Basing a sauce on English mustard always makes me think of Stoppard’s Arcadia. Frankly, I’d recommend seeing it regardless of what you do or do not propose to do with the ground seeds of sinapis alba, but in particular I remember Thomasina’s exhortation:
“When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backwards, the jam will not come together again.”
This is an extraordinarily round-about way of saying that you can proper fuck up balance with mustard, and you won’t be able to stir it back out again. Too little and it’s mild heat and boredom. Too much, and it’s an acrid horrorshow, like a mouthful of hops and wasabi.
For all that, I love devilled kidneys. My dad used to make them as a breakfast treat, quick and dirty the way he picked up in the army. He’d thicken with breadcrumbs and dump in a bucket of ketchup. The sauce was pulpy and fiery, perfect for the savoury of the offal.
Veguary precludes that a bit, but here’s a fine brunch of spicy mushrooms.
- Mushrooms (chestnut are my go-to), 250g
- Shallots, 4-5
- Garlic, 2 cloves
- Flour, 1.5tbsp
- Stock, 200-300ml
- Tomato puree, 1tbsp
- Soy sauce (light), 1/2tsp
- English mustard powder, 1tbsp ish (see below)
- Paprika, about 1/8tsp
- Cayenne pepper, about 1/8tsp
- Butter, 20-25g
- Optional: a good pinch of Sichuan peppercorns, ground
I’ve made a big fuss about mustard, then just told you a tablespoon is fine. It kind of isn’t. The heat and bitterness will vary quite a lot. I tend to add the mustard a teaspoon at a time, checking for flavour. You can also mix it up with some wholegrain for bite and sweetness.
I’d say 1tsp of prepared wholegrain mustard and 1tsp of powdered English.
Peel, halve, and roughly slice the shallots. Slice the garlic. Thickly slice the mushrooms.
Fry the shallots in the butter on a medium heat until well softened, say – 6-7 minutes. Then add the garlic and fry for another 2-3 mins.
Raise the heat and add the mushrooms. Fry these off, stirring periodically, until tender. Again, about 7 minutes.
Add the flour, mustard and spices. Stirr it all in and cook for a minute or so, then add the tomato puree, soy sauce, and stock. Work this into a nice thick sauce, and simmer for a minute or two to finish.
Serve on a thick slice of buttered toast, ideally with a fried egg.
The Sichuan pepper gives it all a bit of extra zing. There’s definitely a lot of heat going on here, and quite a bit of richness. On a thick chunk of buttery bread, egg or no, this is a hearty brunch. You could probably work in some spinach or even rocket at the end if you wanted more greens. Heck, you could probably devil broccoli with moderate success.
“Deviled” is basically 19th century posho for “sounsed with pepper and mustard”, a plausible brunch for Jos Sedley. I think the term pops up late in the 18th century, describing anything feistily spiced. A few years later, it’s basically mustard sauce, and devilled kidneys line up with kedgeree to join the ranks of unfashionable retro breakfast.
Traditional recipes use Worcestershire sauce, but it’s not vegetarian so I’ve skipped it here. Instead, soy adds some of the savoury, and you can punch it up a bit more by adding some slivers of dried porcini to soak in the stock.