by Rubel Zaman
Mushrooms are a wonderfuly diverse and delicious foodstuff. From creamy mushroom soup to risotto, pasta and vegetarian dishes mushrooms are the ideal accompanying vegetable, starter or main dish for any meal.
Mushrooms can be domestically cultivated and are also found in the wild. They are as diverse in taste. From the deep, meaty, earthy large field mushroom to the delicate cep and one of the spicy, slimy Chinese mushroom. They differ in price greatly in the case of button mushrooms which sell at under £1 for 150g in some supermarkets and are a world apart from their wild cousin the truffle, which can retail up to £10,000 per kilo. Mushrooms can accommodate all palates from paupers to billionaires.
The largest cultivator of mushrooms is China, not surprising considering much Chinese cuisine includes any number of different mushrooms; and some species of these versatile fungi are also used in Chinese medicine and homeopathy; and make a delicious but unusual tea full of antioxidants.
Mushrooms that have been exposed to ultra violet light contain the only known vegan source of natural vitamin D.
There are numerous types of edible mushroom, but the mushroom connoisseur must be extremely careful if they choose to eat food picked in the wild, and it is advisable to take an expert mushroom hunter when foraging. If foraging in the wild isn’t to your taste there are kits available to enable you to cultivate your own mushrooms; and, of course you can buy them fresh, tinned or dried in food stores and vegetable shops.
Some of our favourites are:
Button Mushroom – Versatile and tasty, these can be fried or boiled to accompany a cooked breakfast, chopped into soups and sauces and liquidised into soups. Baby buttons can also be thrown into mushroom stroganoff and risotto for extra flavour.
Field Mushroom – These large flat mushrooms are thick and meaty and can provide vegetarians with much needed minerals. They are fabulous when stuffed with cheese or rice or vegetables and served with a side salad, delicious.
Chanterelle – These unusual-shaped mushrooms are bright yellow in appearance and grow naturally in North Europe and America, Central Asia and parts of South America and Africa. Chanterelle mushrooms often come dried and some chef’s dispute that they taste better after being dried and rehydrated. When fresh, Chanterelle mushrooms are delicious when cooked in butter.
Cep - Cep mushrooms are also known as Porcini and are available in fresh and dried form. They are perfect for soups, sauces and risotto. The water in which the dried form is rehydrated is flavoursome, and can be used as the liquid in which the rice can simmer and soak up, when cooking a mushroom risotto.
Oyster – The Oyster mushroom is so named because of its similar appearance to an oyster. It is highly regarded in East Asian cuisine; and due to its cholesterol lowering properties is also considered valuable in Chinese and natural medicine.
If you enjoy fine dining, why not try using delicious truffle oil in your cooking, or even some black truffle freshly hunted to order in Italy.