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Why go wild with mushrooms?

The earthy, complex flavour profiles of mushrooms make them an incredibly versatile ingredient this time of year. From woody base notes, to forest fragrance, the diversity of this family are as wild as they are exotic.

Even at its most basic, the field mushroom has been the unsung champion of the full English. Slow cooked in butter with a hit of black pepper, salt and even a small dose of garlic, and these dark little things provide one of the most powerful cornerstones to what is arguably our nations favourite breakfast. Anyone having worked the breakfast line will know the inherent value of these things, a cheap staple that delivers big on flavour.

Of course the Portobello mushroom, with it’s added heft makes for meaty additions to burgers, or even a ground beef replacement in its own right. The rise in vegan and vegetarianism has led to a spike in mushroom heavy dishes thanks to their natural ability to hit a strong savoury profile. Naturally high in protein, they really do tick some boxes in vegetarian dishes and offer a broad spectrum of textures.

Those savoury notes are perhaps never more celebrated than in shiitake mushrooms. Used throughout Chinese and Japanese cuisine, the intense depth they harness is often infused to create umami rich broths to carry chewy noodles. Oyster and wood ear mushrooms also work in this realm, but when adding them to a broth attention needs to be given to the resulting texture. Too chewy and you could sacrifice the overall dish.

In recent years there’s been a lot of attention given to foraging and while dedicating time for kitchen staff to go out into the woods for the morning, the impact on production levels can suffer. Good supply of seasonal ingredients is imperative to all kitchens, but the hunt for chantrelles and porcini can sometimes come up empty. These two woodland favourites grow well in the UK and work in a wide range of dishes. The chantrelle lending itself splendidly to venison and mild game dishes, while the porcini, or cep brings gusto and might to everything from taglietelle to hearty casseroles.

The characteristically deep notes of porcini can also be exploited by using the dried variety. On hydration they release intense, concentrated flavour, which can be a handy option during autumn when diners seek comfort, warmth and heavier flavours.

Mushrooms occupy a unique area of produce and require incredibly select sourcing. While your average field mushroom can afford to not be too attractive, chantrelles and oyster mushrooms that often play a visual role in plating need to be harvested, handled and delivered with care. As serious purveyors of good mushrooms, Fresh Direct can give you reliable access to some of the finest available and keep your kitchen armed with some of the seasons finest fungi.


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