Tag Archives: mushrooms

Fungi To Be With Supperclub, London

Fungi To Be With Supperclub

I went to the most interesting supperclub last night, where the theme was one of my favourite subjects: mushrooms! The event was hosted by Andy Overall, the fun guy behind Fungi To Be With, and his wife, Heather, at their home in London near Hampstead Heath.

Andy leads a series of walks, workshops and dinners “dedicated to connecting the Greater London public to the natural environment through the magical world of fungi”.  And connect with fungi we did!

Fungi To Be With Supperclub

There were nine of us for dinner – a nice cozy group. Both Andy and Heather mingled with us throughout the meal and told us all about what we were eating and the fascinating types of mushrooms that featured in each dish. I really enjoyed their company, and the dynamic between the two of them: Andy is obviously the mushroom hunter-gatherer in this duo, while Heather is the chef, and a very competent one at that. The entire menu shined.

Here was the menu:

  • Pumpkin and Aurea Noir Soup with Chicken of the Woods Bruschetta
  • Fig, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
  • Chanterelle Lasagnielle
  • Risotto with a White Truffle Bechamel
  • Rose, Cardamom and Pistachio Gelato with Italian Cookies

Each course kept cranking out the hits. The Chicken of the Woods Bruschetta was a revelation. Chicken of the Woods is a type of mushroom that I’ve long wanted to try, and it didn’t let me down. The mushroom is extremely firm and “meaty”; it reminded me of halloumi and was just delicious served simply on crusty bread with oil and vinegar. 

Chicken of the Woods Tartines

It’s gone cold in the UK which made the pumpkin and mushroom soup all the more inviting. Meanwhile, the fresh fig salad offered a sweet break from mushrooms to cleanse our palette and get us ready for what was to come.

Fungi to Be With Supperclub

The chanterelle lasagnielle was basically a baked ramekin of pure concentrated mushroom heaven – we were all having foodgasms over this dish. And then came the most epic risotto ever, full of all kinds of exciting mushrooms: Winter Chanterelles, Hen of the Woods, Horn of the Plenty and Horse Mushrooms. This time I was wooed by the Hen of the Woods and the Horn of Plenty, both of which had real flavour and amazing texture.

Fungi To Be With Supperclub

There were no mushrooms in the dessert course but I was glad I’d saved room for it. Heather’s rose, cardamom and pistachio gelato was almost like an Indian kulfi. I was totally enamoured by this and hope she will share the recipe with me.

Fungi To Be With Supperclub

Part of why the supperclub worked so well was the atmosphere. There’s no pretence or pressure. Not all of us were mushroom geeks but it didn’t matter: Andy and Heather made us all feel totally welcome in their home, which is charmsville, by the way (as is their dog, Sophie). 

This has to be the best butter knife ever. @fungitobewith

If you’re at all interested in mushrooms and foraging, I definitely recommend spending some time with Andy and Heather. For more info about upcoming walks, forays and dinners, check out the website: Fungi To Be With.

Thanks to my friend Kanna for organise such a terrific dinner crew – I’m so glad I came along!

Mushrooms on Toast with “Limon Tuzu”

Mushrooms on Toast

Last week I received a mysterious parcel. The box read “alternating pressure pump”, but inside was neither pressure pump, bicycle pump nor breast pump. Instead, this was box recycling at its best: what once held a pressure pump now bore a wonder of delights from my friend Tim Clinch, that rad peep photographer I met in Gascony last summer and who runs stellar food photography workshops in beautiful places like France, Bulgaria and Spain.

photo.JPG

A few weeks ago I sent Tim a sample of the life-changing salsa macha, along with some dried chillies so he can make his own. In return, he sent me some of his homemade “oh fukkah it’s really good” dukkah along with an array of Turkish delights like date syrup, the best sumac ever (so far), dried gooseberries, a curious “raisin sausage” and this “limon tuzu”, aka lemon salt. Foodie pen pals are the best pen pals, don’t you think?

I’ve been having fun experimenting with the dukkah and spices (I’m saving the “sausage” for a special occasion). The dukkah is quickly becoming one of those “good with everything” sort of foods (much like salsa macha, and Chicago-style giardiniera since we’re on the subject). Today, it was time to tap the tuzu.

Lemon Salt

It was a spontaneous act, adding the lemon salt to the mushrooms. I was in a hunger-induced, post-swim, post-dog-walk panic, hastily frying the mushrooms, toasting the toast and barely finding the will to wash the rocket. It was time to salt the shrooms and I saw the tuzu before the sea salt, so in it went, and it totally transformed this fairly common breakfast into something totally tart, fresh and “fukkah yeah awesome”. A bit of thyme would have been great in here, but I couldn’t be bothered going outside so settled for a pinch of za’atar, which actually worked a treat.

In one sentence, here’s how it all came together: sautéed mushrooms with lemon salt and black pepper, served on sourdough toast with avocado, rocket and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

It took maybe 10 minutes to make, and I had to fight myself not to devour it in the same short amount of time.

My next mission is to photograph the dukkah as well as Tim photographed my chillies (see his blog – seriously, Tim, I will pay you for a print). Maybe Tim can help on this front, too… in fact, I know he can. And besides, I’ve always wanted to go to Bulgaria (I hear they have good cheese…and great photographers).

