Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cheap Food Fact-File: Mushrooms

Cheap Foodie Fact-files

Basics white mushrooms (£2.25 per kilo)

A mushroom is classified as the fleshy fruit of a fungus. The standard word “mushroom” is the proper name for the white cultivated button mushroom, although the term is used for other fungi also. Mushrooms grow in moist environments, and spread via spores. The term “mushroom” is from the French word “mousseron”, meaning “moss”. It is believed that the first mushrooms used in cooking were in Asia (particularly China), however, by 2000BC the ancient Egyptians mention the consumption of mushrooms in hieroglyphics, belieiving them to be a plant of immortality. It is rumoured the first person to properly cultivate mushrooms for consumption was Louis XIV, and France was the first country to cultivate mushrooms on a large scale. Mushrooms became a very popular crop in Europe and Asia, due to it being a very easy crop to grow, involved little labour, and would grow where many other crops wouldn’t.

In terms of edible mushrooms, there are numerous types, widely used over the globe- particularly though in Asia, where the mushroom is deemed the “meat of the vegetable world”. The button mushroom, also known as the “white mushroom” or “closed cup mushroom” is the most popular species for consumption.

In Asia, popular varieties of mushroom include the shitake mushroom (a dark, fibrous and woody mushroom, strongly flavoured) , maitake, oyster (a light small fleshy mushroom) and enoki mushrooms (very small thin stemmed mushrooms sold in bunches).

Mushrooms are very popular in France, and wild varieties such as Cep, Girolle and morel are extremely popular, often added to rich fricassees/ creamy dishes. These are delicate, expensive varieties, that have a strong flavour, and that are often sold dried.

Portabello mushrooms, and porcini mushrooms are also very popular in Italy. Portobello mushrooms are also very popular in the uk, and are often baked or stuffed. Porcini mushrooms, often sold dried, are a common addition to classic Italian risottos.

Another variety which is very popular in the UK and America is the “chestnut mushroom” (known as the “crimini” mushroom in the US), which is essentially a darker closed cup mushroom, with a slightly richer flavour/ firmer texture.

Health Benefits
Mushrooms are a very low calorie, low fat source of vitamins and minerals. There are a very good source of riboflavin, Niacin, pantothenic acid, and copper. 80g counts towards one of your “5 a day”. Studies have shown that mushroom consumption aids in weight management, and promotes good immune function.

Nutritional Information (per 100g)
Calories- 22kcal
Fat- 0.1g
Carbohydrates- 3.3g
Protein- 3.1g
Riboflavin- 0.4mg (24% RDA)
Niacin- 3.6mg (18%RDA)
Pantothenic Acid- 1.5mg (15% RDA)
Copper- 0.3mg (16% RDA)
Selenium- 9.3 mcg (13% RDA)

China is the largest edible mushroom producer, providing over half of the world’s cultivated mushrooms. India and the Netherlands follow China. They are also amongst the largest mushroom consumers- with each person in china consuming 2.7kg on average of mushrooms per year.

Interesting Mushroom Facts
The proper term for those who study and collect mushrooms are “mycophagists”.

Consuming mushrooms can actually cause asthmatic reactions in particularly succeptable people.

Certain varieties of mushrooms can be turned into dyes for clothing, and some are very dry and are therefore known as “firestarter” or “kindling” mushrooms, as they are very good for the beginning of a fire.

Shitake mushrooms contain the flavour of “umami”, described as being an addictive savoury taste, and are therefore added to dishes as a flavour enhancer. It is also found in “Umami paste” which is a popular cooking ingredient sold in major supermarkets in the UK.

Ways we like them
Mushrooms are so popular worldwide, it’s almost difficult to highlight some of the favourites, but here are some of the most famous ones perhaps:

In England, we make lovely cream of mushroom soups, and also we tend to add them to our fried breakfasts! Chicken and mushroom pies are also very popular. Mushrooms are battered and deep-fried and commonly served in chip shops.

