11 ideas with earthy mushrooms

Venison, Parma ham and mushroom lasagne

Venison, Parma ham and mushroom lasagne

Mushrooms have long captured our imagination in fairy tales. Maybe it’s their feathery gills, their mysterious manner of rising out of the ground overnight, or their resemblance to dwellings for forest folk.

We have given even the most lethal varieties whimsical names like Destroying Angels and Death Cap and, unless you’re a fungus foraging expert, you can’t generally judge their edibility by their colour, shape or size. However, you can rest assured that the plump little caps you buy at your local grocer or market are as safe as, well, houses.

Edible mushrooms are a versatile bunch. Enjoy their soft, nutty flesh when just-plucked from the forest floor; spear bigger ones onto sosatie sticks for a braai accompaniment; slice them up into stir-fries; steam them in delicate dumplings; or roast them with a more robust treatment of garlic, herbs and butter.

Some mushrooms have been shown to have promising cardiovascular, anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and mushroom extracts are used in certain Asian countries along with radiation treatments and chemotherapy. But we endorse them simply for their culinary credentials.

Try these quick ideas:

1. Autumn is the perfect time of the year to bake pies filled with hearty mushrooms and potatoes, mushrooms and onions, or chicken, leeks and mushrooms.

2. For something a little more decadent, try this comforting and luxurious wild mushroom lasagne.

3. And one up on that theme is this springbok mince, parma ham and mushroom lasagne based on a northern Italian recipe.

4. Calling for caramelised butternut, crumbly feta and fresh mushrooms, this savoury cheesecake is food for the soul.

5. A rich and creamy mushroom sauce is the perfect match with a juicy steak.

Antonia Carlucci's mushroom risotto

Antonia Carlucci’s mushroom risotto

6. Wheat-free and wonderful as a winter comfort food, this risotto is infused with earthy mushroom flavours.

7. Puff pastry makes a handy base for prosciutto, mushrooms and goat’s cheese in this flavoursome tart.

8. If you want to go old-school, make your own butter-and-cheese pastry and top it with wild mushrooms, potato and goat’s cheese in this traditional tart.

9.  Tip whole mushrooms on their backs, fill them with blue cheese and spring onions and voila! You have a rich, delicious and meat-free meal of roasted mushrooms.

10. Liven up polenta by crumbling in blue cheese and adding porcini mushrooms that have been lightly fried in butter and garlic.

11. Mushrooms shine when combined with cream. Try this creamy medley of wild mushroom soup for a rich and fragrant starter.

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