From Ordinary Mushrooms to Sublime Mushrooms

Mushrooms with shiitake and porcini

by Azélia on 19/01/2010

in Featured Sidebar Post,Mains,Vegan,Vegetables,Vegetarian

This is a delicious dish, an intense earthy sweet mushroom dish which can be used any which way you so wish, lots of flavour for little money.  You can add stock to it and turn it into soup or make pasta sauce with it, you can evaporate the juice further and put them on bruschetta/crostini, you can use this as a base for risotto or have them as I did with crusty bread mopping up the juices.  You can use butter and add a touch of cream or have them dairy free without losing any flavour, that’s a lot to ask of the humble mushroom.  I love mushrooms and in my household I’m outnumbered, I’m on my own, Bikerboy hates them, the older girls refuse to eat them.  I accept this…well you’d think I would wouldn’t you? That I’d be content with enjoying them for my lunch or as a side dish but you see one mushroom, the shiitake mushroom is really good for you so I chop them really really tiny and put them in bolognese, stews, casseroles so the family can’t see them.  They add umph to my meat dishes and they love it and what they don’t know…best kept that way.

When I make mushrooms the way I have today I would like nothing more than to share them with Bikerboy, tearing fresh bread to soak up all those concentrated mushroom flavours but he can not stomach the texture it’s one of his hates along with egg, scallops, fatty meat, chicken legs, offal and strong lamb.  There’s no changing him but I discovered through frustration of wanting to turn yet another chicken dish into something different, if I added lots of mushrooms to make a sauce for the chicken but then liquidised it the girls liked it, especially the middle child. There’s still hope then that one day they’ll be eating mushrooms like me.


This isn’t so much a recipe but a method of turning ordinary mushrooms; I had button mushrooms and the large open mushrooms portobello into a strong intense mushroom flavour with the little help from a packet of their dried cousins.  You’ll be wanting your mushrooms to always taste this way. You can buy a packet of dried porcini but cheaper and even better is a packet of mixed dried mushroom which contain some shiitake mushrooms.  Shiitake mushrooms contain a high percentage of umami flavour which adds to the meaty savouriness of this dish.  The packet I had contained oyster mushrooms and porcini mushrooms and they add great flavours too.  Dried shiitake are a bit chewy and I wanted to add ones like porcini not only for flavour but also for a better texture.

You don’t need a lot of dried mushroom to give you an intense background flavour, you can make the packet last you for three, four servings.  The packet I had weighed 40g and I only needed a small handful, between a quarter and third of the packet, it was enough to be used with one small packet of button mushroom and one packet of portobello mushrooms.  Soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water from the kettle.  How much water you want to hydrate the dried mushrooms is not absolutely crucial but make a decision on how you’re going to use your mushrooms.  If like me you wanted the mushrooms of have a bit of sauce then a mugful is fine but if you want your mushrooms at the end to be dry and use them as a topping then soak them in less water because then there will be less water to evaporate.


The shiitake mushrooms are the ones above, they are wide across and have a very distinctive dark skin on the outside and much paler inside when cut this way.  If they have a stalk cut it off and discard unless you want to be  chewing like a cow in a field, they’re the chewiest thing ever.


The little one above with a very wide stalk is a porcini, they come in different sizes and both the cap and stalk taste delicious.  The golden colour ones with a very spongy looking underside and silky top cap are oyster mushrooms, they tend to curl and just like the dried shiitake I cut the stalk off, I find it too hard.


If this dried mixture only contained porcini I wouldn’t chopped them up so small, but with the shiitake I wanted them to disappear into the mushroom mixture.


This liquid was pretty clear but with some dried mushroom packets can contain quite a bit of grit that will end up in the bottom of the bowl, make sure to discard the grit.


Mushrooms love herbs, for me thyme with mushrooms has the same affinity  as basil with tomatoes they were meant to be, but equally good are other herbs the hardier herbs like sage, rosemary, oregano, marjoram add them at the beginning of the cooking to receive the most out of them and the more delicate herbs chives, tarragon, parsley add towards the end of cooking to preserve the most of their flavour.

There is a classic combination of mushrooms and Madeira wine, a fortified wine from the island of Madeira and if you type both “mushrooms and Madeira” into the search engine you’ll see how many recipes there are.  I would also say that sweet Marsala goes well with mushrooms and in my case here white port. Port, both red and white are always in my cupboards since my family live 20 miles from Porto, where it’s sold and distributed to the rest of the world.  This white port is medium dry and a light coloured medium dry sherry is a good substitute.  The alcohol is not necessary but if you have it in your cupboards make use of it.


