The Chinese have used mushrooms for medicinal purposes for thousands of years and consider them a symbol of longevity due to their many health-promoting properties. Nadia Lim uses them as part of a balanced diet.
Though in Western society, we may not call on mushrooms for medicinal uses, as a whole food, they are full of nutritional benefits and make a great part of a healthy, balanced diet. They’re very low in calories, yet add a range of important nutrients to your diet including potassium, and the B vitamins riboflavin, and niacin.
The most commonly eaten mushrooms are button and portobello mushrooms, but other dried varieties like shiitake and porcini are now widely available in fresh or dried form. Because of their meaty texture, they make a great centre-stage part of a meat-free meal. Compared to other vegetables, they’re a good source of iron too.
There is also some research suggesting that shiitake mushrooms have an ability to boost immunity and have beneficial cardiovascular effects.
Here’s two delicious ways to incorporate nutritious mushrooms into your diet — a classic beef and shiitake mushroom stirfry cooked in a flash, and for something a bit more fancy, an earthy, nutty, savoury mushroom, thyme and pecorino tart.
Beef and shiitake stir-fry
I love using dried mushrooms because they just have so much flavour — much more than fresh mushrooms. You must soak them in water (to rehydrate them) before using, and the liquid that results makes an awesome mushroom stock, perfect for soups or risottos. This meal can be prepared in 20-30 minutes.
60g dried sliced shiitake mushrooms*
600g good quality sirloin beef steak, thinly sliced (at room temperature)
2 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 Tbsp kecap manis*
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced ginger
1 red chili, finely chopped (optional)
3 spring onions, finely sliced
¼ cup chopped coriander, to garnish
- Soak dried mushrooms in 1-2 cups of boiling water until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain mushrooms (you can keep the resulting mushroom stock for another use, like risotto, if you like) and gently squeeze out excess water.
- Meanwhile, combine beef, oyster sauce, kecap manis, soy, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and chili (if using) and leave to marinate while the mushrooms are soaking.
- Heat a drizzle of oil in a wok or your largest fry pan over high heat. Quickly stir-fry the mushrooms for 3-4 minutes until browned. Set aside. Add another drizzle of oil and stir-fry the beef for 3-4 minutes until just cooked through. You may need to do this in two batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
- Add mushrooms back to the pan along with the sliced spring onion. Toss a few times to mix all ingredients together, then turn off heat. Garnish stir-fry with coriander and serve with steamed rice and greens.
- Shitake mushrooms are available from the International section of supermarkets or in Asian food stores.
- Kecap manis is a thick, sweet, sticky soy sauce, that gives great flavour to stir-fries. It is available in the sauce or international sections of supermarkets and in Asian food stores.
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Mushroom, thyme and pecorino tart with buckwheat pastry
I decided to do something a bit different and make a buckwheat pastry (from buckwheat flour), which has an earthy flavour and also happens to begluten-free. Of course, if you wanted to, you could just use regular home-made or store-bought short crust pastry. The filling has also been made much healthier by using yoghurt, instead of cream. Serve this tart with a salad of rocket, pear and more shaved pecorino (a hard Italian sheep’s cheese, not dissimilar to parmesan). If you don’t have pecorino, a good parmesan will work fine as a substitute.
Makes one 24cm tart, serves 4-6
300g buckwheat flour
120g cold butter, diced
70g toasted pinenuts
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Mushroom, yoghurt, thyme and pecorino tart filling
2 Tbsp butter
2 shallots, very finely diced
400g mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced (portobellos, button, shiitake)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chopped tarragon leaves
1 cup (about 60g) finely grated pecorino cheese
3 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup thick natural Greek yoghurt
1/3 cup rocket leaves, to garnish
- Heat oven to 200C. Blitz all pastry ingredients in a food processor until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Push together into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill (this will make it easier to roll).
- Tear off two 30x30cm squares of baking paper. Place pastry between the sheets of paper and roll out to 1cm thickness. Remove top sheet of baking paper. Use the bottom sheet to lift up pastry, and invert into 24cm tart tin with a removable base. Remove baking paper and push pastry into the corners and up the edges of the tart tin.
- The pastry is quite delicate and may break. Just pinch it together wherever this happens. Cover pastry with baking paper and fill with dried beans/rice/baking beans. Blind-bake for 20 minutes, until just golden. Remove the beans and baking paper and bake for a further 4 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 160C.
- Heat butter in large fry pan over medium to high heat. Add shallots and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and fry until cooked and reduced in volume by half, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook for a further one minute. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Whisk eggs, yoghurt and grated cheese together. Combine mushrooms with yoghurt mixture and season well with salt and pepper. Pour into pastry and bake for 40-50 minutes until just set. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before carefully removing from the tart tin. Scatter over rocket leaves for garnish, and serve with salad and chutney on the side.