Friday, April 18, 2008

A gingery mushroom salad

Foraging for mushrooms, indeed any wild urban food, is a romantic notion for the cook. There are treasures to be found out there on the fringes of the city for the patient and knowledgeable hunter. Alas, not for me. Still, peeling back the plastic film on my pretty city-reared oysters, trundled home in their polystyrene tray, there is a fragrant hint, however mild, of those earthy, cool places. At the risk of repeating myself (but nevertheless forging right on ahead), oyster mushrooms rate Very Highly on my fungi-lovin’ list. It’s the way those edges crisp to gold, just so, in the pan. Or perhaps it’s that soft, velvet tactility. Creatures of the dark with delicate, sensuous gills, and, as such, treated in my kitchen with a little reverence.

Indoors, in the kitchen at least, the cool and damp are kept at bay. Wrapped up in ugg boots and a checked flannelette shirt, I’m cheerfully embracing my inner bogan (oh go on, I know you’re curious). The nights are closing in. April, thankfully, provides lots of goodies for the infinitely more tasteful world of cooking. Loathe though I am to show favouritism, the quiet bridging seasons, hanging between their dynamic, bolder siblings are what hold the fabric of the culinary year together. Each has its bounty and unique beauty, but of them all, it’s autumn I always fall for. Head over heels. Mushrooms, year round favourites, taste just right, right now. After all, we’re knee-deep in what is quintessentially the mushroom season.

Though not technically a salad, while browsing through Peter Gordon’s slightly irritating book of salads ‘tother day it struck me that the very definition of the word has changed dramatically. So, if Mr Gordon can call something that involves loads of exotic ingredients and hours of prepping time A Salad, I can call this (far easier) dish one, too.

Warm oyster mushroom and leek salad – for 2

A light meal, good for a lunch. To be honest, it’s probably better described as a stir-fry, but will you indulge me just this once? The leeks themselves are surprising – like a tangle of egg and gluten-free noodles - and are a perfect way to add one more serving of vegetables to your day.

4 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
300g (10 oz) of oyster mushrooms
2 leeks, trimmed of dark greens
2 tablespoons of pale sesame oil
2 fat cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, toasted
Handful of coriander (cilantro) or parsley, chopped
Sea salt
Small knob of ginger, finely grated (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon of hoi sin sauce, thinned with 1 tablespoon of water

Drain the shiitakes and snip away the stems with scissors. Slice the caps thinly. Slice off and discard the stalks from the oyster mushrooms and tear any large ones in half.

Halve the leeks, wash, dry well and cut into matchsticks. Warm 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds, add the leeks and stir fry for a further 2 minutes. Toss in the toasted seeds followed by coriander. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Warm the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same frying pan over a medium heat and toss in the shiitakes. Stir fry for 1 minute, then add the oyster mushrooms. Sprinkle in some salt, lower the heat and let them sizzle away gently for about 5 minutes, turning them individually from time to time to evenly crisp. Add the ginger, stir and cook for a further 30 seconds. It’s all about the ginger here, so don’t let it burn.

Arrange the leeks in small mounds, drizzle over the hoi sin mixture and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with extra coriander leaves and serve warm-ish.

Lisa and Holler’s baby, No Croutons Required, is three months young. April’s theme is soups or salads featuring their favourite ingredient, the mushroom.


kathryn said...

Lucy, Lucy - this looks soooo good. And it uses my favourite mushroom - the shiitake.

If you want to call it a salad, that's absolutely fine by me. Much better than some of the limp, insipid numbers that go by that name.

Lisa said...

Everything you make, I want to make. Very honored to receive an entry from you Lucy. Thank you very much.

Sophie said...

This looks so tasty Lucy! Would make a lovely dinner too, perhaps with one of those really thin omlettes cut into slices and/or a little steamed rice.

I'm a big fan of cutting up leeks "noodle style". It's fiddly but definitely worth it, especially if there's any chance that the leek might be a bit on the tough side

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

This looks delicious! I love warm mushroom salads!

