Tag Archives: mushrooms


…or mushroom salad, if – like me – your knowledge of Finnish is less than fluent…

This was a little dish that I came across as a part of the Most Amazing Organic Breakfast at the Klaus K hotel when I was in Helsinki last summer for a wedding. It was hidden in amongst the breakfast goodies, and at first, it did not look all that dramatic. In terms of appearance, it was clearly overshadowed by bright orange buckthorn and vivid purple blueberry juices, cakes, cheeses, rolls and similar, but I’m a mushroom lover, and decided to take a little of it, just to try.

I must admit, this was with a slight twinge of reluctance, for their version was rather finely hacked, and a couple of us were looking at it for a while to work out whether it really was mushroom salad, or some disguised tuna mayo to catch out unwary visitors. Luckily, it was tuna-free, and it was delicious. So delicious. Utterly delicious! I kept going back for more, and by day three, I was piling the breakfast plate high with the stuff.

Given how good it tastes, this really is a rather simple recipe – sliced mushrooms, mixed with a savoury cream sauce. The only “trick” is that the mushrooms are boiled for a minute or two after slicing, so they take on a texture which is not quite raw, but they’re not as tough as they can been when they’ve been cooked for ages. They keep a little bite, but they are not too fragile. However, if you prefer your mushrooms fresh, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t skip the cooking step and go raw.

I was pretty confident that I could work out a recipe for this salad myself – surely I just had to work out how to combine mushrooms, cream, salt, pepper and some chives. Well, I was more or less right on that. However, I checked a few sources, and was being recommended some horrific levels of salt. Two teaspoons to three tablespoons of cream! My brain was yelling to me that this was clearly far, far, far too much, so I decided to follow the method (cook the mushrooms in water with a squeeze of lemon juice, then make the sauce), but let myself be guided by by own sense of taste – just a little salt in the sauce, and then round it out with a dash of sugar and some freshly ground black pepper. This is also a good rule of thumb when you see a recipe, either in a book or online – read it, and think about it – does it work? Does it have everything you’re expecting? If someone promises the lightest, fluffiest cake but there is nothing in the method or the ingredients list to provide the necessary va-va-voom for lift off, are you really going to follow it blindly? Exactly!

With the mushrooms done and the sauce mixed to my taste, I combined the lot, and the flavour was almost perfectly as I remembered it. Substantial, earthy and intensely savoury. It reminded me a little of walking in the forest on a damp day – which is, in itself, a rather Nordic thing to do. But something wasn’t quite there. Then I remembered that I had not added any onion – it just needed a tablespoon of very finely shredded onion. I added it, and that did the trick – it just added that tiny extra tangy touch to finish off the dish.

So there you have it – a light, simply Finnish mushroom salad that you can enjoy when spring and summer finally get here, and a nice savoury contrast to the sweet Nordic goodies I’ve looked at recently (creamy semlor buns and cinnamon rolls). There has been a lot written of late about how this year we’re going to see Scandinavian and Nordic food become more popular, and frankly, it’s about time too! There are some real culinary gems in there waiting to be discovered. Think of dinner outside on a warm evening when the sun hardly sets…and given I am writing this as I see pouring rain and trails of water flowing down the glass, that cannot come soon enough for me!

To make sienisalaatti:

• 300g mushrooms (12 large-ish button mushrooms)
• Squeeze of lemon juice
• 3-4 tablespoons double cream
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• pinch of sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion or spring onion
• fresh chives, chopped, to serve

Wash the mushrooms and slice finely. Bring a pan of water to the boil, add a squeeze of lemon juice, then boil the mushrooms for 2 minutes. Drain and pat the mushrooms dry with some paper towel.

While the mushrooms are cooling, make the sauce – combine the cream, salt, sugar, pepper and onion. If too thick, add a dash of water. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required, the mix with the mushrooms. Just before serving, put into a bowl and sprinkle with chopped fresh chives.

Worth making? The only thing that is annoying with this reicpe is just how long I waited before making it. The flavour is absolutely delicious, the method is very easy, and it makes for a wonderful addition to dinner as a side dish, or as part of a breakfast spread. Highly recommended.


Filed under Recipe, Savoury

Autumn Days and a Mushroom-Barley Pilaf

Ah, those crisp autumn days! We hanker after bright sun of summer or the fresh mornings in spring, but I love the crisp, bright autumn days we are enjoying at the moment.

