‘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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