Mushrooms are joyous and divine and should be eaten as often as possible. But they also reflect the titular problem of an excellent book I recently read: The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This refers to the issues that arise when you can eat pretty much anything (unlike, for example, a koala bear that only eats eucalyptus leaves – and, rather fascinatingly, as koalas restricted their diet, their brains became smaller and smaller!): how do you decide what you actually should eat? Nowadays the dilemma relates more to the wider implications of choosing imported or seasonal, local fruit and veg; industrial or organic farm products. Historically (pre-industrial revolution, I suppose) it was more a case of working out what was safe to eat, which is where mushrooms come in. The author put months of effort into creating an entirely hunted/gathered meal, for which he went foraging for mushrooms. He describes in detail how careful you have to be over what you pick. It makes me want to go out rambling and foraging in the woods with a wooden basket, though without an expert to guide me I probably wouldn’t dare try a wild mushroom – safer to stick to the supermarket for the time being!
This is a fine use of mushrooms, whether shop bought or foraged from the wild. There’s a lovely combination of flavours all wrapped up in delightful crispy filo pastry. You can make them in big strudels to slice up and serve, or little parcels. Delicious!
Serves 4, slightly adapted from BBC GoodFood
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 portobello mushrooms, sliced
125g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp port
1 slice bread, whizzed into breadcrumbs in the processor
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
80g sundried tomatoes, sliced
70g button mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
30g pine nuts
filo pastry (4 sheets for strudel, 8 for individual parcels)
sunflower oil, for brushing the pastry
1. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large pan and fry the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes.
2. Add the portobello and chestnut mushrooms, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
3. Tip in the breadcrumbs, tarragon, port and tomatoes and stir through for a few minutes, then set aside to cool slightly for later.
4. Meanwhile, heat the other tablespoon of oil and fry the button mushrooms and pine nuts for a few minutes until soft and golden.
5. Add them to the other mushroomy mixture and set aside to cool down a little more before assembling the strudel.
6. Lay one filo sheet on a work surface and brush it with sunflower oil.
7. Place another sheet on top and brush it with oil too – repeat until you have four sheets together.
8. To make one big strudel: spoon the mushroom mixture along one long side of the filo, leaving an inch or so margin around the edges. Fold up the short side to seal the filling in, and fold the long sides in to meet each other, brushing with more oil where they seal. Brush the whole thing with oil before cooking.
9. To make smaller individual strudels (or pasties, as I thought of them), cut the filo sheets in half and fill and roll up as with the big strudel, then repeat with four more filo sheets to use up all the filling. Again, brush the little parcels with oil before putting them in the oven.
10. Cook the big strudel for about 30 minutes, the smaller parcels for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown outside. Serve them hot!