Mushroom Caponata

There must be hundreds of recipes for Caponata. The dish originates from Sicily and should contain (at least, we think so) eggplant (aubergine), celery and vinegar. Sugar is often added to enhance the sweetness and intensity. Nowadays it’s often a combination with tomatoes, shallot, capers, olives and perhaps raisins, pine nuts, oregano and basil.
The flavour of caponata should be slightly bitter (the eggplant) with a touch of sweetness (sugar, onion), acidity and saltiness (celery). The texture should be moist, but not sauce-like.
We love to enhance the flavours by adding mushrooms. And since we’re not keen on using sugar, we make sure the onions bring sufficient sweetness.

Enjoy your caponata as an appetizer, for instance with some crusted bread or bruschetta. A nice glass of white wine or rosé will be perfect with it. It’s also great as a side dish, with fish or even merguez.

Whatever the combination, caponata must be made one day ahead.

What You Need

  • 1 Aubergine
  • 200 grams of Mushrooms (preferably a mix with Shiitake)
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1 cm Red Chilli Pepper
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • 2 tablespoons of White Wine Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Fine Salt

What You Do

Wash the eggplant and slice. We slice the eggplant lengthwise in 8 and then we slice these strips. Salt them generously, transfer to a sieve and allow to drain for one or two hours. The more liquid they lose, the better! Rinse the eggplant with cold water and dry them with a kitchen cloth. Fry the aubergine in a heavy iron skillet until nicely golden brown. Set aside. Slice the red onion, clean and chop the mushrooms. Chop the garlic and the chilli pepper finely. Add some olive oil to the pan and fry the onion. Remove and set aside. Now fry the mushrooms. After 5 minutes or so add the garlic and the chilli pepper. After a few minutes add the mushrooms and the eggplant to the pan. Add chopped parsley and celery. Mix well. Add two spoons of white wine vinegar and leave on low heat for 10 minutes. Add black pepper to taste. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Keep in the refrigerator for the next day.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Bell Pepper

Udon is such a wonderful noodle. What better comfort food than a warm soup made with dashi, vegetables, tofu, udon and thinly sliced spring onions? Perhaps some tempura on top of the soup? Or would you prefer a very simple dish, called Mori Udon? The cold udon is served with a sauce of mirin, dashi and soy sauce on the side.
Udon is also a great alternative to Italian pasta, for instance with Caesar’s Mushrooms.

In this recipe we combine udon with roasted bell pepper and Trompettes de la Mort. We’re not sure why, but this combination works really well. Is it because of the smokey aroma of the roasted bell pepper mixed with the aromas of the mushroom? The crispy pancetta in combination with the soft textures of the other ingredients, including the udon? The overall richness and umami thanks to the Trompettes de la Mort?

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Bianco di Custoza, made by Monte del Frà from Italy. It is a well-balanced, dry white wine, with a fruity nose. Its colour is straw yellow, with pale green highlights. A glass of Soave, made from the Garganega grape, will also be an excellent choice. In general you’re looking for a fresh, aromatic dry white wine. 

What You Need

  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Bunch of Udon
  • 100 grams of Trompettes de la Mort
  • 1 Glove of cooked Garlic
  • 4 slices of Pancetta
  • Black pepper
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Clean the bell pepper and cut in 4. Transfer to the oven and grill or roast for 10 minutes or until well charred. When still hot, put the bell pepper in a plastic container and close it. After one hour it’s easy to remove the skin of the bell pepper. Slice lengthwise to make nice strips. Set aside.
Slice the mushrooms in two and clean them with a soft brush. Check carefully for grit and other things you don’t like to eat.
Fill a large pan with water (no salt!) and bring to a boil. Add the udon and cook it according to the instruction. When nearly done, add some cooking liquid to a cup and set aside. Drain the udon.
In parallel heat a large heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and fry the mushrooms. Once they become a bit dryer, add the sliced bell pepper. Add the cooked garlic, crush it with a fork and mix. Now add the udon and continue mixing. Add cooking liquid until the pasta is sufficiently moist.
Also in parallel: grill the strips of pancetta (perhaps 5 minutes).
Add some black pepper to the pasta and serve with the grilled pancetta.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Bell Pepper ©cadwu
Pasta with Mushrooms and Bell Pepper ©cadwu

More mushrooms!

