What is the best way to cook mushrooms?

Stuffed mushrooms with blue cheese.
Stuffed mushrooms with blue cheese. Photo: William Meppem

What is the best way to cook mushrooms? M. Rendell

When I was nine, my mate Fraser Bell and I went mushrooming in the back paddocks of my family's dairy farm. Armed with bone-handled butter knives and a phalanx of buckets, we trekked through the dewy grass and spend an autumn's Saturday morning picking buckets and buckets of mushrooms.

Mum instructed us not to pick every mushroom and leave some to spore for next season. We cleaned up the mushrooms and packed them into little trays made from folded up and stapled copies of the Green Guide. We set up a card table by the side of the road and sold them for about 50 cents a pound. That autumn, we made $50 each. That's big bucks for little kids in the late 1970s.

I learned back then that mushrooms have natural friends in the kitchen: butter, bacon, thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Those big field mushrooms are great for cooking slowly with bacon and thyme in a pan and thickening the juices with cold butter, then serving on top of hot toasted white bread. The smaller button mushrooms, the ones you buy in the greengrocer, are super delicious when you brown the exterior.

This can be hard because mushrooms are 92 per cent water and need to give up a lot of that water before they start to brown. That can be difficult when the mushrooms are crowded in a frypan.

An alternative set-and-forget method is to prepare the mushrooms by quartering them, placing them in a bowl, and coating them in a blend of olive oil and melted butter. Add some fresh thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper, and lay them on baking trays covered in baking paper, leaving space between each portion.

Roast in the oven at 200C fan-forced (220C conventional) until the mushrooms have given up their moisture and the moisture has evaporated. This takes about 30-35 minutes. 

If cooking instructions on a packet of Italian dried pasta read "tempo di cottura 9", does that mean nine minutes from the time of adding it to the water, or nine minutes from the time the water returns to the boil? Mal

According to a well-known maker of pasta, to cook a packet of spaghetti, bring 4-6 litres of water to a rolling boil. Add salt. Add the contents of the packet and stir gently. Allow the water to return to the boil.

The instructions then read, "for authentic 'al dente' pasta, boil uncovered, stirring occasionally for 9 minutes.


For more tender pasta, boil an additional 1 minute." So, to answer your question, nine minutes from the return to the boil.


Recently we were talking about using leftover lamb. J. Short wrote in with: "I enjoy reading Brain Food each week, but I think you forgot something – the joys of a leftover lamb sandwich for lunch the day after the roast. The bread has to be soft so it can accommodate a plumpish amount of meat. There has to be butter – not fake butter – and a good slathering of chutney or green tomato pickle."

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