Pistachio and Cranberry Veggie Roast

Pistachio & Cranberry Veggie Roast

I’m back in Chicago for Christmas and have been happily very busy, mostly with things involving food. As I’ve written previously, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect veggie roast. Thanksgiving was good practise – and great fun – but Christmas adds an extra layer of “special” since I’ll be spending it with my family.

The veggie loaf I’ve settled on is this Pistachio and Cranberry “Nut Roast”, adapted from Anna Jones’ recipe in the Jamie Oliver magazine of all places. But I really do love it. She bills it as a “nutroast”, but there’s a whole lot more going here – a risotto-style base of barley (or arborio rice), mushrooms, cheese, pistachios of course, plus lots of Christmassy herbs like rosemary and sage. The best part, though, is the cranberry “glaze” on top that makes it actually look pretty appealing, rather than just a vomitty-colored lump of congealedness on a plate. Plus, cranberries are great with pistachios. And cooking the rice in a risotto-like manner with white wine, wild mushrooms and porchini mushrooms gives the loaf that super umami flavour that you really need on Christmas.

I made this for the Thanksgiving crew and everyone enjoyed it. I’ve adapted it slightly to include lentils for added texture. A slice of this veggie roast requires cashew gravy and, if you’re me, my aunt’s killer cranberry chutney.

Pistachio and Cranberry Veggie Roast
 

Ingredients
  • A small handful of dried porcini
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 90g risotto rice or pearl barley
  • 60g puy lentils
  • 100ml white wine
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • 200g mixed wild mushrooms
  • 100g pistachios, toasted
  • 100g almonds, toasted
  • A handful of breadcrumbs from sourdough or ciabatta
  • 50g strong cheddar cheese, grated
  • 225g ricotta cheese
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 sprigs each of sage, rosemary and thyme, leaves picked and chopped
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 200g fresh cranberries

Instructions
  1. Cook the puy lentils in boiling water until al dente, then drain and set aside.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, make the risotto base: Soak the dried porcini in a little boiling water. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat. Add the celery and onion and cook for 10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the rice. Cook for a minute or so until you hear it snap, crackle and pop, then add the wine and stir until absorbed.
  4. Drain the porcini, sieve any grit from the liquid and add this to the risotto pan, stirring until absorbed. Finely chop the porcini and add to the pan.
  5. Add the hot stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring each one in until it has been completely absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir as much as you can – this is what will make it creamy. Once the rice is al dente (when you break into a grain, it should be almost cooked through but still have a white fleck in the middle), transfer to a bowl to cool.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F. Fry the wild mushrooms in a little olive oil over a medium heat for 5–10 minutes, until they are just starting to crisp. Bash the nuts into coarse pieces, or quickly pulse in a food processor.
  7. Once the risotto has cooled, add all other ingredients except the sugar and cranberries, season, and mix well.
  8. Butter a 20cm loaf tin and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Cook the sugar and the cranberries in a pan over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes, then tip into the tin and spread evenly. Pile on the nut-roast mixture and pack it down with the back of a spoon.
  9. Cover the whole thing with foil and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes. Once it’s golden brown on top, remove the nut roast from the oven and leave to settle for 10 minutes.
  10. Use a knife to loosen the tin, then place your serving platter or board on top. Cover your hand with a tea towel and flip the whole lot over, then carefully lift the tin off. Serve with cashew gravy and all the trimmings.

 

Image credit: Many thanks to Emily for snapping the above picture on Thanksgiving. A very happy moment captured!

Puffball Mushrooms

Three perfect puffballs

Last Wednesday I went for a walk in the fields and came across three gleaming white little puffball mushrooms, each about the size of a golf ball. I’ve found them before, and even picked a few, but never had the ambition to actually do anything with them. However, after last Saturday’s five-course meal at the Wild Garlic – wherein Matthew Beardshall served me a grilled puffball mushroom with roasted artichokes, shallots and kale, quite possibly the best vegetarian main dish I’ve ever had in my life, ever – I was inspired.

Pan-frying puffballs

There aren’t many recipes around for dainty puffball mushrooms like these, but I’d read that they go well with eggs. I really didn’t have many mushrooms to spare so I decided a simple approach was best: sliced and pan-fried in a bit of butter, then tossed with salt and pepper.

Once the mushrooms were cooked, I fried an egg while dry-grilling a few tomatoes, something I learned last Tuesday at Yotam Ottolenghi’s masterclass at the Vegetarian Cookery School. The whole lot went on a nest of curly kale, scattered with chives. I must admit, it looked pretty good:

Fried egg with puffball mushrooms

But how did it taste? Puffballs have a unique flavour that’s almost smokey, and a lovely spongy texture that doesn’t go watery. The large puffball at Wild Garlic had an almost paneer-like texture. These smaller ones were a bit dryer, but had the same earthy flavour and went very nicely with the slightly runny fried egg and dark greens.

It’s also worth pointing out that I picked and ate wild mushrooms and didn’t die. I’m hoping to find some more puffballs this weekend for round two.

Puffball mushrooms on the farm!