Mushrooms are always available but I tend to associate their rich flavours with heartier dishes well suited to the cooler months. A delicious and adaptable vegetable, they can be cooked in a flash with a little olive oil or butter or left to braise to absorb extra flavours. Mushrooms, especially the portobello or "flat" variety, are satisfyingly meaty in texture so are ideal if meat is not wanted, but a filling meal is.
I have used the portobello for the custards because of their rich flavour which is delicious gently cooked with the addition of fresh thyme, a little nutmeg and parmesan. This dish is a lovely light meal but also makes an elegant dinner party entree - perhaps with a small bundle of lightly dressed microgreens or salad leaves on the side.
Mushrooms braise well because they hold their shape and take on all the delicious flavours added to the braising liquid. A variety of mushrooms can be used in this dish. The button is readily available but doesn't have a lot of flavour.
Swiss browns have a little more taste, but look out for different varieties such as morels and oyster mushrooms, then combine. A little fresh chilli adds a punch, and the creme fraiche creates a lovely rich sauce. Served with slices of crisp tofu and steamed greens, with a little rice on the side if desired, this makes for a warming winter supper.
In the third recipe mushrooms are cooked quickly and made into a salad with prawns. The juiciness of the mushrooms works well with the prawns and creates a fresh but hearty salad.
With lots of ginger, lime, black pepper and ponzu sauce it's yummy hot or cold.
Dried shitake mushrooms are readily available but need to be soaked in boiling water or stock for about 20 minutes or until soft. Squeeze, then use. The liquid can be used as a stock in soups or risotto. Fresh shitake can be found at specialist food stores and markets and are cooked in the same way as other mushroom varieties.
The custard is cooked in a bain-marie - fold a tea towel and place in the bottom of a baking dish. Add the filled ramekins and enough water to reach halfway up the sides.