Summer is well and truly over, but produce-wise, you are still able to enjoy a good range of quite interesting and exciting things. And enjoy it you should, because this is that last, final celebration before the darkness of winter creeps upon us. Brrrr!

Just to make the point, here are a few shots that I have taken recently, and I think they convey the mood quite well. Autumn colours with sunlight streaming through yellow leaves, berries and crab apples a-plenty, and a few interesting looking things at local farmer’s markets. I knew about heirloom tomatoes, but I have now learned about heirloom carrots!

To go with this time of year, I have tried my hand at a pilaf dish, but based on barley. It’s a grain that you don’t often see on menus, which is a bit of a shame. It was one of the first grains that were grown in Europe, so it has pedigree, but it is also very tasty. For me, it is what makes a decent bowl of broth, adding a bit of chewiness, but keeping its shape, unlike the tendency of rice to self-destruct and turn to mush after too long in soup stock.

I think this recipe works because it successfully pairs the “earthy” quality of barley with mushrooms to make a rich, warm and filling winter dish. In some ways, it is very much like a risotto, but the finished results is also quite different. The grains of barley soften but do not turn to mush, keeping a little bit of bite and chewiness, so there is more texture than in a risotto. There is also no cream or cheese in the pilaf, so it makes it filling but not heavy. And one of the big attractions to a busy home cook is that rather than the stir-stir-stir method of good risotto, you cook onion and barley in a little olive oil, then add everything else and allow to simmer gently for 45 minute. Job done.

To make Mushroom Barley Pilaf (serves 4):

• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 240g barley
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 200g mushrooms, roughly sliced
• 2 spring onions, sliced
• 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• Parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium heat. Add the onion and fry until soft and translucent. Add the barley, and cook for two minutes until it is toasted (you will have to stir all the time to stop it burning).

Add the stock, mushrooms, spring onions, thyme and black pepper. Stir well and simmer for 45 minutes until the barley is tender and the stock has been absorbed.

To serve, fluff the pilaf a little with a fork. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.


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Brunch Favourites: Mushrooms on Toast

A lazy Saturday, finally! It was also once of those brilliant, cold autumn mornings where it is nice to sit around and catch up on what is going on in the world with light streaming into the house. With the Saturday papers bought, this is just the sort of day to say whatever I have to do, I am going to make brunch and laze around for a while!

Brunch is not a meal that I eat very often. During the week? Forget it! And at weekends, I’m generally too busy as it’s a case of up early and out the door to do “stuff” (travel, shopping, socialising, culture). But yesterday was a little quieter, and I fancied something comforting to enjoy with coffee as I read the paper. Creamy mushrooms on toast!

I have a really soft spot for mushrooms on toast. Good mushrooms, cut into chunks, then cooked up with butter, fresh black pepper and a little soy sauce, then add cream and cook until thick. And finally, if you are feeling decadent, add a dash of truffle oil from your holiday in Italy (which seems too long ago!). All actually very simple, but it seems such an extravagant way to start the day. Sure, you could have muesli with yoghurt (which I usually have), but when you have the time for something fancy, fancy usually wins, at least in my house.

By chance, fortune smiled on me as I had a punnet of chestnut mushrooms to make this dish with. I like then as they have that little something extra in the flavour department, which makes then great raw in salads, and they have a deeper, richer flavour when cooked as compared to white button mushrooms. And the little dash of soy sauce just adds to the magic, but I really mean just a dash. Try it.

Taking foresight to another level, I had used my bread machine the night before, and had a fresh loaf of granary bread waiting for me in the morning. I swear, none of this was planned, just a morning when you start to make something and are thrilled to find everything you need already in the kitchen! I cut some thick bread slabs, drizzled the slices with a little olive oil, and baked in a hot oven until they were crisp. This little trick means that the bread stays crisp once the creamy mushrooms are poured on top, so you have a combination of the silky mushroom sauce and the crackle of the bread as you munch your way through this dish.

To make mushrooms on toast (serves 2):

• 250g mushrooms
• 25g butter
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• soy sauce, to taste
• 200ml double cream
• 1/4 teaspoon truffle oil
• 2 thick slices of bread
• olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).

Cut the mushrooms into chunks. Melt the butter in a frying pan, then add the mushrooms, pepper and soy sauce. Stir well to coat the mushrooms in butter, and cook over a medium heat until the mushrooms release their water. Cook until around half the water has evaporated, then add the cream and stir. Cook on a gentle heat until the mixture has thickened.

