Yotam Ottolenghi’s mushroom recipes (2024)

Talk of “earthy flavours” is pretty common at this time of the year, but it really bears repeating in the case of mushrooms, because they taste so very much of the soil from which they grow. Mushrooms don’t have any chlorophyll, so are unable to harvest energy from sunlight, which means they have to do all their growing underground, feeding on whatever they find. So, mushrooms that grow under chestnut trees taste of chestnuts and soil. Mushrooms that grow under pine trees taste of pines and soil. And, generally speaking, mushrooms that stay in the earth for longer taste more strongly of earth and take on more of the colour of the soil.

Little white buttons are young mushrooms, dug early: they’re squeaky clean and score mild on the earthy flavour spectrum. Leave those same mushrooms in the ground, however, and they turn into older, browner chestnuts, which have an earthier flavour. Leave them for a week or so longer and they go even browner, earthier and more robust, as they open and display their inky gills.

All that’s left to do then is gently to brush the soil off your mushrooms and decide what you’re going to do with them.

Roast portobello mushrooms with brioche and poached egg

Aka breakfast of champignons. This works in the morning, for brunch or as a first course later in the day. For an extra-rich twist, use duck eggs instead of hens’. Serves four.

400g portobello mushrooms, cut into 2-3cm wedges
75ml olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Flaked sea salt and black pepper
5g basil leaves, roughly shredded
⅛ tsp chilli flakes
4 2cm-thick slices brioche
4 large eggs
100g soured cream

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. In a bowl, mix the mushrooms, three tablespoons of oil, half the garlic, half the cinnamon, half a teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper. Spread out on a large oven tray lined with baking paper, then roast for 15 minutes, stirring halfway, until soft and starting to brown. Remove from the oven, toss in the basil and keep warm.

While the mushrooms are roasting, mix the remaining oil, garlic and cinnamon with the chilli flakes and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Brush the flavoured oil over one side of each brioche slice, then lay the bread oiled side up on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Roast for six to seven minutes, until golden brown and crisp, then remove and keep warm.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-high and break in the eggs one at a time. Poach for 90 seconds for a runny yolk, and a little longer for a firmer set.

While the eggs are poaching, put a warm brioche slice on each of four plates and top with mushrooms. Use a slotted spoon to lift the eggs from the water, drain on kitchen paper, then lay on top of the mushrooms. Sprinkle each egg with a pinch of salt and grind of pepper, and serve warm with a dollop of soured cream.

Quick-pickled mushrooms with goat’s curd

These little mushrooms need only an hour’s pickling: much longer than that and they’ll be overpowered by the vinegar. Serve as an antipasto or snack. Serves two, generously.

10g whole tarragon sprigs
240ml white-wine vinegar
2 tsp pink peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 long strips finely shaved lemon peel
4 tsp caster sugar
300g button mushrooms, cleaned with a cloth, cut in half if on the large side
100g goat’s curd (or mild and creamy goat’s cheese)
2 slices sourdough bread, lightly toasted, to serve

Put the tarragon in a clean jar or small bowl. Pour the vinegar into a medium saucepan and add 200ml water, the peppercorns, bay leaves, lemon skin, sugar and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium, add the mushrooms and simmer for five minutes, stirring from time to time.

Spoon the mushrooms into the jar, then pour over the hot liquid and leave them to pickle at room temperature for an hour. Spoon the mushrooms and aromatics into a small bowl (the liquid has now done its work, so discard) and serve with the goat’s curd and sourdough.

Polenta-crusted king oyster mushrooms

The mushrooms are the main event here, but don’t throw away the oil after it has been used. It will have been infused with garlic, lemon, rosemary and mushrooms, so use it for drizzling over pasta and salads – stored in an airtight glass bottle, it keeps for a few weeks. If you can’t get king oyster mushrooms, normal oyster mushrooms torn to a similar size work just as well, as do quartered chestnut mushrooms. Serves two as a first course or four as a snack.

250g king oyster mushrooms (ie, about 4), cut lengthways into quarters, then each quarter cut into 8 1cm batons
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4 sprigs rosemary
1 lemon, finely shaved to get five wide strips of peel, then cut into wedges
350ml olive oil
80g quick-cook polenta
20g cornflour
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp ground white pepper
250ml vegetable oil, for frying

Put the mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, lemon peel and half a teaspoon of salt in a large saucepan on a low heat. Pour over the oil (it won’t quite cover the mushrooms), then simmer very gently for 15 minutes, stirring often, so all the mushrooms get coated in oil. You want the oil to warm gently and not bubble; if it starts to, take the pan off the heat for a minute.

Set a sieve over a heatproof container, then tip in the mushrooms and leave to strain for five minutes. (Transfer the garlic, rosemary and lemon peel to a glass jar, add the oil once it has cooled, then seal the jar.)

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan on a high flame. When it reaches 180C (if you don’t have a thermometer, test by dropping in a piece of mushroom: if it sizzles straight away, the oil is hot enough).

While the oil is heating, mix the polenta, corn flour, paprika, white pepper and a third of a teaspoon of salt in a shallow bowl or tray. Once the oil is hot, coat a third of the mushrooms in the polenta and flour mixture, shake off any excess, then carefully lower them into the hot oil and fry for three minutes, gently turning the mushrooms throughout, until crisp and golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and repeat twice more with the remaining mushrooms. Serve hot with a wedge of lemon.

Bulgur with mushrooms, feta and dill

Yotam Ottolenghi’s mushroom recipes (1)

Try to get as many different types of mushroom as you can for this dish, which was inspired by Limor Laniado Tiroche writing in Haaretz, the Israeli paper. Serves four as a side dish or two as a main with some wilted greens.

150g bulgur wheat
Salt and black pepper
250ml boiling water
65ml olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
400g mixed mushrooms, cut into 4- to 5mm-thick slices (or torn, if wild)
2 tbsp picked thyme leaves
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
10g dill, roughly chopped
60g feta, broken into 1-2cm pieces
1 tsp urfa chilli flakes (or ½ teaspoon regular chilli flakes)

Rinse the bulgur well, put it in a large bowl and stir in a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Pour over the boiling water, cover with cling-film and leave to soak for 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur soft, then drain (assuming any liquid is left).

Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high flame, then fry the onion and garlic for seven to eight minutes, until soft and caramelised. Add half the cumin, fry for a minute or two, until dark golden brown, then transfer to a plate or bowl.

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Pour another two tablespoons of oil into the same pan, turn the heat to high, and fry the mushrooms and a third of a teaspoon of salt for six to seven minutes, stirring often, until the mushrooms brown and soften. Add the thyme and remaining cumin, and fry, stirring continuously, for a minute, then pour in the balsamic vinegar and cook for 30 seconds: it should reduce to practically nothing. Stir in the bulgur, half the onion, half the dill, half the feta and half the urfa chilli, until warmed through, then take the pan off the heat.

Spoon the bulgur and mushrooms on to a large platter (or two plates), sprinkle over the remaining feta, onion, dill and urfa chilli, drizzle with the final teaspoon of oil and serve.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s mushroom recipes (2024)
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