If the cap fits ...
I love mushrooms and am fascinated by the many varieties found around the world. Even cultivated button mushrooms can be full of flavour if cooked with the right ingredients (garlic is helpful). The first two recipes use fresh mushrooms, while the third relies on a dried variety.
Linguine with fresh chanterelles, pancetta and cream (pictured)
If you can't find fresh chanterelles, use other 'wild' types such as morel or porcini. Try to time everything so the pasta is ready at the same time as the sauce.
100 grams fresh chanterelles
20 grams unsalted butter
20ml cooking oil
80 grams sliced pancetta
1 large shallot, minced
60ml white wine
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
200 grams linguine
15 grams freshly grated parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
1 thyme sprig
Fill a large bowl with water, add the chanterelles, swish around briefly, then drain. Dry with a clean dish towel then cut into halves or quarters, depending on the size. Remove and discard the rind from the pancetta then cut into 5mm-wide strips. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the linguine.
Heat the butter and cooking oil in a large skillet (or a well-seasoned wok). Add the pancetta and cook over a medium flame until it starts to brown. Add the shallot, lower the flame and cook until soft, stirring often. Turn the heat to high, add the chanterelles and a sprinkling of salt, and cook until they start to brown at the edges. Add the wine and simmer over a high heat for a few minutes, then stir in the cream and bring to a simmer.
When the linguine is al dente, ladle off about 200ml of the pasta water into a cup. Drain the linguine and add it to the skillet, then sprinkle in 15 grams of parmesan. Add about 60ml of the pasta water (the starch in the water will help thicken the sauce). Stir over a low flame until the sauce lightly coats the pasta; if it seems too dry, add more pasta water. Sprinkle black pepper and thyme leaves over the pasta, divide between two plates and serve with more parmesan for sprinkling.
Matsutake mushrooms grilled with pine needles
Unless you feel like searching for fresh pine needles in one of our country parks, it's probably easiest to find them at the Mong Kok flower market in the form of a miniature tree. Check with the vendor that the tree hasn't been sprayed with chemicals. The matsutake should have an unopened cap.
A large handful of pine needles
1 large matsutake mushroom (about 15cm in length)
About 30 grams unsalted butter, melted
Cooking oil, for brushing the parchment
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Briefly rinse the matsutake to remove any soil then dry with a clean dish cloth. Cut the cap and stem into 5mm-thick slices and brush with butter.
Cut two 30cm x 30cm sheets of parchment paper. Fold a sheet in half and cut out a large semi-circle, leaving it intact at the fold. Repeat with the other sheet, then open up the half-circles (you should now have two full circles). Lightly brush with cooking oil. Spread some pine needles over each sheet, to the right of the seam. Put the matsutake slices in slightly overlapping layers over the pine needles then sprinkle lightly with salt. Fold the other side of the parchment paper over the mushroom. Starting at one end, tightly fold and press the open edges of the parchment together so the edges are sealed. Put the packets on a small baking tray then grill for about 10 minutes (don't let the paper burn). They can also be baked in a 200-degree-Celsius oven. Slit open the packs at the table to release the aroma.
Chinese stuffed mushrooms
20 large Chinese dried mushrooms, with caps about 4cm in diameter
500 grams slightly fatty minced pork
30ml soy sauce
20ml rice wine
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
10ml sesame oil
1 slightly heaped tsp cornstarch
2 spring onions, minced
A small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
For the sauce:
15ml cooking oil
1 tbsp salted black beans, rinsed briefly then soaked in warm water
20ml soy sauce
10ml rice wine
About 1 tsp cornstarch
For the garnish:
Minced spring onions and sprigs of fresh coriander
Rinse the mushrooms then put them in a bowl of warm water and soak until soft and pliable (about 45 minutes). Squeeze out the moisture then cut out and discard the stems. Strain the soaking liquid through a fine sieve and set aside.
Mix the minced pork with the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, salt, white pepper, sesame oil and cornstarch. Combine thoroughly, then stir in the spring onion and coriander. Spoon the mixture into the mushroom caps, pressing down so it adheres. Lay the mushrooms, meat-side up, in one layer on a large, shallow plate (if they don't fit, use two plates). Place the plate on a tiered steamer over boiling water and steam for 15 minutes.
While the mushrooms are cooking, prepare the sauce. Dissolve the cornstarch in about 15ml of the mushroom soaking liquid and set aside. Drain the black beans and mash roughly with the soy sauce and rice wine. Heat the oil in a skillet, add the black beans and about 100ml of the mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a simmer and keep warm until the mushrooms are cooked.
When the mushrooms are ready, transfer to a clean dish, leaving behind the liquid. Pour the liquid into the skillet and bring to a simmer. Stir in enough of the cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce- it should be of a light coating consistency. Taste for seasonings and then spoon over the mushrooms. Garnish with the minced spring onion and coriander sprigs, then serve.
Styling Nellie Ming Lee