Marvellous Mushrooms

In our salute to the wild and cultivated varieties, we are featuring a creamed soup, a pie and a bruschetta.

September 15, 2008 | | Autumn 2008 | Back Issues | Departments | Food | The Country Cook

Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

A mushroom is at its best no more than a day or two after harvesting. Illustration by Shelagh Armstrong.

A valuable source of vitamin D, mushrooms are about 80 per cent water, 1 per cent fat, and are a source of protein, riboflavin, thiamine, iron, copper, potassium and phosphates. Available fresh, wild, dried, canned or pickled, mushrooms feature in the cuisines of most countries in the world. Wild varieties were used by the Sumerians in 3500 BC, and the Greeks and Romans gathered and exported a variety of mushrooms. If you are lucky enough to happen upon a puffball while on a walk this autumn, it can be substituted for some of the familiar, white, round, cultivated mushrooms in any of the recipes below.

Quite perishable, the perfect mushroom feels firm to the touch, and as a general rule, the shorter the stem, the better. Reject any that are discoloured, limp, slimy, sticky, or have opened up like umbrellas.

A mushroom is at its best no more than a day or two after harvesting, so unless you are planning to use them quickly, it is best to purchase them when you are about to cook. A mushroom can begin to discolour as soon as it is handled and most prepackaged mushrooms in supermarkets are chemically washed and bleached prior to packaging.

Natural, fresh mushrooms are a far better buy, not only because there are no chemicals involved to mask imperfections, but a natural mushroom won’t begin to get sticky as fast, even if the package has been opened.

In our salute to the wild and cultivated varieties, we are featuring a creamed soup, a pie and a bruschetta. The best bruschetta is made with a crusty Italian loaf cut on the diagonal. Garlic cloves, bruised with the flat of the knife impart their heady flavour when rubbed onto the toasted bread.

Bruschetta with Goat Cheese and Mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup | 125 ml olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp | 30 ml chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp | 15 ml chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp | 5 ml chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp | 15 ml dry sherry
  • 4 large mushrooms
  • 1 c | 250 ml goat cheese
  • 4 slices Italian bread, sliced 1 inch thick
  • sea salt and black pepper

Chop three cloves of the garlic and mix with the olive oil. Add the parsley, garlic and sherry and set aside to marinate for at least an hour. Place the mushrooms on a baking tray and brush with the olive oil mixture. Bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes, or until soft. While the mushrooms are baking, toast the bread slices. Cut the remaining garlic in half and rub onto the toasted bread. Mix the goat cheese with the thyme and spread over the toasted bread. Place under the broiler until the cheese warms. Remove the mushrooms and place one onto each piece of bread. Drizzle with leftover oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Creamed Mushroom Soup

  • 2 c | 500 ml sliced white mushrooms
  • 2 c | 500 ml mixed shiitake, oyster and chanterelles
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 c | 62 ml butter
  • 4 c | 1 L chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, melt the butter and add the onions. Cook until onion is soft, then add the mushrooms. Stir occasionally and cook until the mushrooms are soft. Add the chicken stock and cook a further 15 minutes. Place in a blender and purée. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Decorate with a few thinly sliced fresh mushrooms. Serves 6.

Mushroom Pie

  • 2 c | 500 ml plain flour
  • 1/2 c | 125 ml semolina flour
  • 1/2 c | 125 ml cold butter, cubed
  • 1/4 c | 62 ml heavy cream
  • 2-3 tbsp | 30-45 ml ice water
  • 1/4 tsp | 1.5 ml salt

Filling

  • 1 c | 250 ml blue oyster mushrooms
  • 1/2 c | 125 ml shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 c | 250 ml cremini mushrooms
  • 2 c | 500 ml field mushrooms
  • 1 c | 250 ml enoki mushrooms
  • 1 large leek
  • 1/2 c | 125 ml butter
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp | 30 ml flour
  • 1/2 c | 125 ml dry white wine
  • 1/2 c | 125 ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 c | 62 ml thick cream
  • 2 tbsp | 30 ml chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg yolk

Set the enoki mushrooms aside and slice the remaining mushrooms thickly. Heat the butter in a large frying pan and add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Slice the leek, wash and drain well and add to the frying pan. Stir in the flour. Pour in the wine, stock, cream and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Mix in with the mushrooms, add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cool.

To make the pastry, mix the flours and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the cream and water, form into a ball and chill for 20 minutes. Divide the pastry in half and roll out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Place half of the pastry into a pie plate. Chill for another 20 minutes. Add the filling, then roll out the other pastry half and place on top. Seal the edges and make a small hole on the top to allow steam to escape. Preheat oven to 400°F. If desired, used trimmings to decorate top surface of the pie with mushroom shapes. Brush with egg yolk and bake for 35– 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serves 6.

About the Author More by Sandra Cranston-Corradini

Sandra Cranston-Corradini is the proprietor of the Cranston-Corradini School of Cooking.

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Julie and Ralph Baumlisberger have been in the mushroom business for five years and now produce about 1.5 tonnes of the edible fungi each week. Photo by Pete Paterson.

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Magic in Mushrooms! So you think mushrooms are all flavour, no substance? At Windy Field Farms they have news for you.

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