Mountains of Meaty Mushrooms

I’ve been fascinated with mushrooms since I was little.  I remember one day when I was about six years old, I was out walking in the park with my father and I came across some teeny,tiny ones on the grass.  When I asked what they were, my father said they were a kind of ‘meat’ because they ate and grew on other things.  So that ruled them out of my little world there and then.  I was born and raised as a strict vegetarian.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms!

I later learned at school that they were not animals and therefore meat.  I didn’t tell my Dad just in case my teacher was wrong.  She was a teacher though so how could she be wrong? Such a dilemma it was!  I concluded that I would give them a try and to be honest I didn’t see what all the fuss was about.  They were OK on school pizza I suppose but on their own I remember they just tasted a bit strange.  Nothing special.  But at least now I could eat the school pizza!

Are mushrooms a meat or vegetable? 

Having done a little research I guess they really could be described as ‘meat’.  Firstly, some studies have linked their properties more so to the ‘animali’ kingdom than the ‘plantae’ kingdom as they contain a substance called ‘chitin which is found in the exoskeltons of crustaceans and some insects.   Secondly, it is the fleshy, fruiting body of a ‘fungus’ which needs no sunlight to grow and therefore is not a plant.   Confusing eh?

So many varieties to choose from 

Before I lived in Japan I’d only really eaten the large flat mushrooms you get in British supermarkets.  I’d stuff them with a handful of cheesy breadcrumbs and pop them in the oven at 180C for about 15 minutes to have as a light supper with salad and crusty bread.  Very eighties. Very cool.

Mushrooms

Simple Baked Cheesy Mushrooms

In Japan, I learned about Shiitake, Shimeji and Enoki mushrooms.  The latter two both grow in clusters and are lovely in a Miso Noodle Soup.  I simply use fresh miso paste and stir about 2-3 tablespoons into a pint of hot water and then gently bring to the boil with a few spring onions, any of the above mushrooms and some thick udon noodles.  This recipe from Steamy Kitchen is a good starting point to develop your own mix.

miso noodle soup

Image Copyright Steamy Kitchen

And who can forget the wonderful European varieties of  Chanterelle or Girolle mushrooms from France and the infamous Porcini from Italy. Earthy and rich is soups but I love them in ravioli and then simply tossed in garlic butter.

Thyme and Mushroom Ravioli with green beans and buttered wild mushrooms #dinner

Nutritionally awesome

Mushrooms are a low fat, low salt and a high vitamin food.  Interestingly they are high in protein – most mushrooms have about 20-30%.  They are also high in fibre despite being about 70% water.  This is why you’ll feel very full after eating them but then are hungry again soon afterwards.  Just double the quantity if it’s the main part of your meal.

Available on our doosteps

Now the rainy weather we’ve been having in England over the summer may have been awful for some crops but not mushrooms it seems! We have loads in our local woodland and the countryside seems full of them.  If you know what you’re doing you need never buy mushrooms again.  I learned so much from Chef Toby Gritten of Pumphouse Restaurant in Bristol when he took us out foraging but I really don’t have the confidence to go mushroom hunting on my own just quite yet.

Mushroom fest - these are everywhere right now.

All mushrooms have the potential to cause a toxic reaction.  If you’ve never eaten mushrooms before, the general advice I’ve read seems to be to eat them in small quantities but check with your own doctor if you’re worried.

And for those of you who like raw mushrooms in salads for example, think again.  Mushrooms have tough cell walls which lock their health benefits away in the indigestible ‘chitin’ I mentioned above. Cooking them makes these molecules more available and neutralises the  smaller levels of toxins so basically don’t eat them raw.

Having written this post, I now understand why mushrooms are often given in meat dishes as the substitute for the meat.  What a rich food they are and despite being so closely linked to being an animal, it hasn’t put me off eating them!

Are you a mushroom fan? How do you like them? What’s your favourite variety? 

29 responses to “Mountains of Meaty Mushrooms

  1. Susan Sullivan

    I absolutely adore mushrooms so do not know which is my favourite maybe Portabello with Porcinin a close second, not yet been able to afford to try truffles. I found a brilliant if very fattening recipe recently.
    Take some Portabello mushrooms, some round croutons of toast – to fit same size as mushrooms, put a dollop of clotted cream onto the crouton, place a mushroom on top, add another small dollop of clotted cream, cover with a glass and bake in the oven. The glass creates a steam in which the mushrooms bakes in it’s own juices+the clotted cream = heaven! next time I will sprinkle with a little crumbled stilton I think?? wot do you think?

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  2. I really like mushrooms, but the kids aren’t so keen so we don’t get to eat them very often. We did take them on a guided fungus foray one autumn to try and spark their interest – it was a dry autumn (remember them?) and there weren’t many mushrooms to be found. Maybe this would be a good year to try again. Your descriptions of all the different types of mushrooms has go me thinking we should be more adventurous.

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  3. glamorous glutton

    I’m not mad about mushrooms, I tend to blow both hot and cold over them. I’ve always wanted to do a foraging day though. GG

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  4. Your mushroom ravioli sounds lovely. I’ve been

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  5. Sorry hit the wrong button! Ive been experimenting with pasta recently. Do you use anything with the mushrooms or is it plain? :-)

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  6. Fascinating post! I love how you describe mushrooms as meat. I learnt a lot reading your post today. Thank you

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  7. Wow this is a brilliant post! I had no idea that mushrooms shared so much in common with meat – still, I love them and that wouldn’t put me off! My favorites are the big portabello mushrooms, smash a clove of garlic in one, add a good glug of olive oil and top with lemon juice so the liquid level is near the top of the upturned mushroom. Little bit of salt and black pepper, then bake for 20 minutes. Oh I’m hungry now!

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  8. Oh what a cute story!! I absolutely love mushrooms – it’s about the only non-meat ingredient that can tempt me to have a completely vegetarian dish at any time. I love enoki braised in oyster sauce and diced chicken thighs; I love wild mushrooms in butter, salt & pepper; oh and my grandma’s stuffed shiitakes during Chinese New Year are the bomb!!

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  9. We’re lucky enough to have lots of ceps and chanterelles in our garden (in SW France), but still not brave enough to eat the ceps without consulting the neighbours first! They look scarily similar to very poisonous ones. Perfect in a simple omelette cooked in lots of garlic and parsley.

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  10. Really enjoyed reading this fascinating post. Keen to put on my wellies and go out across the fields mushrooming at the weekend now, think my 5 year old would love it too. Only confident on identifying field mushrooms though. Any tips for drying mushrooms? Andrea

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  11. The porcini mushroom is a wondrous thing. I used to go mushroom picking with my parents when I was a child and the excitement of finding something, followed by the simply heavenly aroma of drying shrooms in the kitchen is something I will never forget. The white mushrooms sold in supermarkets are fine, but they will never match the flavour, texture and aroma of a porcini.

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  12. I love the fact that you have included a photograph and method for your “very eighties” baked cheesy mushrooms, which sounds irresistible. I love good cooked mushroom. I think its very underestimated ingredient – and also under-used in my kitchen. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  13. I love mushrooms, your debate on whether they are truly a vegetable is quite interesting, I have never really considered them anything else.

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  14. Anilkumar Bhimjiyani

    Chez Foti,
    Can I be your neighbour please ?Cannot still get over the fact you have a Garden full of Ceps!!!OMG!!!
    As far cooking Ceps is concerned,I keep it simple to get the maximum the cep has to offer in flavour and fragrance..just pan fry with butter,garlic and fresh parsely !!Bon Apetite !!

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  15. Pingback: Japanese noodles with Shimeji mushrooms « Chef Doru's Blog

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