks less attractive with brown wizened vine leaves, but do not let this put you off. You will soon become hooked. You do need to use small tender vine leaves, as anything too big becomes too tough to eat. If you don’t have a vine in the garden then you can use the vine leaves in brine that you can pick up from most large supermarkets or good food shops. Just give them a rinse before using.
About 20-25 small vine leaves
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled but kept whole
4-6 tbsps of good olive oil
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, plunge the vine leaves into the water and leave for only a couple of seconds and then drain and rinse in cold water. Give them a good squeeze to get rid of excess water.
You can use a lidded pyrex dish for this or any ovenproof dish and cover with foil to bake. Lay half the vine leaves on the bottom of the dish. Wipe the mushrooms clean and place on top of the vine leaves. Scatter the whole, peeled garlic cloves over the top along with some salt and pepper. (Elizabeth David suggests that you don’t need to eat the garlic, but I can assure you that they are delicious, they have mellowed with cooking, becoming soft and sweet and are doused with the winey juices.) Pour over a couple of tablespoons of oil over the mushrooms. Cover with the rest of the vine leaves and pack down. Pour over a few more tablespoons of oil. Cover the dish with its lid or tightly with foil.
Place into a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the baking oven of the Aga for about 1 hour. The mushrooms will have shrunk, the leaves will have become brown and withered looking, but it will taste divine.