Mushrooms, glorious mushrooms. I have a real love affair with these beautifully ugly little fungi. This started about 7 years ago when I was staying with a former boyfriend. I vividly remember an incredibly delicious smell wafting through the house, drawing me toward the kitchen. Whatever it was I wanted it, immediately! He was frying up a big panful of sliced brown mushrooms with garlic and olive oil on sourdough for breakfast. That intoxicating scent was firmly entrenched in the memory bank and I have been addicted ever since.
In recent years since switching to a fully vegan diet I have been eating even more mushrooms than before because their dense meaty texture is so satisfying, and such a great substitute for animal proteins. Mushrooms have a rich savoury taste which is often referred to as ‘umami’. Much of the umami flavour comes from the natural glutamates. The combination of glutamate and a savoury odour links both the taste and smell neural pathways in the brain, resulting in a very pleasant and satisfying flavour.
Glutamate is an amino acid, found in all protein-containing foods. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Glutamate occurs naturally in foods such as cheese, milk, mushrooms, meat, fish, and some vegetables. Glutamate is also produced by the human body and is vital for metabolism and brain function. The glutamate level in the mushroom increases as the mushroom matures from a button to a flat mushroom. Hence flat mushrooms have more flavour than small button mushrooms. Glutamate also shouldn’t be confused with gluten, mushrooms are 100% gluten free. The natural free glutamates in mushrooms are also completely different to the monosodium glutamate (MSG) sometimes added to foods as a flavour enhancer, there is absolutely no MSG in mushrooms.
So what is the difference between the standard 3 options you generally find at the supermarket?
White and brown are pretty much interchangeable in dishes.White buttons have the mildest flavour, and have more selenium, B2, B6, and Niacin than brown or portobello mushrooms. Brown buttons have a nuttier flavour.
Portobellos are mature brown buttons with a stronger flavor. One 100g handful has 100 per cent of daily vitamin B7 req, 33 per cent of selenium, and 61 per cent of niacin.
I put together a really simple fully raw salad, using marinated white Meadow mushrooms. Even if you don't usually like raw mushrooms you will probably find when marinated like this they have a completely different taste and texture that is oh so good!
Marinated Mushroom Basil and Cherry Tomato Salad
- 1 tablespoon Nama Shoyu (raw soy sauce - can sub for any type of soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 10 small white button Meadow mushrooms
- 1 cup baby rocket (arugula)
- Handful torn basil leaves
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 diced avocado
To make the marinade, stir together the Nama Shoyu, olive oil and nutritional yeast in a wide shallow bowl. Finely slice the mushrooms then toss in the marinade. Leave to sit for about 5 minutes.
Cut the grape tomatoes in half, and toss with mushrooms along with the basil rocket and avocado
Serve straight away. I like to pair this with a jacket potato or baked kumara (sweet potato) or toss with gluten free spaghetti and cracked black pepper.
For many more mushroom recipes, go to Meadowmushrooms.co.nz