Soften the onion in a frying pan, either olive oil or for a richer taste a mixture of oil and butter, make sure you soften the onions until they’ve become translucent and are turning the colour of pale caramel.


Add you finely chopped dried mushrooms and stir them well to evaporate their moisture.


I added the mushrooms in two stages because there wasn’t enough room in the pan so the best thing to do was to add the portobello reducing them down first, keep stirring like you would for stir-fry to stop the onions from burning, it will seem the pan is too dry but eventually the heat will bring out the moisture in the mushrooms and your pan will start to get watery.  You want to have the heat quite hot to start collapsing those mushrooms but not so it will burn your onions.  Last resort if you’re burning your onions, bring the heat down and add a tablespoon of water, stir fiercely, turn the heat back up and keep stirring.


Now the mushrooms have shrunk enough to make room for the second batch, first make sure most of the water in the bottom of the frying pan has evaporated before adding the remainder of the mushrooms.


Keep stirring all the time on a high heat to evaporate all the excess water now coming from the mushrooms.


When the mixture is quite dry, add todd of alcohol if using and cook it off until almost evaporated, add the reserved liquid from the dried mushrooms and season it well with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.


All the excess liquid you have now you need to decide what your recipe is for and how much of it you want to evaporate.  If using this for soup or the base of another dish containing liquid then leave it as it is and add stock for soup, and so on.  If wanting to use it for the bases of a risotto leave it and start your risotto in another pan as you normally would and once the rice has been stirred in the butter or oil you can add this mixture and proceed.


This makes a good pasta sauce or to be served alongside polenta, wet or grilled polenta.  Reduce the water until you can see the liquid is becoming thicker an if so wished add however much cream you want, just two tablespoons is sufficient to give you a creamy sauce.  Here I’m adding one tablespoon of my daughter’s dairy-free cream, Oatly cream.


Let it bubble away until the sauce is to the consistency you want.  If serving this as topping for bruschetta/crostini on a high heat let all the liquid evaporate.  Add your finer herbs at this stage and stir in.


Serve up while hot and make sure you have lots of crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Sublime Mushrooms

Use any combination of fresh mushroom you like, I’ll list what I’ve used here. The same goes for the quantities, the amount I made would give enough as a sauce for pasta for two or generous servings as a side dish.  It’s there for anyone to play around with,  just make certain you increase the dried mushroom if adding quite a lot more of fresh mushrooms.

1 onion or 2 shallots finely chopped
1/4 – 1/3  of a 40g packet of dried mixed mushrooms, one containing shiitake & porcini.  Soaked in water, see above notes.
1 packet of button mushrooms
1 packet of portobello mushrooms about 4 or 5 medium size ones
Your chosen herbs, 2-3 sprigs. I used sprigs of thyme and a tablespoon of fresh parsley at the end
2-3 tablespoons of white Port or Sherry or Marsala or Madeira, see above note, optional
3 tablespoons of olive oil or 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter
2-3 tablespoons of cream / dairy-free cream, optional

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry Lyons(cannyfradock) January 21, 2010 at 10:24 pm


I make my version of a mushroom sauce with fresh and dried porchini mushrooms but tend to overcomplicate the recipe by using speck and challots and….and…..I am never happy with the finished result (the wife loves it) so I shall try your version as it sounds really nice. We love pasta, rice and noodles etc. so I am always searching for that perfect sauce. Shall let you know how I get on


P.S You’ve mentioned “Masala” before in a recipe and I followed your advice and it really made a big difference in the finished dish.

azelia January 22, 2010 at 12:20 am

Hi Terry – I don’t remember what the Masala was for, but it’s good to hear it worked out well. Dried porcini are delicious and add great flavour and enhance fresh mushrooms, love them. Your speck is a good idea, why are you not happy with it?

Terry Lyons(cannyfradock) January 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm


I am not a cook, neither am I a good cook, but I do love cooking !!!. I am the world’s worst for tampering with a recipe. Sometimes I take 2 steps forward and 5 back.

I should really go 2 steps back and learn the basics before I try to improve a T&T recipe. Sometimes I try to run when I should first try to walk, when in foreign ground (if that makes sense).

That does’nt take away the fact that I love cooking, so shall perservere regardless and look forward to trying “Azelia’s Kitchen” Sublime Mushrooms.

Regards Terry

blue April 23, 2010 at 9:36 am

Thank you very much for letting me see your lovely recipe.
Looking forward to lovely pasta dish with your mushrooms this evening!


Azélia April 23, 2010 at 11:03 am

Really pleased you’re trying it…I was surprised how much a few dried mushroom intensified the flavour.

Leah January 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm

I am dreaming of this dish with morels.
Sadly, it is winter here and they haven’t come up – yet.

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