Field mushrooms are sprouting on the lawn for the first time ever, obviously brought on by the warm and damp weather they enjoy so much.
I pick about half a pound of them a day at the moment, and have been doing so for several weeks now, so I’m fast running out of imaginative ways to cook them.
Mushrooms always need to be cooked, unless they are to be eaten raw in a salad. Sliced, raw mushrooms added to a sauce are rubbery, floppy and very unappetizing indeed.
Instead, they should be fried in a small amount of oil or butter – or a mixture of both – with some salt and pepper, until all their liquid has evaporated and they begin to sizzle, or fry, again.
They are like sponges and will soak up as much fat as you give them, so only use a very small amount as they will release it all later, resulting in a very fatty sauce or casserole.
Button mushrooms coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and deep fat fried is one of my favourite ways of eating them. As I don’t deep fat fry anything at home (because it’s both smelly and bad for you!) it is something I choose from a pub menu whenever I see it.
Accompanied by lots of tartare sauce, these little nuggets are delicious: both crisp and juicy at the same time – the succulent middles exploding in the mouth.
If you have a deep fat fryer, I would strongly recommend having a go at making a batch.
Drain well on kitchen towel, scatter generously with salt and don’t forget the tartare sauce and a wedge or two of lemon to squeeze over.
This delicious, creamy and cheesy mushroom tart recipe is nice and easy as it’s made with ready-rolled puff pastry, and can be prepared a few days in advance. Use any mushrooms you like, but I would go for some meaty ones, such as chestnut, into the mix.
If you pick uncultivated mushrooms do make sure they are identified as being edible before eating them. There are lots of convincing looking imposters out there, which can be very dangerous if eaten.
Dates and details for Jane’s sensational Get-Ahead Suppers’ demonstrations can be found at www.janelovett.com Find lots more simple but contemporary recipes in Jane’s book Make it Easy available from bookshops and Amazon. Follow Jane on Twitter @Jane_Lovett
MUSHROOM, CHIVE AND PARMESAN TARTS (makes four)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
225 g (8 oz) mixed mushrooms, sliced
3 heaped tbsp crème fraiche
1 egg yolk
2tbsp chives, finely chopped
3 tbsp Parmesan (or Doddington) cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x 375g packet of ready rolled all butter puff pastry
Rocket leaves or watercress to serve (optional)
1. Sauté the shallot and garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the mushrooms and sauté over a high heat, stirring frequently until beginning to brown and the mixture is completely dry. Season well and allow to cool in a bowl.
2. Stir the crème frâiche into the mushroom mixture with the egg yolk, chives and 2 tablespoons of the grated Parmesan. Check the seasoning again.
3. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas7. Unwrap the pastry and cut four 11cm (4½ in) circles, using a pastry cutter or a small saucer as a template. Put onto a baking sheet lined with silicone or baking paper and lightly score a rim 1cm (½ in) in from the edge. Chill for ½ hour.
4. Divide the mushrooms between the pastry discs, spread out leaving the rims clear and scatter the tops with the remaining Parmesan cheese and a chive criss-cross if you like. Cook for 5 – 10 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.
Prepare to the end of Step three up to two days in advance, cover individually and keep in the fridge.
Assemble the tarts several hours before you want cook them, and cover.
Hints and tips
For lunch make the pastry bases larger – about 13 cm (5 in).