In France, there is a dish called “mushrooms bordelaise”, which is just simply mushrooms fried in butter, garlic and parsley. Mushrooms can be made into a pate, to make a vegetarian alternative to the traditional French meaty foie gras and chicken liver pates. Creamy mushroom mixetures are stuffed into vole au vents and served as a starter/ canapés. Also, Cep, Girolle and morel are extremely popular, often added to rich fricassees/ creamy dishes.

In Germany there is a dish called “Geschnetzeltes”, which literally translates as “Sliced Meat”,and is a sauce made with veal, mushrooms , cream  and paprika, and served over “spatzle”, which is a type of egg noodle.

In Italy, dried mushrooms are often added to stews, casseroles and risottos. Creamy pasta/fettucini dishes also have mushrooms added. Mushrooms (particularly Portobello) stuffed with cheese are popular as a starter or side dish. 

In China, Japan and Korea, mushrooms are added to all sorts of dishes, such as curries, stir frys, soups and rice dishes but are popularly served fried with oyster sauce, stir fried with beef and chilli, chucked into chow meins. Popular varieties are enoki, jew’s ears, pine, oyster, shiitake and straw mushrooms- with most of these varieties found in major supermarkets these days.

Mushrooms are popular in India, but a large percentage of mushrooms grown in India are imported to the USA.  Mushrooms are common in curries, and are usually added to biryani dishes. Particularly mushroom Kadai (a tangy green pepper and mushroom tomato-based curry), mushroom palak (mushroom and spinach bhaji/curry) and mushroom Manchurian (an Indo-Chinese fusion dish, with deep fried spicy mushrooms fried with peppers and chillies) are very popular.

Mushrooms are very popular in America, “crimini” (known as chestnut in this country) mushrooms being the favourite, and they are cooked in soups, stews, casseroles, served alongside steak, and often added to meat gravies.

In South America, mushrooms tend to be used in starter dishes, like as a filling for empanadas, or in a creamy mushroom soup popular in Brazil.

In Russia, Beef or Chicken Stroganoff (a creamy stewed dish, usually served with rice) always includes a large quantity of fried mushrooms.

Mushrooms can be pickled, and they can also be chargrilled and then stored in olive oil (popular in Italy as an Antipasti).

Mushroom ketchup is an English condiment made from powdered mushrooms, vinegar and salt.

Personally, I absolutely love mushrooms, I agree with it being called “the meat of the vegetable world”, because there is a beautiful savoury chunky quality to them! As many of you know, I tend to remember almost everything I have ever tasted. The nicest plate of food I have ever had, in my life, was a wild mushroom risotto I had in a little restaurant in Venice, the taste was indescribable.

I often have them at breakfast- sounds simple but mushrooms fried in butter, garlic, parsley and a pinch of celery salt, on buttered toast, makes me very happy in the morning. My mum makes the most amazing mushroom dish, called “mushroom a la Grecque”, which is mushrooms fried with loads of garlic, parsley, white wine, and fresh tomatoes.  I must put that up on the blog sometime, it is fantastic. I love mushroom soup, but only made from fresh, that tinned mushroom soup you get that’s all gelatinous and stuff is so gross it literally makes me shiver. Bleughhh. My favourite Portobello mushroom recipe is stuffing it with wild garlic, spinach and walnuts- the recipes on the blog somewhere, very very nice.

I LOVE Asian mushrooms, and will always order food in Chinese/Japanese restaurants with mushrooms, but since Asian mushrooms seem to be so expensive in supermarkets still, I don’t tend to buy them and cook with them myself. I love a nice mushroom and red pepper curry, easy to make and very tasty. Chicken and mushroom stroganoff is fantastic actually, I make this quite often, and will be making it this week actually- will chuck that recipe on here as soon as. With mushrooms being such a low calorie, tasty and healthy product, and a good cheap bulking product, you ought to go out and buy more of them!

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