Confit mushroom salad
Fungi are a fascinating food product. In recent years some incredible varieties have begun flooding the Australian market, but even so we are really only skimming the surface of their potential. We have gone from just using generic button or field mushrooms to being able to choose from varieties such as lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms. There are also now locally grown fungi such as cordyceps and turkey tail, which are used for medicinal purposes.
Most fungi are grown in a coarse medium such as spent coffee grounds or woodchips; they eventually leave that medium with a structure more closely resembling soil.
One problem with mushrooms, as with any other fresh vegetable product, is that they can dry out or go limp within a couple of days of less-than-ideal storage. This confit method makes it possible to purchase a reasonable quantity of nice mushrooms and capture them in close to perfect condition. When cooked to this level it is really easy to keep them stored in the fridge and bring them out to toss through salads, braises or omelettes. The confit oil can become the base for dressings, as it has in this recipe, and can be boosted with the addition of dried wild mushrooms such as porcini.
The salad made here from this confit can easily be turned into a more complete meal with the addition of ricotta or chicory. It is also delicious with roast duck.
With such great agricultural potential along with incredible textures and flavours, I look forward to fungi playing a far greater role in our daily diets.
Confit mushroom salad
500g king oyster mushrooms
500g shiitake mushrooms
1 litre grapeseed oil
1 lemon (zested then juiced)
6 cloves garlic
1 bunch marjoram/oregano
500g sugar snap peas
1 shallot (finely sliced)
1 cup Thai basil leaves
For the confit, cut the king oyster mushrooms into two-centimetre discs down to the bottom third. Retain the final third to slice very thinly for the salad. Cut the shiitake in half and place them in a pot with the king oyster mushroom discs. Sprinkle over 10 grams of salt and set aside.
After 10 minutes, add the grapeseed oil, lemon zest, garlic and marjoram or oregano to the pot, making sure everything fits snugly. Place a cartouche (greaseproof paper lid) on top and cook over a medium heat until the oil reaches 80ºC. Cook at this temperature for eight minutes, then set the pot aside to cool.
Blanch the sugar snap peas in salted boiling water for 10 seconds then refresh in iced water. Pull the tail off each along with the string, then in the same movement split them in two. This technique takes a minute to get the hang of but becomes a great addition to the salad repertoire.
Take the garlic cloves, lemon zest and marjoram/oregano out of the confit. Combine these ingredients with 200ml of the confit oil and the lemon juice. Blend using a stick blender and adjust the flavour with salt and more lemon juice if required.
Lift the confit mushrooms out of the oil and dry them on paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Toss these mushrooms together with the shallots, Thai basil, sugar snap peas and the dressing.
Place into serving bowls and top with the sliced raw oyster mushroom stem.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 7, 2020 as "Fungi games".
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