Mushroom rarebit, Frank Camorra.
Versatile ... mushroom rarebit. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Mushrooms are sometimes referred to as meat for vegetarians, but fantastic fungi are so versatile, everyone can enjoy them.

The season has arrived for wild mushrooms, which can be found in certain areas, often forests, after rain.

Never pick mushrooms alone. You must go with an expert who can identify edible types. Some of the most poisonous look very similar to those we commonly eat.

Mushroom with garlic and sherry vinegar.
Mushrooms with garlic and sherry vinegar. Photo: Marina Oliphant

The two main wild types picked in Australia are pine mushrooms and slippery jacks. They are sold at most produce stores and farmers' markets. The mushrooms used in these recipes are available at most greengrocers.

On the mushrooms-as-meat theme, I treat big mushrooms like meat and rest them after they are cooked, when they let out some beautiful juices. I then add a little extra virgin olive oil and chopped parsley to the juice, which makes a great dressing.

MUSHROOM RAREBIT

150g Gruyere or mild cheddar cheese, grated

125ml dark ale

50g breadcrumbs

3 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

100g butter, coarsely chopped

220g field mushrooms, quartered

4 sprigs thyme

Salt and pepper

4 slices sourdough or rye bread

Pinch paprika

Heat a grill on high. For rarebit mixture, put cheese, ale, breadcrumbs, mustard and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl, mix well then season to taste.

Melt butter in a large frying pan over a high heat, add mushrooms and thyme and stir occasionally until mushrooms are golden. Season and set aside.

Meanwhile, place bread slices on an oven tray and toast under the grill, turning once, until golden. Top with mushroom mixture and cover with rarebit mixture; finish with a sprinkle of paprika on top.

Grill on the centre shelf of the oven until golden and melted. Serve with a rocket and watercress salad.

Serves 4


MUSHROOMS WITH GARLIC AND SHERRY VINEGAR

60ml olive oil

500g small portobello mushrooms

Sea salt

80g butter

1 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed with salt on a cutting board

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 240C. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof frypan. When oil is hot, add mushrooms, skin-side down, and cook without turning for 5 minutes so caps are well browned. Season with salt.

Cut butter into small pieces and add to frying pan with thyme and garlic. Toss mushrooms around the pan, coating them in butter.

Put pan in the oven and roast mushrooms for 4 minutes. Remove from oven, toss mushrooms and return to the oven for another 4 minutes. Return to stovetop and cook briefly over high heat. This process of roasting and frying ensures the butter, herbs and garlic cook into the mushrooms, enriching the flavour.

Add sherry vinegar, season and cook for a minute to reduce. When ready to eat, tilt frying pan to drain liquid to one side, to avoid serving mushrooms with too much oil. They go well with any grilled red meat, or with a quiche and salad.

Makes 4 side serves