Sunday, 7 September 2014

Cottage Cheese and Pesto Stuffed Baked Mushrooms

Mushrooms are my favorite and can have them at any time during the day for any or every meal. In fact, I have noticed that there are very few people who dislike them. The Westerners are always all love for them and so when I had the task of hosting my German guests last weekend, I knew a Mushroom starter would definitely be a good option. I had once baked the mushrooms with spiced cream cheese and, although it was highly appreciated, I wanted to work on the health factor this time. Cottage cheese or paneer was the best healthy alternative for the cream cheese and pesto is anyway a powerhouse of nutrients. The combination turned out superb and was the star of the evening. 
P.S.: The final pictures here are not of very high quality as I could not click a proper one in front of the guests! :(

For the Basil Almond Pesto
2 cups packed Basil leaves (stems removed and washed)
2-3 sprigs Italian Parsley or any variety that you have
1/4 cup almonds lightly roasted (I used chopped peeled almonds from the market but you can use whole ones too with the skin on) 
5-6 big fat cloves of garlic (adjust as per your taste)
1 tbsp olive oil plus more for topping
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Mushrooms
18 Portobello Mushrooms or any variety mushroom that you have; however, button mushrooms (the regular ones) shrink to half and leave a lot of water and is better not to use them. 
150 gms cottage cheese or paneer mashed
2 tbsp parsley finely chopped
3-4 tbsp pesto 
Grated parmesan cheese as required
Salt and pepper to taste
Red chilli flakes (optional)

Making the pesto
Put the basil leaves, garlic, parsley, and roasted almonds in a grinder and make a smooth paste. Do not add any water. After the initial pulses, add 1 tbsp olive oil or as required and pulse further till smooth. Transfer to a clean tight lid jar and add salt and pepper as per taste. Top it up with some more olive oil and store in the refrigerator till further use. 
For the Mushrooms
Mash the paneer with your hands or a fork ensuring there are no big lumps. Now add the pesto, salt and pepper as per your taste. Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Start with 3-4 tbsp of the pesto and then add according to your taste. Mix well and keep aside. 
Take the mushrooms and remove the stems gently. Wash inside out and wipe them dry. Prepare a large baking tray big enough to hold all the mushrooms in a single layer. Lightly grease the tray and keep aside. Pre-heat the oven at 175 degree celsius. 
Now take spoonfuls of the paneer and pesto mixture and fill it inside the mushroom caps. Place the mushrooms on the baking tray rounded side down. Repeat till all the mushrooms are stuffed. Now sprinkle some parsley and cheese on top of each mushroom and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese starts browning. If the mushroom leaves a lot of water, discard it before serving. Serve hot or warm!

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