While many consider mushrooms a plant, or vegetable, they are in fact a fungus. Well, the fruit of a fungal organism to be exact. If you think of the way apple trees bear fruit with seeds to produce new apple trees, the fungus that creates mushrooms bears its fruit (in this case mushrooms) to carry spores that will produce new mushrooms.
Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years for both culinary and medicinal purposes. It’s not surprising when you consider there are over 14,000 species of mushrooms available. Of the 14,000 species we know about 700 have known medicinal properties, and surprisingly, only about 1% of mushrooms are in fact poisonous.
Mushrooms have been revered by different cultures throughout history for different reasons. The ancient Egyptians thought they were a delicacy and they were eaten by the Pharaohs, the Romans thought they were a gift from God, the Greeks ate them because they thought they provided them with inner strength during a battle, and the Chinese studied and used them for medicinal purposes.
Medically and nutritionally speaking, mushrooms are very low in calories (mainly due to the fact they are 80 to 90% water) they are high in potassium (which helps lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke), they are high in copper (which helps in the formation of red blood cells), high in selenium (a powerful antioxidant), high in B vitamins, and finally they are high in fibre. Certain varieties of mushrooms have even more health benefits and are being researched for their medical applications particularly in relation to cancer prevention, blood sugar regulation and effects on lowering cholesterol.
Regardless of all the health and medical benefits I love them not only for their taste, but also their versatility. They can be added to sauces, pasta, casseroles, soups, stir fries, salads and so much more.
A mushroom tarte tatin is a wonderful way to showcase mushrooms in their own right. They have a wonderful flavour and deserve their own outing as the star of the meal occasionally.
Do you like mushrooms? What is your favourite way to enjoy them?
Mushroom & Leek Tarte Tatin
Recipe adapted from No Time To Cook by Donna Hay
Makes 4 small (in ramekins) or 1 large
1 leek, trimmed and chopped
4 field mushrooms or 12 button mushrooms, sliced
3 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
2 cloves of garlic
2 sheets of low fat frozen puff pastry, thawed
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius (335 Farenheit).
2. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the leek and garlic and cook until the leek is softened. Remove the leek from the pan and place in a bowl.
3. Add the mushrooms and thyme leaves to the pan and cook for a few minutes until gently cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. If making 4 mini tart tatin I suggest using ramekins. Grease the ramekins with butter and then turn one of the ramekins upside down on the pastry and cutting the pastry to size. You will need 8 pastry rounds for 4 ramekins. If making a large tarte tatin you can either use your frying pan if it has a heat proof handle or a spring form pan. If using a spring form pan grease and then place upside down on the pastry and trim 2 rounds to size. If using your frying pan trim the pastry to the size of your frying pan.
5. In whatever container you try to use place the cooked mushrooms in the bottom and then layer with the cooked leeks. Top with 2 rounds of pastry and then brush the top layer with beaten egg.
6. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden. Remove and place a plate or wire wrack on top of the container and invert.
You may also want to try making mini tarte tatin’s in a muffin tray as an appetizer at a party.