Funny fungi … and how to cook them
With autumn making its presence felt in the last few weeks we’re heading into mushroom season. Damp ground, fallen leaves and earth still warm from summer are the perfect medium for these tasty fungi. We don’t advocate foraging unless you are really expert in identifying what might kill you and what might not. Much safer options can be found at your local Hill Street store! But with the range of exotic and downright funny looking fungi available these days, which variety is right for the dish you are cooking?
Button and cap mushrooms are small white mushrooms of the same species - button with the cap still tightly closed around the stem and cap mushrooms left to grow larger. They are your everyday mushroom, and hold their shape well when cooked. Packed with nutrients, they are a storehouse of vitamin B, D and antioxidants.
Great in: salads (left raw), pasta sauces, stir fries and a classic mushroom sauce. Left whole they make a delicious garlicky side dish.
Pair well with: garlic, butter, bacon, thyme, pine nuts, red or white wine, cream or goat’s cheese.
Swiss Browns originate from the same species as button and cap but have a chestnut-brown coloured top and have been allowed to grow past cap stage to be flat and large. With a meaty texture and rich taste, they are also known as Portobello mushrooms.
Perfect for: stuffing and grilling - think pine nuts, garlic, breadcrumbs, thyme and goat’s cheese.
Oyster mushrooms are a superfood which supports heart and immune system health, balances blood sugar, and provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. They are large, pearly white, beige or apricot coloured, and shaped like an oyster shell.
Delicious in: Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cooking. They are ideal for braising, sautéing, stir-fries, roasting or grilling. They can be served as a side dish or used in sauces, pastas, risotto, or even on top of toast.
Shiitake mushrooms have a brown cap and meaty flavour. They have excellent health benefits too, reducing cholesterol, supporting immune function and heart function and may even have cancer fighting properties. They can be dried and are generally used in the same way as all other mushrooms.
Especially good in: Asian style broths and stir-fries.
Shimeji mushrooms are small round mushrooms with long white stalks and either a white or brown speckled cap. They should always be cooked, as they have a slightly bitter taste which disappears on cooking. They have a firm, slightly crunchy texture with a nutty flavour. Compounds in Shimeji are noted to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke.
Best for: stir fries, soups, Japanese hot pot, and Japanese rice dishes.
Enoki mushrooms look a little like sea anemones, with small button heads on their long white stalks. They grow many heads from one root base. They must be cooked before eating to kill any bacteria they may harbour, such as listeria. Also a superfood, their health benefits range from lowering cholesterol to boosting immunity.
Delicious in: Japanese style soups, stir-fries.