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Mushroom musings

Are you a mushroom fan? I am and never fail to marvel at the wonders this little fungus can create! I love them in omelettes and in soups, or with scrambled eggs on toast, says Sanjeev Kapoor.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2009 18:23 IST
Sanjeev Kapoor

MushroomsAre you a mushroom fan? I am and never fail to marvel at the wonders this little fungus can create! I love them in omelettes and in soups, or with scrambled eggs on toast. For a cook, these are absolute delights as they add texture to food that is eminently satisfactory on the palate.

Not a fruit, or vegetable
Mushrooms are 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.

Then and now
So let them come by you in different sizes, shapes and colours, smooth and silky or pitted and honeycombed. For Rs 35 buy a packet of fresh button mushrooms from your local sabziwala and get your creativity going. Mushrooms with matar, a winter favourite in Delhi, is fondly remembered-with hot phulkas. At weddings, the exotic dried black mushroom called dhingri was a must presentation, its most popular combination being with peas. These days, stuffed mushrooms are a big favourite at home: we fill them with cheese and gratinate to a golden brown. My party favourite is Mushroom Dum Biryani with a proper dough-sealed handi to be opened at the table. Another great snack that is easy to do for masses is Tandoori Mushrooms-skewered marinated mushrooms with tomatoes, onions and capsicums. Add a pinch of saunf powder in the marinade for a refreshing taste. Mushrooms have a pleasant unassuming flavour so they take up herbs and flavourings very well.

What’s flour wash?
One thing I always like to stress on is that mushrooms are best cleaned with flour first to remove any dark spots on the caps. The underside (gills) hardly need any 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.

Explore the mushroom market
In case you feel like exploring the mushroom market look out for ceps that are one of the largest wild mushrooms prized for their fine suede-like texture and excellent flavour. Ceps are excellent when fried in butter or oil over a brisk 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. Their cap, gills and stems are of the same greyish brown or pink or yellow colour. They are softer than button mushrooms. In Mumbai, it is possible to have all these available in dried form. They need to be reconstituted (soaked in warm water) before use.

If you are going for Chinese or Thai food what could be served to you are the popular wood ear and the straw mushrooms. I distinctly recall the taste of the wood ear mushroom in chicken, which had been cooked with bamboo shoot. And this meal I had a good couple of months back!

By Sanjeev Kapoor – Master Chef, Author, Television Host. Reach him at enquiry@sanjeevkapoor.com