Mushroom is one of the first books by Johnny Acton, Nick Sadler and Jonathan Lovekin (photographs), published in 2001. The book offers some 70 recipes plus very interesting background information on the history of mushrooms and their hallucinating, psychedelic and culinary aspects. The book comes with many beautiful drawings and photographs. It has specific sections on cèpes, morels, chanterelles and truffles. It is very well written, fun to read and the recipes are accurate.

They have also written books on Soup, Preserves and one called The Complete Guide to Making, Cooking & Eating Sausages.

Recipes

One of the benefits of the book is that the recipes range from relatively easy to make (pasta with cèpes or clear soup with enoki for instance) to exotic and mouth-watering dishes (lobster and cauliflower fungus ravioli with saffron butter). The book is a great addition to more classic books on mushrooms such as The Mushroom Book by Michael McLaughlin, The Mushroom Feast by Jane Grigson or Antonio Carluccio’s Complete Mushroom Book.

In most cases it’s not too difficult to buy the required mushroom. Shopping at your local Asian toko will also help, for instance if you need shiitake, enoki or wood ear (they offer a recipe for a very nice Chinese chicken soup with ginger, pak choi and dried wood ear).

Our favourite? Perhaps their salad with shiitake, watercress and tofu. A modern, light dish with lots of flavours (cilantro, ginger, sesame oil, lemon).

Mushroom is available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for between 10 and 25 euro.

Mushroom

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.

Mushroom Tapenade

Years ago our favourite green grocer was the shop of Joop and Trudi Petersen, close to Amsterdam’s China Town. Not only did they sell the tastiest vegetables, fruit and mushrooms, but they also sold homemade mash (the one made with potatoes and rapini (or broccoli rabe) was wonderful), desserts, ravioli with pumpkin and Trudi’s mushroom tapenade. When Joop turned 65 in 2008 they retired and closed the shop. Obviously, we asked for the tapenade recipe, but alas, all we got was a nice, friendly smile.

In our post about the Mushroom Book by Michael McLaughlin and Dorothy Reinhardt (Illustrator) we mentioned that the recipe for Mushroom Tapenade is amongst our favourites. His tapenade is a combination of mushrooms, garlic, various herbs, red wine, anchovies, black olives and capers. Very nice, tasty and powerful, but not as delicious as Trudi’s version.

Mushroom tapenade comes with lots of umami, thanks to the mushrooms and the olives. Thinking back of Trudi’s tapenade, we’re pretty sure she enhanced the umami flavor, probably by adding some oyster sauce from the toko next door. We think that the recipe below is very close to what she created.

What You Need

  • Fresh Button Mushrooms and Shiitake (ratio 2:1)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Thyme and Rosemary
  • White Wine
  • Black Olives
  • Excellent Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of (Thai) Oyster Sauce

What You Do

Don’t use dried mushrooms. In general they have a nasty, bitter taste, not even close to the flavor, aromas and textures of fresh mushrooms.
Clean and chop the mushrooms. Finely chop the rosemary, the thyme and the garlic. Fry the mushroom in olive oil in a heavy iron skillet. Reduce heat, add herbs and garlic. After 10 minutes add a splash of white wine. Continue on low heat and wait until the wine and juices have evaporated. No rush. Chop a few black olives. Transfer the mushroom mix to a plate, let cool and add the olives. When cool, transfer to a kitchen aid and on low-speed start adding excellent olive oil. The result should be a tapenade, so not smooth and not oily. Add black pepper to taste. Add a small amount (1/4 teaspoon to begin with) of (Thai) Oyster Sauce. Be very careful, it should only enhance the umami.
Store in the refrigerator for at least one day before using.

The Mushroom Feast

Yes, it’s a bit early, but we can start thinking about enjoying the first mushrooms of this season, such as the Mushroom of Saint GeorgeMorels, Bianchetti and the Fairy Ring Mushroom. Let’s be prepared for the season and think about books, recipes, web sites and food-wine pairing.

A classic book on mushrooms was written by chef and author Jane GrigsonThe Mushroom Feast, originally published in 1975. The book Is beautifully illustrated by Yvonne Skargon.
Jane Grigson is known for many other classics such as The Fruit Book and The Vegetable Book.

The Mushroom Feast includes a chapter on the best edible mushrooms and ways to preserve mushrooms. Other chapters describe how to combine mushrooms with fish, meat, poultry and game. One chapter discusses mushrooms in the Japanese and Chinese kitchen.
Jane Grigson also provides interesting background information, like Colette’s view on truffles. Worth reading, with or without truffles.

It isn’t a handbook for foragers, but no book ever is.

The Mushroom Feast covers a wide range of mushroom recipes: soups, salads, pies, sauces and intriguing combinations like creamed cucumbers with mushrooms and classics like mushroom soufflé. The recipes are clear and well-written.

You may perhaps think the recipes are a bit old fashioned, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading them. Be inspired by one of Britain’s finest writers on recipes and food.

Roulade of Turkey with Mushrooms and Chestnuts

We love to eat this very tasty, juicy, rich combination during winter. We use meat from the leg of the turkey (the thigh) because it has lots of flavours and a great texture.
You could of course make your own chestnut butter, crème or spread; we prefer using Clément Faugier’s Chestnut Spread. It’s nutty, sweet (but not too sweet) and earthy.

Wine Pairing

A medium bodied, red wine will be a great accompaniment of the roulade. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of black fruit, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) as produced by Von der Mark-Walter. The winery is located in Baden, Germany, at the foothills of the Black Forest.

What You Need (Filling)

  • Shallot
  • Olive Oil
  • 150 grams of Mushrooms
  • Thyme
  • Chestnut Spread
  • Black Pepper

Chop the shallot and glaze in a pan with olive oil for 5 minutes. Clean the mushrooms and cut into smaller chunks. Add the mushrooms and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add a generous amount of thyme. Transfer from the pan and allow to cool. Once lukewarm, use a kitchen knife to create a lovely duxelles. Add a teaspoon of chestnut spread. Taste and adjust by adding more chestnut spread and black pepper.

What You Need (Roulade)

  • One Turkey Thigh
  • Pancetta or Bacon
  • Filling
  • Kitchen twine and needle
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Cream
  • Black Pepper
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Nutmeg

Remove the bone (if any) and ‘unfold’ the meat by slicing the thicker part, making it longer. Make a strip of pancetta from left to right, without covering the lower and upper part of the meat. Put the filling on top of the strip and then spread it out, making sure the top and bottom remain not covered. Put 4 or 6 strings of kitchen twine underneath the roulade and start rolling. Not too tight. Use one longer string of kitchen twine to close the sides (so the two strings are at right angles to each other). You may need a needle to close the roulade. Wrap the roulade in plastic foil and keep in the refrigerator.
Ready to cook? Fry the roulade in lots of butter and olive oil to give it a nice colour and then transfer it to the oven at 160 ˚C or 320 ˚F. It’s ready when the centre has reached a temperature of 70 ˚C or 160 ˚F. Transfer from the oven and wrap in aluminium foil. Leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Add some chicken stock to the pan and deglaze. Transfer to the blender and create a smooth, thick sauce. Transfer back to the pan and leave on low heat. Add some cream, taste and leave for 10 minutes or so. In the mean time steam the Brussels sprouts. When ready coat with some olive oil.
Serve two or three slices of turkey roulade per person with the sauce and some Brussels sprouts. A touch of black pepper on the turkey and some fresh nutmeg on the sprouts.

Mushroom Soup with Pancetta and Thyme

This morning when we looked outside, we saw a grey, foggy city. Knowing it would take hours for the fog to clear, we started thinking about something warm for lunch. Perhaps some soup with crusty bread? We opened our refrigerator. Various mushrooms, thyme, rosemary, cream, a carrot, some left over stock. Yes! We knew what we wanted to cook for lunch: Mushroom Soup with Pancetta. A hearty, rich soup, ideal for a cold, grey day. The combination of mushrooms, pancetta and cream works very well; the celery and leek add complexity and the thyme brings character.

Wine Pairing

It was much later that afternoon before the fog left the city, but since we also had some left over Chardonnay in the fridge, which we enjoyed with our soup, we didn’t mind that much.

