Nutritional fungi the hero of vegetarian dishes

This is the time of year when, if you are lucky, you will see fairy rings of fungi popping up in the fields after a rain fall.

An early morning mushroom hunt is a lovely way to get some fresh country air on a cool winter’s morning – just be sure you can correctly identify what you are picking.

If you don’t fancy yourself a forager, there are more and more varieties of mushrooms becoming commercially available, both locally at farmers’ markets and dried as exotic mixes from overseas. Forever the hero of vegetarian dishes, mushroom flavors can vary from deeply earthy to meaty and savory and are a great way of adding texture, umami flavor and nutrition to your meals.

Mushroom map tofu

Serves 4

This is spicy! But definitely a dish to get you feeling vital coming into winter. This is definitely not a traditional mapa tofu, but a quick vegetarian version and great way to make mushrooms the star of your meal.

400g mixed mushrooms, chopped finely

1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 Tbsp red pepper paste

2 Tbsp Schezwan pepper ground coarsely in a mortar and pestle

2 chopped red chillies

1 Tbsp cornflour

1 cup liquid stock

1 packet silken tofu, chopped

1 large bunch coriander chopped

Rice noodles, cooked to serve

Method

First cook the mushrooms, garlic and ginger in a little oil until brown and starting to get crispy. Set aside. In another clean saucepan heat the ½ cup oil with the red pepper paste, Schezwan pepper and fresh chilli until hot, bubbling and fragrant. Very carefully (it is hot!) Add the stock and cornflour and mushroom mix, whisk and get back to a simmer. In a large serving bowl have your silken tofu cut into cubes. Gently pour the bubbling chilli mixture over the tofu then top with lots of fresh coriander. Serve at the table with a bowl of cooked rice noodles to stir through and crispy shallots to sprinkle on top.

Mushroom and truffle soup

Serves 4

50g butter of choice

400g mixed mushrooms

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 Tbsp fresh thyme

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1.5 liters stock

Salt & pepper

1 cup cooked rice

½ cream or cashew cream

Truffle oil to serve

Method

Heat butter in a saucepan and add mushrooms, garlic and thyme and cook until browned. Add soy sauce, stock and season with salt and pepper and cook 5 or so minutes more until the mushrooms are tender. Add the rice and cream then blend with a stick blender until totally smooth. Serve hot, drizzled with truffle oil, more fresh thyme and buttered toast.

Quick creamy mushrooms on toast

Serves 2

Everyone’s favorite, mushrooms on toast must be one of the most popular dishes at our cafe at all times of the day. This base mixture is very easy and can be made in the time it takes to cook your toast. You can also use it to fill pies, top baked potatoes and stir through pasta. You can get fancy by adding some different fried mushrooms on top like oyster or enoki or adding some soaked and chopped dried mushrooms such as shiitake or lion’s mane.

200g mushrooms (mixed or button), sliced

1 Tbsp butter of choice

2 garlic cloves crushed

1 tsp soy sauce

1 cup unsweetened coconut or greek yogurt

Sourdough

Method

Put your toast on. Heat butter in a hot frypan and add garlic and mushrooms once sizzling.

Cook for 2-3 minutes until browned, add soy sauce and yoghurt and heat 1 minute more. Serve on buttered toast with some chopped fresh herbs and pickles.

Mushroom risotto

Serves 4

If you can get your hands on oyster mushrooms these make an incredible addition, dredged quickly in seasoned flour and fried in butter and added on top of this. The texture and taste is very similar to chicken and will get your family talking. We get ours from a local grower at the Otago Farmers Market. Their oyster mushrooms are not only native to New Zealand, but specifically native to Otepoti, so a special ingredient sitting here in our back yard.

50g butter of choice + 50g to stir through once cooked

3 shallots, finely sliced

3 cloves garlic sliced

400g mixed mushrooms

1 tsp dried tarragon

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 cup risotto rice

1 cup white wine

1.5 liters stock

Method

Heat the first measure of butter in a large saucepan, add shallots, garlic and mushrooms and cook until browned. Add rice and cook, while stirring until the rice starts to turn opaque. Add tarragon, nutritional yeast and deglaze with the white wine. Cook until the wine is almost all reduced then add stock, one ladle at a time until the rice has absorbed it all. You may need to top up with more stock to get the consistency you like. Check seasoning, then stir through cubes of butter just before serving. Serve with more fried mushrooms on top and a drizzle of olive oil.

Mushroom rice paper rolls

Serves 4-8

These rolls are not the traditional crispy spring rolls you’ll find at your local takeaway shop, but more of a chewy texture to be eaten either with a knife and fork or wrapped in lettuce leaves and dipped in sweet chilli sauce.

1 Tbsp coconut or other oil

400g mushrooms chopped finely

1 pack firm tofu, crumbled

¼ green cabbage finely sliced

1 grated carrot

200g mung beans

2 large handfuls coriander

1 tsp Chinese 5 spice

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce

1 small packet cooked vermicelli noodles

1 packet large rice paper

Cornflour

Oil for frying

Method

Heat oil in a large frypan and add the mushrooms and fry until brown.

Add the crumbled tofu, carrot and cabbage and cook until cabbage is wilted.

Add mung beans, coriander, 5 spice, soy sauce and cook 2 minutes more.

In a large bowl combine the mushroom mixture with the vermicelli noodles, and sweet chilli sauce and leave to cool.

When ready to assemble soak one piece of rice paper at a time in warm water.

Place 3 Tbsp mixture in the middle and wrap like an envelope.

Double wrap with another piece of rice paper to ensure the roll does not split.

Once you have wrapped all your rice paper rolls, heat 2cm oil in a large clean frypan.

Dust the rice paper rolls in cornflour then fry on med-high heat until golden brown.

Serve with sweet chilli sauce and crunchy vegetables.

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