In the meantime, brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil and place on a tray in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes until golden.

Remove the bread from the oven and put onto serving plates. Stir the truffle oil through the mushrooms, the pile the mushrooms on the toasted bread.

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Galettes Bretonnes with Mushrooms

Imagine you are on holiday in the French Pyrenees mountains. You’ve been walking in the forests, and reach a remote little village just in time for lunch. What to eat? Local cheeses on rustic mountain bread? Well, if you were me on holiday last year, it turned out that the only veggie show in town was a place selling, eh, buckwheat savoury crepes from Brittany. Not that they are not tasty, just not what you would expect half way up a mountain. But it could have been worse – a plate of cucumber was a strong possibility in the meat-loving South of France.

The particular out-of-place delicacy that is the subject of today’s post is the galette bretonne. I really love them, and they always score well in my book given the fact that they are not a warm goat cheese salad, and thus finding them in la belle France is always a pleasure. These are delicate, lacy, savoury crepes, but have some substance to them as they are made using a goodly amount of buckwheat flour, which adds a bit of a nutty flavour to the crepe. They typically also have a lot of filling to make them into a satisfying meal – often eggs or cheese, but my favourite is with chopped mushrooms cooked with cream and black pepper, and sprinkled with chives. The trick with presenting them is to put the filling the middle (while it is on the stove, if you like it to cook or melt), then flip each of the four sides over a little bit to form a square, with the filling just peeping out of the middle to entice you in.

Another helpful thing about these galettes is that they don’t have egg. I know, a crepe/pancake with no egg is a bit strange, but they do work just fine, and so they are actually the sort of thing that you can make from items in the store cupboard and basic fridge rations. I’m thinking of that moment when you get home from holiday, late at night, and you just want something tasty and filling. OK, you could call for takeaway, but where is the fun in that? Alright, at least you have something to cook for a guest who does not eat eggs…

If, like me, you go for the fungi option, you’ve got to get your mushrooms right too. White button mushrooms will work absolutely fine, if if you can get a more special variety, then do – the taste is soooo worth it. They just add a bit more mushroomy “oomph” to the finished dish, as well as having a more rounded and richer flavour.

Would these galettes (or crepes?) work with something sweet? No idea. I always use them with savoury fillings, and quite like it that way. Indeed, a though just came to me – portobello mushroom and taleggio cheese filling? Now that would be something worth climbing a mountain for.

For 10 galettes:

• 125g plain flour
• 125g buckwheat flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 250ml milk
• 250ml water (more if needed)
• 50g butter, melted

Put all the ingredients apart from the butter in a large bowl, and mix well for a minute using a balloon whisk. Finally, add the liquid butter, stirring all the time. Place the bowl to one side and allow the batter to sit for 40 minutes before cooking. Trust me, this makes a difference.

To cook the galettes, heat a non-stick frying pan. Test the first galette – the mixture should be thin enough to quickly coat the surface of the pan if you shake it and tilt it. If the mixture is too thick, add more water. They should not stick thanks to the butter in the batter, but if they do, put a little butter on a piece of kitchen paper, and wipe the pan with it just before adding the batter.

Serve with the filling of your choice, remembering to flip the corners over to form a square (or be lazy and fold in half like I did with the rest after I took the photo…shhhh!). Below is an idea with mushrooms.

For the mushroom filling:

• 500g mushrooms, roughly sliced
• 300ml double cream
• black pepper
• salt, stock cube or a spoonful of miso paste
• teaspoon plain flour

Put all the ingredients except the flour into a saucepan, and cook for 10 minutes on a medium heat. The mixture should be light brown in colour (from the mushrooms) but should appear quite thin. Mix the flour with a couple of spoons of water, then add to the mushroom mixture. This will make the mixture thicken into a cheat’s mushroom stew.

Use to fill the galettes, and sprinkle a little grated Gruyère cheese and chopped chives over each before serving.

Worth making? These are super-easy savoury pancakes, which have a little more substance to them than the plain flour versions. I make they quite often, and something use them filled, the topped with a little white sauce and cheese, then bake in the oven. Delicious every time!


