Within a few of years of Kentucky Fried Chicken opening its first store in the Hutt Valley in the early '70s, a rival chain, Homestead, began springing up all over the place. Its store in Lower Hutt was just a few minutes walk from my High School. A friend of mine, Jeanie, got herself an after-school job there (that's not her in the photo, btw).
Interestingly the menu was quite different. Homestead sold not only chicken in their version of the coating, but mushrooms and potatoes too. Oddly, they didn't do onion rings...
Today I thought we could look at those eleven different secret herbs and spices that might have gone into the recipe - though, as someone once wisely pointed out, salt and pepper will be two of them! Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are pretty sure to figure (though you may notice I omit the parsley; dried parsley adds little flavour in my opinion). Celery salt is a great addition...but the big Tesco near me has stopped stocking it. Hmmm. That's seven, and to be honest, you could happily stop there. I imagine MSG (monosodium glutamate) was somewhere in the mix. Eight. As for the final three, nutmeg, paprika, and possibly ground bay leaves are definite contenders.
You'll see I've included two ingredients you may not be familiar with in my version of the recipe: garlic powder and onion granules. These are great for the coating, but be warned: there are pretenders. I once bought garlic granules and onion powder when these two were not available. Never again; both were absolutely horrid!
All the herbs mention are dried. I've gone easy with the salt, so you may want to sprinkle extra salt when you're serving them, or increase the amount of salt in the recipe a fraction. And what's stopping you from tinkering with this recipe and coming up with your own secret version of eleven different herbs and spices?
Makes enough to coat 400g of mushrooms or 500g of chicken pieces. If you're making chicken, fry it to seal the coating and finish it off in the oven, 50 minutes at 190ºC. If you are thinking of coating potatoes, try parboiling halved or quartered potatoes (12 - 14 mins perhaps?), frying them to seal the coating, and finishing them off in the oven. I've no idea how many onion rings this would produce, but I guarantee that they'd be delicious. If you are doubling up the recipe, don't double up the egg; there's still plenty.
Makes 3 portions for a main served with side dishes; 4 portions as a side.
400g smallish, evenly sized mushrooms
1/4 cup plain flour
neutral oil for shallow frying
For the egg-wash:
1/4 teaspoon celery salt (or plain sea salt)
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
a tiny grating of nutmeg
a pinch of cumin powder
a shake of white pepper
1 tablespoon of milk
For the breadcrumbs:
1 cup of dried breadcrumbs
(made from 1 1/3 cups fresh crumbs)
3/4 teaspoon sage
2/3 teaspoon rosemary, crushed in a pestle and mortar
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon onion granules
a pinch of black pepper
a pinch of salt
If you're making your own dried breadcrumbs, you need to start with fresh breadcrumbs, about 1 1/3 cups of them to produce one cup of dried. Use a robust bread for preference: something like a supermarket baguette is perfect.
Lay them out in a thin layer on a baking tray and pop them into a preheated oven at 160ºC. 8 minutes later, take them out and give them a good stir. Pop them back in and let them cook until they are a light golden brown (another 6 - 8 minutes, most likely).
Once they are cold, mix in the herbs and spices for the breadcrumbs, then put the spices for the egg-wash into a bowl, whisk in the milk, then whisk in the egg. Measure the flour into a third bowl.
Trim off the stalks, clean, then rinse your mushrooms, so they are damp. Working one at a time, coat each with flour, then the egg-wash, then finally the crumbs.
Shallow-fry them in small batches over a medium heat, the stalk side first, until they are golden on the bottom; this won't take more than 4 - 5 minutes (but check them at 3-minute mark). Adjust the heat if they seem to be cooking too quickly.
Turn them over and cook the other side. Serve them hot and enjoy!
Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.
Did you know?
You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series: