How To Make The Most Of Mushrooms

Mushrooms are amazing — neither plant nor animal they belong to a kingdom of life all their own.

They come in a wide variety of textures, colours and flavours — from the tough and meaty to the subtle and innocuous and can be used to flavour a dish or simply to add substance and texture to it.

These days you can easily buy a whole range of dried or fresh mushrooms in your local store, but an experienced forager can source an almost year-round supply in their own back yard.

Mushrooms are truly versatile and can be used in an amazing array of dishes. Often various mushroom types can be substituted for meat in just about any dish. Indeed, the Romans and Greeks used them for this very purpose. But, in general, fresh mushrooms do not last long and they become soggy and inedible very quickly. The good news, though is that mushrooms can be preserved quite quickly. If you have mushrooms that are past their best then they can be strung on a string and hung in a warm, dry, spot to dry. Or they can be pickled. Another way of storing is to chop and to fry with onion garlic and herbs to make what the French call a 'duxelle'. Mushrooms fried in this way can be stored by freezing and then can be added to soups, stews or any dish calling for fried mushrooms.

Below you will find two classic mushroom-based dishes. The first incorporating a farmed or shop-bought mushroom and the second incorporating a wild mushroom.

Paupiettes of Veal

8 thin slices of veal (about 30g each) cut from the loin

60g mushrooms

1 egg

2 small onions, finely chopped

120g bacon, cut into small dice

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/2 tbsp julienned lemon zest

1 tbsp breadcrumbs

50g flour
bacon drippings

salt and black pepper

1 tsp thyme leaves

handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Melt the drippings in a pan and use to fry the onions, mushrooms and bacon until nicely coloured (about 8 minutes). Tip into a bowl, allow to cool then mix in the lemon zest, breadcrumbs, parsley, seasonings and 1 egg, beaten. Mix to combine thoroughly and set aside.

Place each piece of veal between two sheets of clingfilm and use a mallet or rolling pin to flatten each piece. Season liberally with salt and freshly-ground black pepper and thyme then lay a little of the stuffing on each slice before rolling-up the meat and securing with a toothpick or tying with butcher's string.

Add some more bacon fat to a pan and use to brown the meat then add just enough water to cover and allow to simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and mustard to the sauce then cook for a further 30 minutes at a very low simmer.

You should end-up with a creamy sauce. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.

Venison with Blackcurrants and Chanterelles

1kg venison meat (boned and cubed)

750ml red wine

2 garlic cloves, crushed

450g black (or red) currants (or 250ml redcurrant jelly)

120g fresh chanterelle mushrooms

500ml venison or beef stock 

1 tbsp dried onion, crushed

1 tsp salt
2 tbsp arrowroot

In a large pot combine the venison, stock, wine, onion, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Add the black- or red currants (or jelly) and chanterelles and bring the mixture back to a boil.

Form a slurry of the arrowroot and 4 tbsp water and add this to the mixture. Simmer until thickened, adjust the seasonings and serve on a bed of rice.

I hope that these recipes have given you ideas for mushroom recipes and that you want to find out more about what you can do with both wild and cultivated mushrooms.

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About The Author, Gwydion
Dyfed runs the Celtnet Recipes where you can find many more Mushroom Recipes. If these recipes have piqued your interest then you should find out more about Wild Food Recipes.