Why do mushrooms like parties? Because they’re fungi(s)! OK, the joke doesn’t quite work for grammatical reasons and, dare I say it, there’s mushroom for improvement, but it makes me laugh every 10,000 times or so that I’ve told it.
But back to business. I am a devotee of the fungus family. Their woody, earthiness adds umami intensity to many dishes.
Unfortunately, few supermarkets stock a broad range, tending to only offer shed-grown bland whites and – granted – more robust chestnuts. And even these have a short shelf life, turning slimy after a few days after purchase.
That’s where dried, foraged mushrooms come into their own.
The drying process both concentrates the flavour and lengthens their consumption life, making them a convenient storecupboard staple for flavouring stocks, or using as an ingredient in everything from risottos to ravioli, soups to soufflés.
In the past, I’ve dried my own: buying fist-sized, fresh porcinis and then drying them out in a very low oven to preserve them.
When you need to use them, you just reconstitute the mushrooms by covering them with boiling water and leaving to steep for a few minutes, before draining and adding to whatever you’re cooking (never throw away the mushroom liquid – it makes sensational stock for gravy or mushroom ketchup).
But fresh porcinis are both seasonal and hard to come by so I’ve found a more convenient, all-year-round alternative: Found! Wild Mushrooms.
They’re foraged and collected by experienced pickers from the forests and mountains of Europe, before being graded and air-dried prior to being packed.
Here’s the website www.foundmushrooms.co.uk
I’ve used them in a variety of recipes, but this is one of my favourites: Porcini Mushroom Butter. Make a batch and freeze it, then carve off a round to melt onto steak or chicken, or in this case, steamed Jersey Royals. The natural, yielding butteryness of the potatoes is a perfect partner for the intense nuttiness of the porcinis.
PORCINI MUSHROOM BUTTER
25g dried porcini mushrooms (I used Found!)
100g butter, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
1. Place half of the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside 5-10 minutes or until mushrooms have reconstituted and are soft. Drain the mushrooms and squeeze out excess water, then finely slice.
2. Put the remaining porcini mushrooms in a spice or coffee grinder and grind to fine powder.
3. Add the butter, softened mushrooms, mushroom powder and salt to a bowl and mix together with a spoon until all the ingredients are combined.
4. Once mixed, lay a sheet of Clingfilm onto a work surface and scrape the butter mixture onto it. Roll into log shape and twist the ends of the Clingfilm to tightly seal.
5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until just firm enough to slice.
6. Melt onto Jersey Royal potatoes, steamed for around 10 mins until very tender. Mix with quartered, sauteed, supermarket-bought chestnut mushrooms for an extra texture experience. I served the potatoes as an accompaniment to roast Poulet de Bresse chicken.