Hallowe’eny (eggy) Toadstools (vegetarian option)
I think this was the very first dish I ever cooked all by myself – seduced by the tempting picture in my “Youngster’s Cookery Book” of these lovely fat toadstools with dotted caps. So that really tells you it’s child’s play – I was about eight when I made these for Sunday high tea. Really nice for half term lunch as well with a Hallowe’en theme. The bacon is optional, but I do love the salty crunch against the sweet tomato and the juicy cheesy egg, and the kids will like it too. Small hands can help with most of this recipe, so get stuck in and make it with them. A meal for messy togetherness.
Serves 6, 30 minutes
Put the eggs into a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes to hard boil them. Have a cup of tea while the children lay the table and get on with the rest.
Wash the lettuce, separating the leaves. Keep it in a bowl of cold water to crisp up. Make the salad dressing by shaking all the ingredients together in an empty jar.
Fry the bacon until crispy and well cooked, put it onto kitchen towel to cool and crisp further. At this stage, the children are likely to steal all the cooked bacon so be prepared either to fight them off or cook some more.
Halve the tomatoes round their equators.
Weigh out the butter and cheese into a small bowl over a pan of hot water. Mix them up with a fork. The butter will start to melt quite quickly, that’s fine, take the bowl away from the hot water and just cover it with a plate until you get the egg yolks into it.
When the eggs are done, take them out of the boiling water and run them under cold water to stop them cooking and cool them down. Crack the shells and remove the shells and membrane.
This is the only tricky bit: cut a small slice off the fat end of the egg so that it can sit stably on that end. Now cut off the pointed end of the egg about 1/3 of the way down. You should expose the yolk. Carefully scoop out the yolk with a teaspoon into the bowl of cheese and butter. Keep on doing that until you have hollowed out all the eggs. If the yolk is too far to one side of an egg, the white can be very thin and can break, leaving an uneven hollow; never mind, the “mushroom” will be slightly wonky, but that’s nature.
Mash the mixture in the bowl with a fork, and season with pepper and salt.
Using another teaspoon and your fingers, and helped by small hands, stuff the mixture back into the middle of the eggs, saving some back for the dots on the “mushroom” caps.
Spin the lettuce to dry and arrange on a platter. Stand the stuffed eggs around within the lettuce. Top each egg with a half tomato and dot some little pieces of egg mixture onto the tomatoes – I have tried both doing this dotting before topping the eggs and after, and it’s easier if you do it after. If you want perfection, you could pipe some mixture onto the tomatoes, and this might be quite fun for a child to do if you have the time and inclination. (You don't need a proper piping bag, a decent plastic bag with a small cut in the corner is fine.)
Scatter the crumbled bacon over the lettuce and serve, with salad dressing if liked.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.