What You Need

  • Pancetta
  • Shallot
  • Mushrooms (Best is a Mix of Champignons, Shiitake etcetera)
  • Celery
  • Leek
  • Carrot
  • Garlic
  • Stock (Chicken or Vegetable)
  • Bouquet Garni (Thyme, Rosemary and Bay Leaf)
  • Black pepper
  • Cream
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Keep two strips of pancetta apart (to be grilled just before serving). You probably need 4-6 strips in total. Slice the remaining pancetta and fry in olive oil on medium heat. Remove the pancetta from the pan, chop the shallot and glaze it in the fat and perhaps some extra olive oil. Clean and slice the mushrooms, slice half a stalk of celery, half a leek, a small carrot, chop two gloves of garlic and add this to the shallot. Gently fry for a few minutes. Add the pancetta, the stock and the bouquet garni. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni. Blender the soup, pass through a sieve and leave on low heat for 10 minutes. The mushrooms will emulgate the soup, so no need to add a roux. Now it’s time to taste the soup and perhaps add some black pepper. Add cream and fresh thyme and leave for another 5-10 minutes. In the meantime grill the two strips of pancetta until brown and crispy. Cut the stripes in five pieces depending on the size. Serve the soup in a warm bowl with the pancetta on top of it.

Pâté with Mushrooms

Let’s celebrate the season by preparing a Pâté! The combination of a crispy crust, a structured, colourful filling and various flavours is always a pleasure. Making a pâté (or better: a Pâté en Croûte) can be a bit intimidating (especially if you look at the pâté’s prepared during the World Championship!) but that should not stop you from giving it a try. It’s a pleasure to think about the ingredients, work on the construction and enjoy the wonderful aromas from your oven while baking the pâté. And the joy when slicing it: is the pâté as beautiful as you expected it to be?
Feel free to make your own puff pastry, but if you buy ready-made pastry, please check it’s made with butter, flower, salt and water only and not with rapeseed oil, palm oil, yeast etcetera.

Wine Pairing

A red, medium bodied wine will be a great accompaniment of this Pâté en Croûte. In general you’re looking for a red wine with aromas of black fruit, floral notes and delicate wood. The tannins should be soft or well-integrated. We enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir from La Cour Des Dames

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Cèpes
  • 250 grams of Champignon de Paris
  • 1 small Shallot
  • Handful of Spinach
  • Half a cup of Rice
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Parsley
  • One Egg
  • Puff Pastry
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Start by cooking some rice, you will probably need a tablespoon of cooked rice. Clean the cèpes and see how they best fit in the pâté baking mould. Perhaps you need to trim the stems or the caps to have the best result when it’s ready. Set the cèpes aside.
Clean the champignons and wash the spinach. Peel and finely chop the shallot. Warm a heavy iron skillet, glaze the shallot, add the cleaned and lengthwise halved mushrooms (and the leftovers of the cèpes) and cook them on medium heat for 10 minutes or so. In parallel blanch the spinach, drain and squeeze. Also in parallel, coat the mould first with baking paper and then with puff pastry. Make sure you have some extra pastry to create the lids for the chimneys. Chop the cooked mushrooms. Chop the spinach. Add the egg to a large bowl and whisk. Add the cooked mushrooms to the bowl, add some black pepper, chopped parsley and finely grated Parmesan Cheese. Add some spinach, just to have some extra colour. Add the rice. The rice will help absorb additional juices from the cèpes, so how much rice you need is a matter of looking at the mixture and the cèpes.

Now it’s time to build the pâté: start by creating a bottom with the mixture, position the cèpes and add the remainder of the mixture. Make sure the mixture envelops the mushrooms. Close the pâté with the pastry. Make two holes in the roof of the pâté and use baking paper to create 2 chimneys. Transfer to the oven (180 °C or 355 °F) for 45 minutes. Use the remainder of the puff pastry to make 4 mini cookies that will function as lid on the chimney (of course, you only need 2, but baking 4 allows you to choose the best). After 45 minutes add the 4 cookies, bake for another 10 minutes. Mix some egg yolk and coat the pâté and the cookies. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. The duration and temperatures very much depend on the shape of the mould and the pastry.

Transfer from the oven, remove the chimneys, glue the lids on the chimneys using some egg yolk and let cool. Once cool, remove from the mould, transfer to the refrigerator and wait until the next day.