Saturday, March 2, 2013

Foodie Fridays: 2 Great Mushroom Recipes, and some Ayurvedic musings

Anyone who has done a bit of study on Ayurveda (the yogic food & lifestyle science) will know that mushrooms are a bit of a controversial food. Classically, Ayurveda  classifies mushrooms as tamasic (err, roughly translating as 'rotten', although the gunas are much more complex than that), advise us therefore not to eat them, and then pretty much moves on. On the other hand, just over the border in China, many edible mushrooms (for instance, shitake) are classically considered to be excellent foods and to have medicinal properties. So what gives?

When I asked my Ayurveda teacher about this, she quipped that, well, they are a fungus and don't grow in sunlight so they can't be considered sattvic, but probably some sage of long ago ate a poisonous mushroom in the forest with bad results, wrote it down, and next thing you know, "no mushrooms". Of course, her anecdote has a definite ring of truth: people today still die of mushroom poisoning, and in the days before supermarkets, the ayurvedic advice to avoid mushrooms entirely was probably excellent counsel for those gathering food in the forests of India.

Thankfully (for mushroom lovers like me, anyway!), modern ayurvedic doctors are opening their minds, and their kitchens, to mushroom consumption. Many now consider mushrooms to be a nutritious and tasty supplement to a vegetarian diet. Mushrooms, being moist and cool, would generally be considered to reduce Vata and Pitta, but to augment Kapha dosha (people of that type should favour the dried varieties to lessen this effect).  Overall they are still tamasic, so they should be eaten absolutely fresh, and considered as an addition to your diet as opposed to a staple. Also their moist and heavy qualities might make them difficult to digest for those with more sensitive systems, so careful spicing and flavouring is definitely recommended.

So, readers, if your mouths are now watering for mushrooms, here are two fresh and delicious recipes that I have enjoyed recently! The best part is they are both super quick and easy!

1. Fresh Mushroom Soup

I found this recipe from Jamie Oliver but it was a bit fancy, so I adapted it as below. With the quantities I used it made about 3 hearty servings and it was unbelievably delicious! The lemon zest really made the soup come alive, so definitely try it!

- Chop 4 large portabello mushrooms and 2 handfuls of brown mushrooms. Also prepare an onion and some garlic, to taste
- Add some olive oil to a large pot, and throw in the onions and garlic; when they are soft, add the mushrooms
- Cook until the mushrooms are juicy and then add 3 cups of veggie stock and a lot of fresh thyme.  Simmer about 20 minutes.
- Blend the soup in the blender and then put it back in the pot.
- Add 2 tablespoons of cream cheese if you want to make the soup creamier
- Combine: the zest of 1 lemon, the juice of 1/2 lemon, and a pinch of salt and pepper

Serve the soup, then pour some of the zest mixture into the centre of each bowl and top with parsley. Stir the zest through, and enjoy - YUM!

2. Herby Mushroom Pasta with Mustard Sauce

This is based on a recipe that we found on BBC Good Food (who knew?!), but I added spinach to the sauce, which was super tasty. Plus, the tri-coloured (gluten free!) pasta made it fun and colourful, AND it only took about 20 minutes from start to finish.

Basically, while the pasta is cooking:
  • Take about 2 big handfuls of field mushrooms or 1-2 portabello mushrooms (the recipe says 250g, however you're supposed to figure that out) and chop them thickly
  • Optionally, chop 1-3 cloves of garlic, to taste (I don't think it really adds much to the recipe, but it does smell good as its cooking)
  • Throw them into a frying pan with about a  1/2 cup of vegetable stock and 2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard
  • Stir and simmer until the mushrooms are soft and the stock is nearly gone
  • Roughly chop 3 big handfuls of spinach leaves (and stems if you like them) and add to the mushrooms
  • When the spinach is cooked (how cooked is up to your taste!), turn off the heat, toss in the pasta, and add a handful of parsley (or other tasty herb) and the zest of a lemon, and then serve!

Readers, do you eat, or choose not eat, mushrooms? Share your recipes here! :)

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