This week as The Student’s Chef we’ll be focusing on a starter I created to fulfil our three goals: food that is cheap, ever so delicious, and quick to prepare. It is a trio of mushrooms that are varied in texture, flavour and can easily be prepared in 30 minutes. This should be able to be made for under £2 a portion.
The dish is made up of a sauté of shiitake mushrooms which are full of sweet, earthy, intense flavour. They are used a lot in asian cuisines but they have a sweetness that I really like. If you have any left over, chop them up and add to a stroganoff, bolognese or stew. They will change your life, somewhat. Then there’s a carpaccio of white mushroom which has a really clean flavour to it and a base of mushroom flavour for the dish. Carpaccio is a posh word for what is basically just thinly sliced meat or vegetables served raw, but it looks great and tastes delicious. Finally there’s a mix of goat’s cheese and dried porcini mushrooms. The acidity and chalkiness of the goat’s cheese works really well with the dry earthiness of the porcini. They are served in little balls. Any goat’s cheese that you have left at the end can go into salads, stuffed in chicken breasts or to make a hugely rich sandwich for lunch.
Ingredients: shiitake mushrooms – two large or four small per person, white closed cup mushrooms (one to two per person), porcini mushrooms (dried, two per person), goat’s cheese (quarter of a pack per person), a handful of mixed salad leaves (any combination of lettuce, red leaf lettuce, baby spinach, rocket, etc.), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, half an onion (finely chopped), a teaspoon of english mustard, and a big knob of butter.
First, prepare all the different parts of the dish before assembly.Halve or quarter the shiitake mushrooms after cutting off the end of their stalks. This will allow them to keep their flavour and shape whilst being sautéed. Now clean and trim the white mushrooms. If you have time, peel the skin too. Slice the mushrooms very thinly (2mm or so) and lay out on the plate in a circle. Drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and salt and pepper. In the time whilst we prepare the rest of the dish, these mushrooms will marinate and the salt will draw out the flavour. In a blender (or if you don’t have one, in a bowl with a spoon) blitz up the porcini mushrooms till they are a fine powder. Make three little balls of goat’s cheese per person and roll them into the mushroom powder till well coated. The balls should be the size of a large marble!
Make the vinaigrette now: Mix 150ml olive oil with 50ml balsamic vinegar with half a chopped onion and a teaspoon of mustard, if you have it. Whisk this with a fork until well blended. It will keep in the fridge for a few days so don’t worry if you have leftovers. In a frying pan on high heat, melt a knob of butter and a splash of oil. When they are foaming add the shiitake mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms as they fry, seasoning with salt and pepper.
When they are golden brown you can turn off the heat, but keep them in the pan before plating up (so they don’t go cold). Keeping the sauté very simple means nothing will over-power the shiitake flavour.
To plate up, place three balls of goats cheese around the plated mushroom carpaccio, and three pieces of shiitake mushrooms. Now make a ball of the salad leaves in your hands and place on top of the carpaccio. Place a further piece of shiitake on top of the salad and then drizzle the plate with the dressing. Serve immediately with warm crusty bread to mop up the dressing and the goat’s cheese.
Image Credit: Will Briant