Mushroom recipes and know-how
Nothing tastes quite as good as mushrooms you have gathered yourself and cooked fresh on the day.
What to look for in mushrooms
Discard any that are damaged, wet or mushy. Trim the end of the stalk and check for insect bore holes. Which variety? Known as ceps in France, porcini in Italy and penny bun in Britain, these mushrooms have an earthy flavour and meaty texture. Dried porcini are especially good. Trumpet-shaped chanterelle (or girolle) are delicate and fragrant and dry well, too. Subtly flavoured oyster mushrooms are one of the few that can be cultivated as well as found wild. Of the cultivated varieties, white cap is the most common and is sub-divided into button, closed cup, open cup and flat, named for their size, as they grow from small and tightly closed to large and flat. Chestnut, with their nutty flavour and firm texture, come in closed and flat varieties. Shiitake have a slightly meaty texture and faint peppery taste if eaten raw. Also look out for crimini and portabella.
How to store mushrooms
Fresh mushrooms should be kept in paper bags (plastic makes them sweat) in the salad drawer of the fridge. Wild mushrooms can be dried in a low oven or in an airing cupboard until dry and brittle. Store in jars and reconstitute with boiling water, or pickle or turn into an intense ketchup to pep up stews and soups.
To prepare mushrooms Brush away any soil (a pastry brush will do) or wipe with a piece of damp kitchen towel. Avoid washing mushrooms (they become too soft) or, if you must, rinse briefly and pat dry. For a quick supper, fry mushrooms briskly in a large pan with oil or fat and a finely chopped shallot until the moisture has evaporated. Add a crushed garlic clove, a few thyme leaves and a splash of Pernod. Stir in a few tablespoons of cream, then serve on toast.