Mushrooms at Borough Market
Once upon a time mankind hunted and foraged for food in the wild. When it comes to the “meat” of the vegetable world (mushrooms), mankind still makes forays into land festooned with creepy crawlies and damp moss filled wetlands to forage and hunt for mushrooms.
The only hunting and gathering I do are strictly confined to my local supermarkets and food markets. I thought this attitude pretty much defined me until I ended up at the Borough market, London. I am not sure whether it was the sheer number of mushroom varieties on offer or the sprinkling of the word “wild” that preceded their names that began to awaken the cave man in me. All of a sudden the idea of grabbing a basket and heading towards a forest to harvest what essentially is fungi became an almost must do. I would of course have to find a forest first, given I live in concrete London! But, failing that then I’d head straight to the Borough market to do my hunting. Shiitake, maitake or hen-of-the-woods, enoki, girolles, portobellos and oyster were just some of the varieties of mushrooms available. The most luxurious of wild fungi—truffles—were also available at the market.
Like most people, the widely used button mushroom (cultivated not wild) is what I normally use and mostly in a “fry-up” such as this duck egg omelette. Regardless of variety or origin, mushrooms, I find work best when a handful of them are chucked into a frying pan after a knob of butter is added first. Chuck in a slice of garlic and a strip of thyme and seasoning of your choice as the butter begins to froth. Shake the pan and its contents to get the mushroom to sizzle and brown then voila! You’ve got yourself a pretty decent filler on toast.
Let’s think a bit more about mushrooms in general.
They are now super trendy, but that hasn’t always been the case as the author below states:
“Strange that mankind should ever have used the mushroom. All the various species of this substance are of a leathery consistence, and contain but little nutriment. The condiments or seasonings which are added are what are chiefly prized. Without these, we should almost as soon eat saw dust as mushrooms.”
‘The Young House-keeper’
by William Andrus Alcott (1846)
That was in 1846! Fast forward to now and the world’s most famous chefs and cooks now have a love for mushrooms that probably borders on obsession. They will describe the flavour of mushrooms in so many creative ways – nutty flavour and peppery are just a couple. Mushroom blends and having them in burgers are now a trend. It is not unusual now to see famous pizza chains include blends of meat, onions, mushrooms and other produce as topping for pizza.
As I moved from one mushroom stall to the other and finally away from them, I realised I had just been sucked into the current mushroom black hole. I wonder if I could ever re-emerge. The thought of pairing some of these mushrooms with my own spice blends and experimenting with various cooking, roasting and baking techniques began slowly to take hold.
Watch this space
The fruits of that mushroom tour in Borough market will soon manifest itself here – in new recipes.