These days we are all used to thinking of colourful vegetables such as peppers and aubergines as containing lots of useful nutrients and minerals but the less showy mushroom is just as useful nutritionally. These members of the fungi family are not only full of flavour but are also a great source of valuable vitamins, including vitamins D and B, iron, and selenium, all vital to good health as we head into the winter months with little sunshine. As a cook, I welcome their rich meaty flavours and texture. They add depth and interest to many dishes at this time of year. The secret is to give them careful cooking as they are full of water (most mushrooms are 90% water!) and can go slimy if treated in the wrong way. Short, fast cooking is the trick, which also helps to retain the valuable nutrients.
There are plenty of different varieties of cultivated mushrooms now available in store from the more familiar button and chestnut to exotic mixes. Picking the right one for the recipe is the secret to success – at one end of the scale button mushrooms retain their texture and colour so are good in chicken or lighter dishes whilst dark rich field mushrooms can be stuffed and baked or sliced and used in pies and braises.
Mushroom and coconut curry with coriander chutney
Mushrooms haven’t been traditionally used in Indian cookery apart from in the south of the country but make a very tasty speedy supper dish when cooked with curry spices and coconut milk. Use fat Portobello mushrooms thickly sliced or halved and top with a simple fresh coriander chutney
Serves 2/Prep 15 mins/Cook 10 minutes
1 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
1 echalion shallot, finely chopped
1.5 cm piece ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 – 2 red chillies, seeded and chopped
1 – 2 tsp Cooks Ingredients Keralan curry paste (you can use curry powder)
250g Portobello mushrooms, thickly sliced or halved
200g coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
50g LoveLife cashew nuts (or almonds)
1/2 pack fresh coriander, finely chopped
natural yogurt to serve (optional)
1 Heat the oil in a medium pan and add the shallot, ginger, garlic and half the chilli. Cook for several minutes until soft then add the curry paste and cook for a minute. Put the heat up and add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for a couple of minutes until lightly browned.
2 Turn down the heat and add the coconut milk, juice of ½ lime and cashews. Season and simmer for 5 minutes until the sauce is thickened and the mushrooms are tender but not collapsed.
3 Chop the coriander and mix with the remaining lime juice and remaining chopped chilli. Serve the mushrooms with the coriander chutney, lime wedges and a dollop of yogurt if you feel like it. I served mine with the lovely LoveLife red Camargue and wild rice mix but you can serve it with warm Indian bread.
Flaky mushroom, celeriac and thyme pie
There is nothing more comforting now as the days get shorter than a well-baked pie. This one marries the earthy flavours of mushrooms with mellow rich celeriac – a marriage made in heaven to be sure. If you have the time, try the quick flaky pastry for its lovely texture and flavour but if not you can substitute ready-made shortcrust pastry with butter
Serves 6/Prep 40 minutes plus chilling/Cook 1 hour
For the quick flaky pastry:
175g butter, stored in the freezer
225g plain flour
beaten egg to glaze
For the filling:
1 large celeriac, about 800g
3 tbsp double cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 200g packs mixed exotic mushrooms
2 tbsp each chopped fresh thyme and parsley
1 To make the pastry, put the butter in the freezer for half an hour. Sift the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Wrap one end of the butter in foil and coarsely grate into the flour. Mix to coat the butter in the flour then add 85 – 100ml chilled water and mix to a soft dough with a knife. Bring together with your hands into a dough, wrap in film and chill for 30 minutes.
2 Preheat the oven to 200C gas mark 6. Peel the celeriac and cut into thick matchsticks. Cook in the boiling stock for 15 – 20 minutes until tender. Toss with seasoning, cream and mustard and leave to cool. Meanwhile cook the onion and garlic in the hot oil and butter in a large frying pan for a few minutes until softened then add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the herbs and seasoning and tip the pan ingredients onto a plate to cool.
3 Roll out two thirds of the pastry and use to line a 20cm spring-release cake tin. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the pastry and spread level. Arrange the celeriac over the top. Roll out the remaining pastry and use to cover the pie, pinching to seal the edges. Brush the pastry with beaten egg, cut a steam hole in the centre and bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Serve hot in wedges with salad or cold for packed lunches.
Baked chicken with mushrooms and Gorgonzola
This dish reminds me of my mother’s cooking – easy to prepare and a classic combination of flavours that everyone loves. Button mushrooms work best here as they stay firm and don’t leach colour into the sauce. You can swap the chicken thighs for breast fillets but I prefer their texture and taste, and cooking chicken on the bone adds enormously to the flavour of the finished dish
Serves 4/Prep 15 minutes/Cook 25 minutes
4 large chicken thighs
1 tbsp seasoned flour
1 tsp olive oil
400g button mushrooms, halved
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
50ml white wine
150 ml chicken stock
50g Gorgonzola, cubed
50ml crème fraiche
chopped fresh flat leafed parsley to serve
1 Preheat the oven to 180C gas mark 4. Toss the chicken thighs in the seasoned flour to coat. Heat half the oil and half the butter together in a flameproof casserole and cook the chicken thighs until golden brown, turning once. Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
2 Add the rest of the oil and butter to the pan and add the mushrooms. Cook over a high heat for 3 -4 minutes until lightly browned, then return the chicken thighs to the pan, add the tarragon, wine, stock and seasoning and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and place in the oven for 25 minutes.
3 Scatter over the Gorgonzola and pour over the cream, return the pan to the oven for 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce just thickened. Scatter with parsley and serve with egg tagliatelle to soak up the delicious sauce.
Cook’s tip: you can use skinless thighs or breasts here for a lighter dish but for the classic full flavoured finish as a special treat I like to leave the skin on but make sure it is well browned
Three quick ideas with mushrooms
Baking large field mushrooms with a stuffing makes an easy lunch or simple supper. Try this pesto and olive crust – remove the stalks from large flat mushrooms and chop. Stuff the shells with a mixture of basil pesto, dried breadcrumbs and chopped Kalamata olives with the chopped mushroom stalks. You can bind with an egg yolk if it needs it. Scatter with pine nuts and grated pecorino or Parmesan and a little olive oil and bake in a hot oven until golden and tender.
Papardelle with mushroom, pancetta and rosemary – mushrooms make a wonderfully meaty quick sauce for pasta. Fry pancetta cubes in a little oil then add sliced portabellini mushrooms, fresh rosemary, chopped garlic and cook over a high heat. Add a dash of white wine then toss with cooked pasta and grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Mushrooms on toast – one of my favourite ways to enjoy mushrooms at their simplest and best. Chestnut mushrooms work well here and I slice them then fry them quickly in a little butter, add a chopped clove of garlic, cook for a minute, then scatter over plenty of chopped flat leaf parsley and pile onto toasted sourdough. You can add a dash of cream or sherry to finish but the dish works well without