I really think I'm fortunate to live in Canberra. There are so many fantastic producers within a stone's throw, all with such high quality produce that it just makes sense to buy locally whenever possible.
Who knew the Capital Region had quite thriving Mushroom-growing? Normally, I'm not the biggest fan of mushrooms. To me, it really depends on how well they're cooked and how they feature in a dish. Limp, soggy and lifeless mushrooms hanging around in a casserole or with my scrambled eggs - definitely not. Surprisingly, when cooked by themselves, or as the star of a dish, that's when I enjoy them the most.
With mushrooms, I always tend to think Italian - so, here are three italian-inspired recipes that I think make the most of these beauties.
Easy Mushroom Risotto
Apologies to any purists, this recipe was invented one night where I got home late and 'had nothing' in the fridge, freezer or pantry. This rarely happens - I like to meal plan and then shop accordingly- but I am very glad it did that night.
150g (or about 5 large mushrooms)
1 cup white whine
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 onion finely diced
A few sprigs of thyme
1 packet microwave brown rice
Salt and pepper
Start by sweating the onion in a little olive oil. Try not to get too much colour on it, but some caramelisation will add to the depth of flavour. Add the garlic and thyme and continue to sweat until soft.
In a different pan (or the same one with all of the onion and garlic removed), Cook your mushrooms in batches. (Every time I do this I think of the movie Julie and Julia - don't crowd the mushrooms! Otherwise, they'll stew in their juices rather than brown nicely).
Add your onion mix to your cooked mushrooms and pour over the glass of white wine. Cook down until reduced by half.
While that is simmering away, cook your rice as per the packet instructions. When the sauce is thick, combine the two in the pan. Now, this isn't fried rice so keep it moist. If it looks a little dry, add a little more wine and cook down again in the pan, being careful not to over cook the rice.
Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan.
Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms
Another happy accident, this recipe came about after a request for a vegetarian meal from the husband. I gave him three medium-sized mushrooms with a side of steamed veg and he was a very happy recipient indeed.
4-6 medium sized mushrooms (depends on size and how hungry you are - sometimes I just use one large field mushroom)
150g low fat ricotta
1 tbsp pesto
1/2 zucchini finely grated
1/2 clove garlic minced
Remove stalk from mushrooms. Place in a warm pan topside down with a little oil and cook until little drops of water can be seen on the underside. This means the mushroom is cooked through.
Combine all other ingredients together in a bowl and then place inside the 'cup' of the cooked mushrooms. Optional - sprinkle with some more Parmesan.
Place under a hot grill (I just left them in the pan they were cooked in) until the top is golden.
Mushroom ragu with soft polenta
I have been obsessed with this dish since I watched the first episode of River Cottage Veg. Hugh and his team catered a wedding where the bride was vegetarian - so they made the whole menu vego! Beetroot tarte tatin is also something I'm dying to try...
If you are looking for slow-cooked flavour but don't have 8 hours, this is the recipe. It is rich but light at the same time, plus dead easy.
500g mushrooms (the larger the better)
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
500ml white wine
1 sachet (30g) tomato paste
A few sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper
Parsley (to garnish)
Fry off the onions, thyme and garlic and give them a bit of colour. Add the wine and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the mushrooms in a separate pan, being careful to brown them.
Combine the mushrooms and onion mix and add the tomato paste. Cook down until the sauce thickens (approximately 5 minutes).
Serve on a bed of soft polenta with parsley sprinkled over the top.
This recipe was inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's.
See http://www.powerofmushrooms.com.au for Mushroom tips, info and recipes.
Canberra-grown mushrooms can be sourced at many outlets in Canberra including Trugold's, Farm Fresh, Wiffens and Ziggy's at Fyshwick markets, Choku Bai Jo at North Lyneham and Curtin, and Ziggy's at Belconnen. They are also stocked at Supabarn stores.