The first is a King Oyster Mushroom
a distinctive mushroom, it is generally characterised by a tan coloured cap over a tall, bulbous stem. The cap does vary in size, stem thickness bears no influence upon it - indeed you can have a small cap over a thick stem, examples of which can be seen here.
There's virtually no waste with this mushroom as the stem is highly edible. I particularly like to use this mushroom because when cut lengthways you get an extremely elegant mushroom silhouette - ideally, to best show off the shape you would look for dishes in which you could drape the mushroom slice - decorate the top of savoury tart, a pizza even a frittata.
The next mushroom is Shimeji
Shimeji grow in clumps as you can see and to prepare you simply cut them from the hard base.
These are highly aromatic and it is advised that you don't eat these raw as the taste can be a little unpleasant.
The dish I'm making today has been inspired by one we recently had at a local restaurant called Cafe Latte. It had a much more appealing name of Fungi di Bosco al Cartoccio which translates to forest mushroom cooked in parchment.
The premise is very simple - you lay out a sheet of baking paper, brush it with a little oil and then begin layering slices of mushroom, interspersed with garlic slivers and herbs, a dash of wine, some butter, salt and pepper. Once the parcel is wrapped, it is then baked in the oven - all the flavours remain trapped within the parcel, the butter and mushroom juices amalgamate with the herbs to form the most intoxicating broth. It's served at the table unopened, the diner being treated to a most wonderful treat of the senses.
Mushrooms "al Cartoccio"
[Makes 2 parcels]
2 king pine mushrooms, sliced lengthways
large handful Shimeji mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
fresh thyme sprigs
salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon-infused olive oil
dash of white wine, optional
Take 2 large pieces of baking paper and set each into a bowl. I find this helps to define the shape of the cartoccio so I can better gauge the placement of the mushrooms.
Brush the base with olive oil - I've used lemon-infused olive oil to get it a little tang as I won't be using wine.
Sprinkle over with a few slivers of garlic and fresh thyme leaves -
I'm using thyme because it has a great affinity to mushrooms, a wonderful aroma and is quite robust.
Place a few slices of King Oyster, a sprinkle of salt, followed by the Shimeji and a little more thyme and garlic. Add a tiny knob of butter and then repeat the layers. Finish off with the King Oysters, a little more butter, thyme leaves, salt and a good grinding of pepper. I also gave it a quick drizzle of the lemon infused olive oil.
Bring the ends of the paper together to form a tight parcel, twisting to ensure a good seal. As I don't want the paper to colour for presentation sakes, I then wrap these parcels in aluminium foil. This is extra protection to ensure all the flavours remained trapped in the parcel but it also stops the paper from colouring.
Place the parcels on a baking tray and cook in a preheated 180°C oven for about 30-40 minutes - the time does depend on the size of your parcel and the volume of mushrooms.
If you were serving this for a dinner party remove it from the aluminium foil and place the unopened parcel on plates - it is now ready to serve.
This first peek inside - it's a real pity you can't photograph the aroma. All the flavours of the mushrooms, thyme and garlic have been captured and distilled into the juices that pool at the base of the parcel.
It's essential to serve this with good crusty bread so you don't waste of drop of that goodness.