There are more than 2500 different varieties of mushroom but not all of them are edible.
Cultivated mushrooms bought at your greengrocer or supermarket are obviously safe to consume but fungi picked in a paddock may be poisonous and eating one may have fatal consequences.
Please verify such mushrooms' authenticity before you saute and sample them.
Mushrooms possess magical nutrients that can benefit your health, especially during winter. Sunshine helps the body produce vitamin D and the reduced hours of winter sunshine are blamed for bringing on the winter blues.
Mushrooms are the only non-animal food to have natural vitamin D, generated automatically when they are exposed to light.
Mushrooms are also a good source of:
B vitamins, which help break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates and play an important role in the nervous system.
Potassium - two-thirds of a cup of sliced grilled portobello mushrooms contain the same amount of potassium as a medium-size banana.
Selenium and ergothioneine, two antioxidants which have been shown to boost immune function and help ward off disease. Selenium also helps fight cancer and prevent heart disease.
Mushrooms are low in sodium and calories.
Dried mushrooms, such as Italian porcini and Asian shiitake, are now readily available at Asian grocery stores and most supermarkets.
They add depth of flavour to casseroles, stir-fries, dips, flans and sauces, and are excellent used in combination with fresh mushrooms. Soak dried mushrooms in warm water for about 30 minutes before use. Squeeze dry and chop - and try to use the soaking water in the same recipe as it is full of flavour.
Store fresh mushrooms at 2-5C. Loose mushrooms are best stored in brown paper bags as they absorb moisture.
Most packaged mushrooms are in specially designed perforated plastic containers that extend shelf life.
There is no need to peel cultivated mushrooms.
Simply brush clean or rinse under cold running water and pat dry just before you use them.
MUSHROOM & CHEESE MUFFINS
150g button mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp each: salt, paprika
2 spring onions, diced
100g goat's cheese, diced
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup milk
Preheat oven to 190C. Lightly oil a 12-hole muffin pan or line with paper liners.
Saute mushrooms in oil until dry and brown. Reserve a few mushroom slices for the top.
Sift flour, salt and paprika into a bowl. Add spring onions, mushrooms and cheese.
Whisk eggs, oil and milk together. Fold into dry ingredients until just moistened.
Spoon into prepared muffin holes. Top with reserved mushroom slices. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Makes 12.
225g spinach leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 large portabello mushrooms, about 9cm in diameter
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp each: sour cream, mayonnaise
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 cooked globe artichokes, squeezed dry, diced
1/2 cup each: fresh breadcrumbs, finely grated parmesan cheese
Remove any thick stalks from spinach. Wash, drain and chop leaves. Steam or microwave, until limp. Cool, squeeze dry, then chop.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 220C.
Combine oil and garlic. Remove stems from the mushrooms. Brush inside of caps with garlic oil. Bake on an oven tray for about 10 minutes, until just tender.
Combine sour cream, mayo and thyme leaves. Add cold spinach and artichokes. Combine remaining garlic oil with breadcrumbs and half the parmesan. Sprinkle on top then dust with the remaining parmesan. Bake for about eight minutes, until hot.
Great served with a crisp salad. Serves two as a main course.
PORCINI & POTATO BAKE
10g (1/4 cup) sliced, dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup warm water
4 large baking potatoes
1 tbsp butter
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup each: milk, cream
2 tbsp chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes or until softened. Strain mushrooms through a fine sieve, reserving the cooking liquid.
Preheat oven to 180C. Butter a 23cm x 23cm baking dish.
Pat mushrooms dry and coarsely chop. Peel and thinly slice potatoes.
Melt butter in a large pan and saute mushrooms and garlic for one minute, stirring often. Add a quarter cup of the reserved liquid, the milk, cream, chives and seasonings. Bring to boil, stirring.
Layer potatoes and porcini mixture in the baking dish. Bake for one hour or until potatoes are tender. Serve as an accompaniment. Serves 6.
SHIITAKE CHICKEN WITH ORANGE & GINGER SAUCE
5g (2 tbsp) dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup hot water
Sauce: 1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbsp each: dark soy sauce, water, finely grated root ginger
2 tsp each: finely grated orange peel, sugar, cornflour
Chicken: 1 tbsp rice bran oil
400g skinned and boned chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1 each: red, green peppers (capsicums), seeded and thinly sliced
125g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Soak shiitake mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes.
Combine all ingredients for sauce in a bowl. Mix well. Heat oil in a non-stick wok. Stir-fry chicken for two minutes, in batches if required. Remove to a plate. Drain shiitake and squeeze dry. Add peppers, shiitake and button mushrooms and garlic to pan. Stir-fry for one to two minutes. Return chicken to pan. Mix sauce ingredients again then stir into wok. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Great served over noodles or rice. Serves 4.