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Mushrooms three ways

It was my birthday and yet I didn't feel alone or forgotten working from home with social isolation. This year there was no work cake, no party or going out to dinner but the sun was shining outside, social media and text messages pinged on my phone, happy birthday was sung badly on zoom and friends and family popped past with flowers, gifts and champagne, interrupting my day. I underestimated the joy that could come from just seeing their faces.

That evening we ordered a take away restaurant meal from Orso of slow cooked lamb and Basque cheese cake and had a delicious quiet dinner for two.

There was no need for grand expense or fuss. Something to remember for later.

The next morning, my brother rang my doorbell on his way to work at the hospital and surprised me with a gift of freshly picked mushrooms from his home in the Adelaide Hills. Porcini, Pine Mushrooms and Slippery Jacks. Best birthday present ever!!

The last time we ate freshly picked Porcini was many years ago now when we visited Raffaele's cousin in Tuscany. It was my first taste of this angel of mushrooms with it's creamy soft texture and delicate distinctive flavour. Just like my brother, their friend knew a secret place in the forest where the Porcini grew. Nobody shares their precious porcini patch.

With so many mushrooms to cook and eat, I channelled my inner Iron Chef and prepared a meal of "Mushroom Three Ways" so we could taste and appreciate each type separately. I simply sliced the Porcini and fried it in butter with a tiny sprinkle of salt and fresh parsley. Porcini stands alone. I made a Calabrian mushroom dish with the pine mushrooms and added the slippery jacks to a simple risotto. Here are my mushroom three ways recipes.

Porcini with butter

Brush any dirt off the porcini, remove the stems and cut the stem and the top into thin slices. Melt a good amount of butter in a pan and add the mushrooms stirring once to coat with the butter. Leave them to cook slowly on a low heat, with very little stirring until they are soft and creamy. This does't take long. Add some salt, and sprinkle with parsley.

Pine Mushrooms Calabrese

This recipe is from a cookbook my daughter gave me called My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino. The bold flavours of the Italian South go so well with the meaty orange pine mushrooms.

Brush the pine needles and dirt off the mushrooms and chop them into pieces. Heat around 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and and fry a clove of garlic cut in half. When the garlic begins to colour add the mushrooms ( I had 6 reasonably large pine mushrooms). Season with salt and add 1 or 2 hot chillies. When steam rises from the mushrooms stir them and cook them briskly until they soften and their liquid evaporates. Add half a tin of diced tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of parsley. Serve.

Slippery Jack Risotto

Slimy is not my favourite texture but these little treats make for a beautiful risotto. They are quite subtle in flavour so the risotto should be very simple.

1 and a half cups of Italian Risotto rice

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 litre of chicken stock ( preferably home made)

I small onion, chopped finely

5 spring onions cut finely

1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves

3 medium to large slippery jack mushrooms cut into small pieces.

50g butter

100g of grated Parmesan cheese

salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based pan and fry the onion and spring onion until soft. In another pan, heat the chicken stock and keep it on a simmer. Add the rice, cook for a few minutes stirring so the rice is coated with the oil and mixed with the onion. Ladle by ladle, slowly add the hot chicken stock, waiting each time for the stock to be absorbed and stirring continuously. The risotto is ready when the rice has a creamy texture but is still a little firm inside.

Stir in the thyme.

In a separate fry pan, melt the butter and add the mushrooms. Cook until soft and the juices are released. Add the mushrooms to the risotto and stir.

Stir in the cheese, add salt to your taste and a couple of grinds of black pepper.

*NOTE: Mushrooms should be eaten fresh and don't work so well as left overs, so we asked our friends Chris and Nicky to help us out with the eating. (with strict socially distancing and hand washing )

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