Maitake

Legend has it that maitake got its nickname The Dancing Mushroom because foragers danced with happiness when finding it. It still is a much loved culinary mushroom, with a very specific aroma, interesting texture and intense flavours.
Nowadays maitake can be wild or cultivated. Both are fine; we actually prefer the cultivated one because it’s milder. Make sure you cook maitake through and through, otherwise you may upset your stomach (and other parts of your body). 

Maitake combines very well with beef and thyme. It is also great when combined with shrimps, crab, scallops, coriander, dill and parsley; a salad created by Antonio Carluccio and published in 2003 in the Complete Mushroom Book. Our Maitake soup, made with dashi, ginger and rice, is a gentle soup, with some umami and bitterness. 

In this case we combine fried maitake with various other ingredients to create a well-balanced (vegetarian) meal.

Wine Pairing

A flavourful dish! Sweetness in the tomatoes, umami in the maitake, freshness in the mash et cetera. Wine wise you have lots of options. We preferred a not too complex pinot noir, because it’s supportive and combines very well with the various flavours.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Maitake and Olive Oil
  • Parsley Root, Jerusalem Artichoke, Crème Fraîche, White Pepper and Nutmeg
  • Small Ripe Tomatoes, Thyme, Rosemary, Garlic and Olive Oil
  • Lentils, Shallot, Parsley, Vegetable Stock and Black Pepper
  • Celeriac, Butter, Caraway Seed, Fennel Seed and Black Pepper

What You Do

For the lentils: slice the shallot and gently fry it in olive oil. After a few minutes, add the washed lentils (check for pebbles!), coat them with oil, add vegetable stock and cook until ready. Perhaps 20 minutes. Drain but keep some of the liquid, add chopped parsley and black pepper.
For the tomato confit, see an earlier post.
For the mash: clean and chop 2 parsley roots and 1 Jerusalem artichoke. Cook for 10 minutes or so in water until nearly done. Drain. Add a generous spoonful of crème fraîche and warm on low heat for 10-20 minutes. The idea is for the vegetables to absorb some of the crème fraîche. Blender the mixture, pass through a sieve and serve with white pepper. A touch of freshly grated nutmeg will be great. If you like more color on your plate, then add some chopped parsley to the mash.
The celeriac is cooked in the oven with a coating of fennel and careway seed. The recipe from Dutch chef Yvette van Boven is available via YouTube. She combines it with a home-made citrus marmalade, but that’s not necessary for this dish. Use the YouTube settings if you want to have subtitles in your own language.
Slice the maitake and fry in olive oil until done and slightly crunchy.
Serve on a colourful plate.

The Quiet Hunt

Antonio Carluccio’s The Complete Mushroom book is more than a cookbook. The first part of the book discusses foraging and collecting mushrooms, with clear descriptions of each mushroom and poisonous look-alikes. It’s a pleasure to read, but we’re not brave enough to start our own quiet hunt.

Fortunately, mushrooms are becoming more popular and greengrocers and supermarkets have started selling chestnut mushrooms, button mushrooms and shiitake. Asian supermarkets in most cases sell (king) oyster mushrooms, shiitake, enoki and shimeji.
Don’t be tempted to buy dried mushrooms: expensive, no aroma, nasty taste and not even close to a fresh mushroom.

Recipes

The second part of the book includes some 150 mushroom recipes, ranging from classic Italian dishes to culinary treats. Carluccio’s recipes are well written and informative. You’ll get the feeling that he lets you in on some of his secrets. And given he started foraging mushrooms as a young child, there are a lot of secrets to share!

One of our favourites is a salad made with maitake, fresh scallops, crab and shrimps. It’s an amazing result, with lots of pleasant flavours, also thanks to the cilantro, dill and parsley. Part of the fun is that the scallops are not seared but prepared like ceviche. Maitake is also available as a cultivated mushroom.

Caponata

More favourites? Of course! How about Mushroom Caponata or Tagliolini with black truffle? The caponata is a combination of mushrooms, egg plant and various herbs, so if you can buy button mushrooms and for instance shiitake, you’re ready to go.

Our all-time favourite from this book is the combination of fresh oysters with white truffle (bianchetti). A starter we prepare once or twice a year, depending on the availability of the truffle. Always a pleasure…

The Mushroom Book – the Quiet Hunt was published in 2001. It’s available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for prices between 25 and 50 euro.

One of the very best books on mushrooms, written by a true expert.

Maitake Soup

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Dancing Mushroom, better known as MaitakeHen of the Woods or Ram’s Head. Enjoy the powerful, intense and nutty flavours and be intrigued by the aroma. No wonder it’s a much loved culinary mushroom!

Legend has it that maitake got its name because foragers danced with happiness when finding it. Nowadays maitake can be wild or cultivated. Both are fine; we actually prefer the cultivated ones. Make sure you cook maitake through and through, otherwise you may upset your stomach (and other parts of your body).

Maitake combines very well with beef and thyme. It is also great when combined with shrimps, crab, coquilles St Jacques, coriander, dill and parsley; a salad created by Antonio Carluccio and published in 2003 in the Complete Mushroom Book. The book has a wealth of wonderful, simple recipes.

Our soup is perhaps a bit odd, because it’s a thickened soup, something you would perhaps not expect given dashi is the base of the soup. It’s a gentle soup, with some umami and bitterness. The fried maitake amplifies the flavours.

What You Need

  • For the Dashi
    • 500 ml Water
    • 10 grams Konbu
    • 10 grams Katsuobushi 
  • 150 grams of Maitake
  • 5 cm Fresh Ginger
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sake
  • Mirin
  • Tablespoon of Cooked Plain Rice
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Prepare the dashi. Remove the base of the maitake. Set a few ‘leaves’ aside (to be fried later). Peel and quarter the ginger. Add the remaining ‘leaves’ of the maitake, the ginger and the cooked rice to the dashi. Leave for 20 minutes on low heat. Remove the ginger and use a blender to create a smooth mixture. You will notice that the maitake doesn’t thicken the soup, as a classic Champignon de Paris would do. The rice should do the trick. Pass through a sieve. Keep on low heat for another 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of sake, some soy sauce and mirin. Taste and adjust if necessary. The quanities very much depend on the flavour of the maitake and your personal taste. You’re looking for umami, bitterness and depth. Leave for another 10 minutes on low heat. Add olive oil to a small heavy iron skillet and fry the remaining maitake; initially on medium heat, later on low heat. This may take 5 minutes. Use the blender for the second time to make sure the soup is perfectly smooth. Serve in a miso bowl.

  • Katsuobushi and Konbu ©cadwu
  • Heating Konbu ©cadwu