Tips from a mushroom fan

by Sanjeev Kapoor

If you are a mushroom fan then I too am in the same league. I never fail to marvel at the wonders these little fungi can create! I love them in omelettes and in soups or with scrambled eggs on toast. They taste marvelous in biryani or try them in stir fries. And mushroom cappuccino is something to die for. For a cook, these are absolute delights as they add a special flavour and texture to food that is highly delightful. 

Mushroom – a fruit or vegetable

Lot of people think mushrooms are non-vegetarian items but let me assure you that they are absolutely vegetarian. They are fungi and similar to plants but lack chlorophyll, so they cannot produce food for themselves through photosynthesis. They grow by absorbing nutrients from materials such as compost, leaves, decaying wood and soil. They are ninety percent water, have few calories and minimal fat and cholesterol. 

Culinary marvels

Mushrooms come in different sizes, shapes and colours, smooth and silky or pitted and honeycombed. The best part of mushrooms is that they can be cooked in a variety of ways. Cook it the Punjabi way, cook it the South Indian way or cook it the Continental way – they are simply delicious. On most of the wedding menus, one finds them as an important part of the vegetarian spread, mostly cooked with green peas in a cashew enriched gravy. I personally love Mushroom Dum Biryani and stuffed mushrooms, which go well with cocktails or mocktails. 

How to clean mushrooms

The best way to clean mushrooms is with flour to remove any dark spots on the caps. The underside (gills) hardly needs cleaning. Once the flour wash is done then a simple quick rinse in water is okay or better still wipe with a damp cloth. Peel only if skins are very discoloured. In fact, while buying pick up only white and firm mushrooms. 

How to choose the best mushrooms

When exploring the market for mushroom, I would suggest that you look out for ceps, which are one of the largest wild mushrooms that have fine suede-like texture and excellent flavour. Ceps are irresistible when sautéed in butter over high heat to evaporate the liquid and then added to omelettes. Morels are cone-shaped, pale to dark brown in colour with a distinctive honeycomb like cap. The cap and stem are completely hollow. Oyster mushrooms are ear-shaped, cap, gills and stems are all of the same greyish brown or pink or yellow. They are softer than button mushrooms. In Mumbai, all these are available in dried form and have to be soaked in warm water before use.

In Chinese or Thai food wood, ear or straw mushrooms are popularly used. I can still recall the distinct taste of wood ear mushroom with chicken, and mind you I had this quite a few months back! That proves how yummy they are. 

Tips and tough choices!

What’s the best way to cook mushrooms?

Sauté them in a little butter or oil on high heat. But take care they do not get overcooked or turn black.

Mushrooms can also be broiled, fried or eaten raw. Oh yes, they are safe as long as they are properly cleaned.

But one thing one should remember is avoid cooking them in aluminum pans, since they tend to turn mushrooms black. Best way to cook them is in non-stick pans. 

So, go ahead have a gala time cooking and eating the mushrooms. 

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal www.sanjeevkapoor.com is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.