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Savoury mushroom pancakes (23p)

The meal

The ingredients:

  • 120 g plain flour
  • 2 eggs (small or medium)
  • 210 ml milk
  • 90 ml water
  • 1 tbs cooking oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 300 g mushrooms
  • Small red onion (or half a big one!)
  • salt and pepper – grated peppercorns, not the fine powdery stuff.

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Mix the flour and salt, mix in the eggs, add the milk and water, kept mixing until it is smooth. Then leave it for half-an-hour while you cook the other bits.

Fine-chop the onion and fry until it is soft and put it on one side. Thin-slice the mushrooms and pile them into the pan.

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Cook on a medium heat (i.e., if your dials read the typical 1-6, cook on 3). The moisture comes out of them and they cook in their own juices until they’ve shrunk to about one-third of the original volume. When the pan starts to dry and some of the mushrooms start browning they’re done. Mix the onion back in.

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Now for the pancakes! Stir the tablespoon of oil into the pancake mix. You don’t need any oil in the pan, just get it really hot, add a small ladle-full of the mixture (about 70 ml to be pedantic) and off you go. Have a go at tossing the things to turn them over. The occasional one does end up on the deck or concertinas itself up in the pan, but that’s all part of the fun. I find each pancake takes about three minutes. Makes six, less casualties.

tossing

The frying pan’s the important thing – got to be in good condition. Don’t put up with one that’s losing its non-stickiness, bin it and get a new one.

Spoon the mushroom-onion mix along one side of each pancake and roll the things up. Eat immediately or reheat in the frying pan – I like them best this way, browned on either side and slightly crispy – and with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I’ve even eaten them cold.

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Two with a cup of tea and a wedge of good bread makes a meal for 23p.

There’s always variations: could add some bacon bits, or alternatively cook the mushrooms with a good shake of all-purpose seasoning, although this takes away the essence of the dish – that you can taste the mushrooms.

Zapiekanka (76p)

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For each serving:

  • Half a baguette
  • 100g mushrooms
  • 50g grated cheese

Zapiekanka (plural zapiekanki) is the archetypical street food sold all over Poland. Simple, filling (with good quality bread) and tasty. A small bread stick halved and buttered, with a layer of cooked mushrooms, some grated cheese on top and then grilled.

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I fried the mushrooms well, reducing them down on a medium heat until all the water had bubbled off. Don’t worry about the pan looking too full, the volume shrinks down like magic, leaving them with a rich flavour compared to the British habit of only half-cooking mushrooms. Sprinkled with cheese and grilled until it started browning. Zapiekanki are typically topped with ketchup, but I prefer a pinch of seasoning.

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This is the most basic version. One could elaborate at will, say with onion, bacon bits or capers, though this might upset purists – the food originated during the lean years of Communist rule. Mushrooms were always cheap or free, with people scouring the woodlands for them each autumn, just as they do today in this much afforested country.

I used Tesco ‘Everyday Value’ cheese, loose mushrooms and the cheapest baguettes. The cost of the meal, including electricity and cup of tea: 76p …  a little more than I’d expected, but at least under my £1 target.


Footnote: Looking out of the window while cooking, could see a rather impressive 22⁰ degree halo round the moon this night.

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