After Wednesday’s rain and already having had to reach for a pair of PJ trousers mid-night is proof that summer has waved goodbye and autumn has walked through the door.
During autumn, the fresh produce that becomes available to us is that of the forest. Vivid greens having transformed themselves into the colours of the earth over the hot summer months. And even though we all associate the gourd: pumpkins and squashes, as autumnal feasts, for me autumn is all about the mushroom – which incidentally celebrates National Mushroom Day (usa) on 15th October!
Most fungi like to grow in moist areas and will therefore be most prominent after wet periods. For optimal growing conditions the temperature needs to be quite mild, making mid-autumn and spring ideal mushroom growing seasons.
Some wild mushrooms, like morels, only make their prominence in springtime especially after the rain. During the autumn months, trumpet shaped chanterelles and porcinis can be found in the countryside.
Mushrooms can be found in supermarkets all year round (button, shitake, portobello, oyster and other varieties) but these have probably been cultivated for supermarket sales. Wild mushrooms (chanterelle, porcini, morels, truffles, cepes) will only be found in season but are increasingly sold at farmers’ markets. Should you be unable to source wild mushroom varieties – which is a problem I’m struggling with at the moment – then reconstituted dried mushrooms will add great depth of flavour to any dish you are trying to create.
Butter, garlic and parsley – the holy trinity – in the life of a mushroom!
Woody herbs such as rosemary and thyme are also great with mushrooms. I always sauté mushrooms in butter with garlic, thyme and rosemary for fragrant-flavour and a sprinkling of chopped parsley for its fresh grassy hit on the palate.
Below you will find some great mushroom recipes to help celebrate your perfect autumnal Mushroom Day:
- Dried mushrooms
- Button/chestnut mushrooms
- Risotto Rice
- Chicken stock
- Shallots or Spring onions
- olive oil
- dry sherry/vermouth
- salt & pepper
1st: Prepare a litre of stock and keep it warm on the hob. Use any stock you wish – I prefer chicken and not vegetable stock and generally use a stock pot. Both need to be mixed with hot water. I don’t make my own stock as have neither the inkling nor the need.
2nd: Place the dried Porcini mushrooms into a bowl and cover with hot water from a recently boiled kettle to reconstitute. Leave for 10mins.
3rd: In a saucepan add some butter and olive oil. Once foamy, add a couple of finely chopped shallots (shallots are more authentic in a risotto than spring onions). Sautée until the onions are soft and translucent.
4th: Add the risotto rice to the saucepan and slick with the oniony, buttery mixture. Keep stirring the mixture so that it won’t catch on the bottom of the pan. Once you hear the rice begin to fry in the pan, pour in a glass of dry sherry. Mix into the rice mixture and let the alcohol boil off.
5th: Add ladlefuls of warm stock to the rice. As one ladleful of stock is absorbed add the next. Don’t let the rice become waterlogged as what you want is the rice to slowly cook whilst at the same time releasing its sweet, creamy starch. This stage will take approx 15mins until all the stock is absorbed.
If using fresh mushrooms, at some point chop them and add to the mixture to cook them with the risotto before moving onto the next stage.
6th: Drain most of the porcini mushroom liquor into the risotto, chop the rehydrated mushrooms and add to the risotto, make sure to retain the bottom of the liquor which will be full of grit. Take off the heat and mix in a decent knob of butter and a good handful of grated parmesan cheese. Check for seasoning. Clamp on a lid and let it sit for anything from 2-5mins.
Serve with a couple of drops of truffle oil and a green ribbon of extra virgin olive oil, a subtle grating of parmesan and a scattering of freshly chopped parsley.
Mushroom Arancini Balls
Mushrooms on toast
This needs no recipe but remember to use a medley of mushrooms; dried, wild and shop-bought, and serve on a decent slice of rustic bread. No plastic bread here! Don’t overcrowd the pan as you cook the mushrooms, otherwise the ‘shrooms will become waterlogged. Season well with salt, pepper and garlic and add your medley of herbs. At the very end of the cooking process, squeeze the tip of a lemon over the mushrooms – too much will ruin the dish. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle more chopped parsley over.
Cheesey Mushroom Melts
- 1 or 2 large mushrooms per person
- Slice of blue cheese per mushroom
- Thyme leaves
- Olive oil
1st: Put the grill on high. Clean and trim the mushrooms removing any grit and gnarly parts.
2nd: Put a large knob of butter into an oven proof pan, place the mushrooms stem side up and drizzle olive oil and sprinkle thyme leaves over. Season. Cook on the hob until the mushrooms are soft all the way through.
3rd: Baste the mushrooms in the melted butter. Once cooked, place a slice of blue cheese on each mushroom, drizzle in olive oil and place in the hot grill.
4th: Take out of the grill once the cheese has melted and serve.
Use your imagination on how to use these mushroom cheese melts: serve in a bap as an alternative to a veggie burger – the meatiness of the mushroom works well here. Boil pasta and serve the mushroom melt over and grate parmesan cheese over the plate, steak and chips and cheesy mushrooms. Or at its simplest, serve on slices of rustic sourdough toasted bread – which is just a great Sunday supper!
I’m currently working on a mushroom, pear and blue cheese tart with walnuts; mushroom works with blue cheese, blue cheese works with pear, walnuts work with all three. Might be a great idea, could be a natural disaster– I’ll let you know how that turns out.
These are just a few of my favourite mushroom recipes to help you celebrate Mushroom Day 2016.
Remember there are plenty of other mushroom recipes that you can research online such as mushroom stroganoff, stir fry beef and mushrooms served with noodles, or sauté mushrooms, stir in some cream and parmesan cheese and pour over drained pasta – to name a few ideas. If you want to be adventurous go for it – just stick to flavour combos that you know will work, tweak them and make it work with the flavours you like.
So whether you’re creating a mushroom duxelle for your beef wellington, rolling mushroom arancini or braving the weather to go out foraging for the best truffles money can buy, remember; autumn wouldn’t be autumn without the beige-white flesh of a fungi.
Regardless of the change in season, I am still refusing to bring out the duvet!