Produce report: August 14
When you want to add depth and umami deliciousness to wintry braises and pies, the mushroom is one of your friends. And they are in fine form right now – the white buttons being the most affordable buy.
Good taste aside, mushrooms also contain a useful array of minerals and vitamins – including D2, which we get through our skin from the sun’s ultraviolet light. Mushrooms transform UV light into this vitamin too and the process continues even after harvesting. To boost the level even more, remove mushrooms from their packaging and place them in the sun (hopefully there will be some) for about an hour before you plan on eating them. Cooking won’t reduce it either.
Look out for shiitake mushrooms, native to Asian cuisines. When fresh shiitakes are hard to source (or are too expensive) dried ones come to the fore. They have a deep flavour and add complexity to soups, stews, stir-fries and rice dishes. You can buy them sliced in vacuum packs in supermarkets but Asian food stores have very cheap, very good ones.
Simply rehydrate in hot water for 20 minutes at least. Squeeze out the excess, remove the tough stalks and then slice the caps. Don’t throw out the soaking water either. It can be added to sauces or soups. Just make sure you discard the last little bit which will contain sediment. Dried shiitakes will keep for a very long time in a sealed container.
Try the Avondale market on a Sunday morning for fresh oyster mushrooms or you can buy them at your local Asian supermarket. Snowy-grey, they grow in clumps and shine in stir-fries. However, like all mushrooms, they shrink when cooked so it is much more cost-effective to mix them with your more standard ‘shrooms. After discarding the tough stems, Asian cooks rip, rather than cut, the caps.
Mushrooms love butter, of course, and they also love thyme and garlic. They are mouth-watering roasted in the oven, as well as when fried. Here’s how Geoff Scott goes about it as a side dish for four: Heat the oven to 200C. Clean 4 flat cap mushrooms, 8 button mushrooms and 8 portobellos with a damp paper towel, wiping off all traces of soil. Place mushrooms cap-side-down in a roasting dish and sprinkle over 2 finely sliced shallots, 3 sliced garlic cloves and 6 sprigs thyme. Drizzle on 3 Tbsp olive oil and season with salt. Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes, remove foil and cook for a further 5 minutes. Serve hot with a few grinds of white or black pepper at the last minute.
Baby cos lettuces are the best buy this week from the salad department. Iceberg and regular cos are improving in quality too.
Buttercup and butternut squash have finished for the season. The supply of avocados continues to strengthen.
As far as fruit goes, and if you can keep away from Australian strawberries, American cherries and (I say it for the third week in a row) Mexican mangoes, it’s time to put our local navel oranges and grapefruit into the trolley.
Lemons and green kiwifruit, however, are our very best fruit buys of the week. It’s nearly spring (hold that thought) but there are still lots of winter coughs around town. Buy or pick those lemons and turn them into old-fashioned lemon barley water (recipe below). Add ginger if you want extra zing.
Lemon barley water
Rinse ¾ cup of pearl barley under cold water until the water runs clear. Place the barley in a saucepan with the zest of 2 lemons and 6 cups of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes, strain and discard the barley. Stir in the juice of 2 lemons and half a cup of honey. Cool to room temperature. Store in the fridge. Recipe by Grant Alllen
3 WAYS WITH MUSHROOMS