Mushrooms are amazing, neither plant nor animal they belong to a kingdom of life all their own.
They come in a wide variety of textures, colours and flavours, from the tough and meaty to the subtle and innocuous and can be used to flavour a dish or simply to add substance and texture to it.
These days you can easily buy a whole range of dried or fresh mushrooms in your local store, but an experienced forager can source an almost year-round supply in their own back yard.
Mushrooms are truly versatile and can be used in an amazing array of dishes. Often various mushroom types can be substituted for meat in just about any dish. Indeed, the Romans and Greeks used them for this very purpose. But, in general, fresh mushrooms do not last long and they become soggy and inedible very quickly. The good news, though is that mushrooms can be preserved quite quickly. If you have mushrooms that are past their best then they can be strung on a string and hung in a warm, dry, spot to dry. Or they can be pickled. Another way of storing is to chop and to fry with onion garlic and herbs to make what the French call a ‘duxelle’. Mushrooms fried in this way can be stored by freezing and then can be added to soups, stews or any dish calling for fried mushrooms.
Below you will find two classic mushroom-based dishes. The first incorporating a farmed or shop-bought mushroom and the second incorporating a wild mushroom.
Mushroom and Spinach Rustic Pie
125g unsalted butter
350g plain flour
25g parmesan cheese
large onion, chopped
75g oyster mushroom
4 skinned, chopped, plum tomatoes
125g diced mozzarella
salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
Rub 125g unsalted butter into 350g plain flour with a pinch of salt to make a fine crumb texture. Stir-in 25g of grated parmesan cheese and then add an egg yolk and enough cold water to mix to a dough. Knead lightly and chill the pastry for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile wash 250g spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until just wilted. Drain well and then roughly chop. In a frying pan, melt 25g butter, adding a chopped large onion. Cook until soft and golden. Add this to the same bowl as the spinach, mixing in 75g of a well-textured mushroom such as oyster mushrooms, porcini or chanterelles. Add four skinned, chopped plum tomatoes, 125g diced mozzarella cheese, salt, pepper and three large beaten eggs. Mix together well, then trim 2/3 of the pastry, rolling out in preparation to line a 23cm-deep quiche tin. Trim the edges, and dampen with water, spooning-in the filling. Roll out the remaining pastry, and cover the top, pinching the edges together to seal. Brush the top with a little beaten egg and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 25 minutes, or until golden.
Serve hot or cold.
Medallions of Veal with Morel Sauce
675g veal loin cut into 1.5cm thick slices
2 tbsp olive oil
120g fresh morels, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely minced
250ml fresh Hollandaise sauce
120ml double cream
salt and black pepper, to taste
Mix the hollandaise sauce with the cream in a bowl and set over a pot of hot (but not boiling) water to keep warm.
Meanwhile, add half the oil to a large frying pan, season the veal and fry the medallions to brown on each side (about 3 minutes or cooking per side). Remove to a plate and keep warm in an oven.
Add he remaining oil to the pan and use to cook the onions until soft and beginning to brown. At this point add the morels and cook for about 6 minutes (or until softened). Season with salt and black pepper then tip the morel mixture into the Hollandaise sauce.
Plate-out the veal medallions and spoon over the sauce before serving.
I hope that these recipes have given you ideas for mushroom recipes and that you want to find out more about what you can do with both wild and cultivated mushrooms.