Mushrooms Are Friends of Mine’

A great friend gave me a present this week — a copy of food writer M. F. K. Fisher’s 1968 book With Bold Knife and Fork. She’d spot­ted it in the win­dow of a junk shop and knew I’d love it. The book fell open and my eyes fixed on the fab­ulous phrase ‘Mush­rooms are friends of mine’.

At my first job inter­view to become a train­ee journ­al­ist I was asked ‘Are you in love with words?’ It’s a ques­tion that was, and still is, impossible to answer. But I think there’s a case to say that the ques­tion ‘Are you friends with mush­rooms?’ is even harder.

Mushroom and Chestnut Pies

These pies are spec­tac­u­larly good and if left to go cold make the most per­fect snack for a pic­nic — one of the great pleas­ures in life. I’d even go so far as to say that ‘pic­nics are friends of mine’.

4 large field mush­rooms

Around 4 table­spoons olive oil

Small knob of but­ter

2 small red onions

1 clove gar­lic

2 sticks cel­ery

1 leek

Hand­ful fresh thyme leaves

12 cooked chest­nuts (option­al, or you could use wal­nuts, but these too are option­al)

Half tea­spoon ground cumin

Half tea­spoon fen­nel seeds

I ball moz­zarella

20g ched­dar or oth­er hard cheese such as gruy­ere

1 table­spoon creme fraiche

Puff pastry sheet

1 egg

Pre­heat the oven to 175 degrees C.

The idea of these pies is that the mush­room itself should form the base of the pie. The filling is both creamy and savoury, while the puff pastry on top is flaky and light.

With a poin­ted knife remove the stalks from the mush­rooms, along with a frill of the gills. Chop finely and put to one side.

Finely chop the gar­lic and onions and fry them gently in the but­ter and olive oil, reserving a table­spoon of oil for later. Cook for five minutes until soft but not brown. Add the fen­nel seed and cumin and then the finely chopped cel­ery and cook for a fur­ther five minutes. Add the finely chopped leek, the reserved chopped mush­room stalks, the crumbled chest­nuts if using and the thyme leaves. Cook for anoth­er five minutes. Stir in the creme fraiche and sea­son with salt and black pep­per.

Put the remain­ing olive oil in the palm of your hand and smooth the bases of the mush­rooms around your palm to coat them in oil. Place the mush­rooms in a heat­proof dish and heap the cooked mix­ture inside each one. Divide the two cheeses equally between the mush­rooms and sprinkle over the top. Cook the mush­rooms in the oven for fif­teen minutes until the cheese is bub­bling and melted. Cut the puff pastry sheet into circles the same size as each mush­room and place them on top. The mush­rooms will vary in size — I found I needed to cut the pastry with a mug, a glass and a small meas­ur­ing cup to get the circles to fit snugly. Brush beaten egg over the pastry. Replace the pastry-topped mush­rooms in the oven and cook for a fur­ther fif­teen minutes until the tops are golden and crisp. Allow to cool slightly and serve with a green salad.

What bet­ter friends could you have than mush­rooms and someone who comes to the door bear­ing gifts?

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10 thoughts on “Mushrooms Are Friends of Mine’

  1. I’m a huge MFK Fish­er fan — the omni­bus edi­tion of her books is one of my most read food writ­ing tomes — and it is a tome. There’s a won­der­ful epis­ode about eat­ing an omelette alone in a res­taur­ant in France.. I must go back to it. Great pho­tos Charlie as ever and a smash­ing recipe.

  2. Hi Liz I’m going to read the omelette epis­ode this morn­ing — thank you. And I com­pletely agree with you — her writ­ing is won­der­ful…

  3. The mush­room pies look deli­cious. I’ve not come across MFK Fish­er — must look out for it. Great pho­tos as ever and I notice one of those ter­rif­ic Ikea knives I think.

  4. The pies look amaz­ing, def­in­itely one to try some­time.
    And this MFK Fish­er char­ac­ter sounds ace too. Do you think she was so friendly with mush­rooms because they were fun guys to be with?

    (sorry, but someone had to didn’t they?)

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