Every year on October 15, millions of people around the world celebrate World Mushroom Day and pay homage to this wonder food.
With more than 14,000 different species grown around the world, mushrooms are an unassuming food that not only offer a delicious flavour when eaten on their own or added to various dishes, but they are also one of the most sustainably produced foods on the planet.
Environmentally mushrooms are superheroes as they are one of the most ecologically considerate crops available, efficient users of water, energy and land. One kilogram of mushrooms uses as little as 20 litres of water to produce, compared with 280 litres for 1kg of potatoes, 800 litres for 1kg of apples and a whopping 17,000 litres for 1kg of chocolate.
Nutritionally, mushrooms contain up to 60% of our daily recommended intake of many required vitamins and minerals. They have five different B vitamins that help support energy, brain function and skin health; phosphorous to help build strong bones, copper for immune system support and joint health; potassium to keep the muscles, nerves and heart working well; Selenium, a powerful antioxidant and essential mineral that helps regulate blood pressure, support a healthy immune system, promote healthy hair, skin and nails, and positively affects your mood and – to top it all they contain no gluten, sugar or saturated fat
When it comes to cooking with mushrooms, they are not only affordable, healthy and low in calories, but they can be a super versatile way to get creative with what would otherwise be boring or bland meals. Some ideas include:
- Adding chopped fresh mushrooms onto a pizza as a delicious topping. Choose meatless pizza with dairy-free cheese to make the meal more vegetarian and vegan-friendly.
- Incorporating mushrooms into a stir-fry. One delicious way to eat mushrooms, especially for kids who might not be ready for their strong flavour or texture, is to combine them with a variety of other vegetables in a Chinese-style stir fry meal and include carrots, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and green beans.
- Eat mushrooms for breakfast. Sauté and serve them with scrambled eggs, or chop them up and put them into an omelette.
- Mushrooms can be made into a delicious cream sauce that can be used in all sorts of ways – as the centre of a ravioli, poured over rigatoni pasta, made into a mushroom soup or fried and served with steak.
How should mushrooms be kept and stored? The experts advise putting them on the top shelf of the refrigerator to keep them the freshest but add they can be kept in the freezer for up to twelve months at a time. When it comes to cleaning them, the advice is to wipe them with a clean damp cloth or paper towel and never wash them in water as they will absorb too much liquid and not cook well.
To celebrate these morsels of goodness, the chefs at Capsicum Culinary Studio – South Africa’s largest culinary school with six campuses across the country – have provided recipes for three stunning easy-to-make mushroom dishes.
Garlic Mushrooms (serves 4-6)
These beautiful, buttery and garlicky bites are the ultimate side dish, and make the perfect partner for spicy chicken, savoury lamb, sweet gammon or a perfectly seared sirloin steak.
300g baby button mushrooms
1 tsp basil
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated (optional)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Wipe the top of the mushrooms with a damp kitchen towel. (Do not run the mushrooms under water or soak them as this will cause too much saturation in the pan, preventing the mushroom edges from crisping. Over a medium heat, heat the butter in a pan along with the oil until the butter melts and combines with the oil. Once melted, add the mushrooms and leave for 4 – 5 minutes until golden and have developed crispy edges. Add the garlic and herbs and cook for a further minute until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. For an extra kick, sprinkle parmesan cheese over the mushrooms before serving.
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
6 medium portobello mushrooms (stems removed)
200g spinach, chopped
2 tbsp minced red onion
1 chopped scallion
¾ cup plain yoghurt
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp tarragon
¼ garlic powder
¼ sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
⅓ cup breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Scoop out the portobello mushroom centres and remove the stems. Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and place the mushrooms caps up onto the tray. Drizzle with olive oil and use your hands to rub all over the mushrooms. Sprinkle salt over mushroom caps then bake for 13 – 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and drain any excess liquid. Meanwhile, wash and drain the spinach thoroughly. In a bowl, combine the spinach, scallions and onions with the plain yoghurt, mayonnaise, ¾ cup of Parmesan cheese, tarragon, garlic powder, kosher salt and black pepper. Lower oven to 190°C. Evenly spoon the mixture onto the roasted mushrooms and top with the remaining parmesan cheese. Place back in the oven for 10 minutes until the mixture takes on a golden colour. Serve immediately.
Creamy Sauteed Mushrooms
This recipe is spectacular as a side dish or over a bed of pasta. The cheesy cream sauce can easily be adapted for vegetarian or vegan diets.
1 kg button mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp corn starch
1½ cups milk
Salt & pepper to taste
½ cup grated mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp fresh thyme
In a pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add and mix the stock and corn starch. Once the oil is hot enough, add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes, then stir and continue to cook for a further 1-2 minutes more until golden in colour. You may have to cook in batches, to avoid overcrowding the pan. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, then add the starch mixture and milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the grated cheeses and continue to cook until the cheese is fully melted, then stir in the thyme and take off the heat. Use as required.
Crispy Fried Mushrooms
This recipe turns regular mushrooms into golden-brown snacks that are perfect for parties, game days, or any other special occasions.
500g small button mushrooms
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup beer (alcohol-free also works)
2½ tsp salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Canola oil for frying
1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
In a deep saucepan, heat about 7cm of oil to 190°C. Sprinkle ½ a cup of flour over the mushrooms and shake off the excess. Combine the remaining flour, beer, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder in a medium bowl and combine until smooth. Dip each mushroom into the batter and allow the excess to drip back into the bowl. Without overcrowding, fry the mushrooms for about 7 minutes or until golden brown. It may be advisable to fry in batches to avoid overcrowding in the pan. After all the mushrooms are fried through, sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.