Ricki said...

Only you could make mushrooms (that "wild urban food"--how great!) look and sound this good. Salad or not, I want some of this.

Oh, and I am SO bogan!

Laurie Constantino said...

Well I read about bogans but I definitely didn't understand all of it. If we every make it to Australia, I'll defnitely need a vocab lesson. As for your latest spectacular dish, please let me quote a woman of wisdom who describes my feelings exactly; "Everything you make, I want to make."

Suganya said...

Oyster mushrooms are the most delicate ones. They literally melt in the mouth. Salads have become fancier these days. They call it entrée salads.

Rosa said...

What I love about this is that you could get away with making it at any time of year. At least, I plan to!

Wendy said...


A "bogan" seems to be an aussie version of a NED. The dresscode is different but the culture sounds very very similar. :)

Tell me, what's so irritating about the salad book?

Callipygia said...

I adore this salad, I swear I can taste it in my head...But I am so distracted by this bogan thing. I think I might want to be one, but fear I am to wussy to qualify. Couldn't get onto the test...

Lucy said...

Kathryn, Kathryn - love me some shiitakes too! Thanks for the vote of confidence. I knew I was pushing my luck nonetheless...

Lisa, it's a great event this one. Pleased to have got act together in time this month!

Sophie, that's a beautiful additon. You know, it had never occured to me before this recipe to make leeks resemble noodles. Will be doing it more often now.

Thanks, Mari!

Ricki, bogans were just a fact of life growing up where I did adjacent to the Western suburbs of Sydney (one of the natural habitats of the bogan). I knew that at some point their 'sense of style' would enter my life... ;-)

Laurie, when you do, I'll be right there to guide you through the delicious playfulness that is Australian English. Thanks!

Suganya, salads have been made too fancy these days, haven't they? Why everything has to be called a 'salad' is beyond me...

Rosa, you could. Hope you do.

Wendy, I'm pleased you have at least a point of reference for the beautiful creature that is 'The Bogan'. Going in search of NED's right now. The book? Well, it's interesting, but it's cheffy - you know, the sort of thing. Recipes named, for example, 'Warm duck leg salad with coconut, coriander, red peppers, noodles, Chinese cabbage and honey-glazed cashews'. Quite a mouthful, and that's not the longest! Worth a look, but I mean who (other than a cutting-edge chef) spends 12 hours making a salad?

Calli, bogans...hmm, that test doesn't seem to be working. Shame. I mean, how will anyone be able to tell if they are a member of the bogan clan? Really, bogan is a state of mind... :-)

Helen said...

That's an interesting salad. I like the idea of the leeks as 'noodles'.

LisaRene said...

Warm mushrooms are the way to go! I'm trying to learn to like mushrooms and find that cooked are far more palatable then raw. I would happily enjoy these warm gingery mushrooms over a bed of fresh lettuce for supper.

tigerfish said...

I found another mushroom lover! Warm mushroom salad anytime for me :)

winedeb said...

Oh my Lucy, I love this post. You definately did the good ol' mushroom much justice! And your photos play a wonderful part in your story. As always they are perfect! You have such a way with words!

Lucy said...

Hi Helen, the leeks are idea well worth exploring!

Hi Lisarene - I'm with you. Cooked mushrooms are the way to go. Especially oyster mushrooms - they have a tendency to make some, susceptible people, very sick when eaten raw. I fact, most mushrooms should at least be marinated before being eaten raw!

Hi Tigerfish - anytime of the year, indeed.

Thanks, Deb. Your entry was beautiful - pesto-stuffed 'shrooms...wonderful!

Stephanie said...

I agree: that book is irritating! What is it about his 'salads'. Perhaps that's the problem ... the ironic quote marks.

Lucy said...

Stephanie, I just reckon they're not salads at all. And the design of the book is all wrong, too - too 'pretty' and 'well designed' to, you know, actually use. Glad you feel the same way. I never use the thing, actually...