It’s not surprising that the words magic and mushroom are often used together. Apart from the well-documented psychedelic qualities of certain species, and the fairytale image of a ring of white-spotted, bright-red toadstools, the magic of fungi is reinforced each time one crowns through the undergrowth, or even from the compost in a mushroom kit in a dark corner in your house.

Mushrooms go with: Parsley, garlic, chilli, sage, chervil, leek, fennel, onion, tomato, milk, cream, cheese, red wine, sherry, beer, stout, polenta, pasta, pork, chicken, beef, bacon, prosciutto, silver beet, rocket and bread.

Words Kay Francis
Photography Ken Brass

 2Deep-Dish Shiitake Tart

Serves 10

Store-bought sour cream
shortcrust pastry
2 00g fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly

8 egg yolks
300g sour cream
600ml pouring cream
2 teaspoons porcini mushroom powder
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 small leek, chopped finely
(in food processor)

Line a deep 23cm flan tin with pastry. Refrigerate 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C. Prick base of pastry sparingly (just enough to let air out while cooking). Line with baking paper and baking weights. Bake 20 minutes, remove paper and weights and return to oven for 10 minutes, or until base of pastry is crisp.

Meanwhile, to make custard, whisk yolks in a bowl. Heat combined sour cream, cream, porcini powder, fennel seeds and garlic in a saucepan, until just beginning to simmer.

Whisk some of the hot mixture into yolks, then return yolk mixture to saucepan and stir over a low heat until it begins to thicken slightly. Stir in chopped leek, and pour into pastry shell. Bake 20 minutes, then spread sliced shiitake on top. Return to oven and bake 60 minutes. Remove from oven and stand 20 minutes before removing from tin and serving. The tart is equally good warm or at room temperature.

 3Mushroom Polenta

Serves 8

1 litre milk
2 teaspoons wild forest mushroom (or porcini mushroom) powder
6 sprigs thyme
¾ cup instant polenta
½ cup finely grated pecorino cheese

Combine milk, mushroom powder and thyme in a saucepan, and stir to mix. Heat gently until beginning to simmer. Turn off heat, cover saucepan and stand for at least an hour to infuse flavours.

Remove thyme, reheat milk to simmering point, then pour in polenta in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in pecorino. Serve as an accompaniment to oxtail.

 4Wholemeal Spaghetti with Mushrooms & Kale

Serves 6

500g wholemeal spaghetti
6 stalks of green kale leaves, torn
into smaller pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon ghee (or clarified butter)
2 tablespoons mustard-seed oil
400g (about 4) king brown
mushrooms, sliced lengthways
300g enoki mushrooms, separated from base and pulled apart into small clumps
300g shimeji mushrooms, separated from base
1 large red chilli, sliced

Cook spaghetti for 12 minutes in a large pot of boiling water. Add kale at about 6 minutes. Drain, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking water. Return spaghetti and kale to pan and stir in the butter. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat ghee and mustardseed oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. Add mushrooms and chilli and cook over high heat, stirring often, until mushrooms are golden brown. Add to pasta and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

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