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Mushroom Risotto

On last weekend’s Saturday Kitchen on the BBC, Heston Blumenthal made his “perfect risotto”. This involved different varieties of rice (aged, of course), with a home-made stock, acidulated butter blah blah blah. All well and good, but I usually want a dinner to be cooked in an hour, and I am an unashamed user of stock cubes and just of the one variety of rice, and I happen to think my risotto is pretty darn good.

In response to his quest for perfection, I made my mushroom risotto. For me, getting great results is just a matter of time, as the ingredients are pretty ordinary. Allow the onions to cook gently in butter and olive oil until translucent, fry the rice, then add the stock a little at a time.

I know there is a bit of disagreement as to whether the little-by-little approach to adding the stock really matters (Heston says no), but I find it is a useful way of controlling the liquid in the risotto. I like it to be creamy, with cooked but firm grains of rice, but not wet or soupy. If I am making just a mushroom risotto, then I like to use fungi that have a little more flavour, and usually go for brown chestnut mushrooms. This makes the resulting risotto a rich, warm purple-grey with flecks of brown. I know “grey” is not something that usually seems appealing in a food, but trust me, it works here. If you fancy something a little more decedent, then add one spoon of truffle-infused olive oil. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and you can see how a dish as simple as risotto is truly wonderful.

But did any of Heston’s magic rub off on me? While I find his programmes entertaining, I don’t see myself making many of his dishes. I might pick up a tip here or there, but no more than that. Which is exactly what happened. Rather than serve risotto in a heap, aim for an elegant appearance by placing said heap on a plate, then tapping the bottom with your hand. The risotto will settle down to an even layer. Imagine if you made saffron risotto like this? Serving up a giant disc of gold. Now that would be presentation to be proud of.

To serve 4:

• 250g arborio rice
• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 50g Parmesan cheese
• 300g mushrooms, finely sliced (I used chestnut mushrooms for better flavour)
• 2 tablespoons cream
• 1 tablespoon truffle-infused olive oil (optional)

Warm the butter and olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry gently over a low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the rice and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the wine, and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Start to add the stock, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add more when the previous addition has almost evaporated.

With the last of the stock, add the mushrooms. Allow this to cook, again until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the Parmesan cheese, stir well, and remove form the heat. Stir in the cream and truffle oil, and allow to sit for two minutes with the pot covered.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

Worth making? Love mushrooms? You will love this. Warming, comforting, elegant and sophisticated. It also adapts easily for a starter or a main. So simple and easy, this is one of my favourite suppers!

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Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Risotto – simple ingredients, so it should be easy, yes? But my experience is that all too often, it is just not quite right, and the worst offenders are often restaurants. I’m looking for good flavour and nice texture, not porridge made with rice.

After lots of practice, I think I’ve nailed it. Here are my tips. If you disagree, let me know, but I think this works well: first, make sure you use arborio rice. I shudder when I think of my early student attempts using plain long-grain white rice! Second, actually follow the recipe and make sure you add the stock a little at a time – it makes a real difference. Third – cheat and keep it “dry” towards the end, then add a couple of spoons of cream at the end for a luxurious, creamy result.

For the risotto:

• 150g arborio rice
• 25g butter
• 2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1 glass dry white wine
• 1 litre vegetable stock
• 50g Parmesan cheese
• 100g mushrooms
• 100g asparagus
• 2 tablespoons cream

Gently fry the onion in the olive oil and butter for 5 minutes. We want the onion to be lightly coloured. Once ready, add the garlic and cook for another minutes.

Now add the rice and fry for 2 minutes, stirring all the time (if you don’t, the rice will burn). Add the wine, and it will bubble up. Reduce the heat, and allow most of the liquid to evaporate – you know it is gone when it looks “oily”. Now add to stock, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition, and allowing the risotto to cook and, in each case, only add more stock when most of the liquid has evaporated. This should yield a creamy risotto with defined grains of rice, rather than a rice “porridge”. Check the rice – it should be almost cooked (firm, but yields when you bite it and no hard centre).

With the last of the stock, add the mushrooms and the asparagus. Allow this to cook, again until most of the liquid has evaporated (you will find a lot of liquid comes out from the mushrooms). Add the Parmesan cheese, and cook for a further minute. Remove from the heat, stir through the cream, cover the pot and allow to sit for two minutes.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan.

Alternatives: this recipe is quite adaptable. You can add anything you want in place of the mushrooms and asparagus – truffle oil works well, as do peas and mint, or just a good measure of saffron for a brilliant sunset yellow risotto.

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