There’s a universal agreement, one of those understandings that is neither written or taught, that the greatest substitute for meat is mushroom. It’s plain to see why: a mushroom has meat-like texture and a flavour profile you can tap in when following a recipe that normally calls for meat.
But there’s a tendency to treat mushrooms as a substitute first and a substitute only. Hands up, we’re guilty of it too – we literally did exactly that two sentences ago. This is wrong. You can serve up a mighty fine dish where mushrooms star, not because they’re the closest thing you can find to meat, but because they are mushrooms.
Here, we’ve chosen five of our favourites that, in their different ways, shine the spotlight on fungi and put meat – at least for a little while – in the dark:
Forget your fry-up, omelette, bowl of cereal, or whatever else a weekend breakfast might mean to you. This portobello mushroom, avo and fried egg bun is (behind the rising sun) the most beautiful morning sight we’ve ever seen.
You probably shouldn’t ever have a party without pizza. But you can – nay, should – have pizza without meat. Because when you’ve got mushrooms you can mix and match in store (pick out the choicest-looking ones) and all the mozzarella you could ever wish for, you won’t miss meat.
The best part about this dish isn’t the steak. It isn’t the fact there are chips. It’s the mushroom sauce on the side, the kingly recipe that is ready to rule over your kitchen. Learn it once then never stop riffing: jazzed with a swig of wholegrain mustard (for baked chicken), made very verdant (and very fresh) with a pile of peas and fresh parsley for pasta.
Behind every great mushroom burger lies a great condiment. Step forward, lime slaw, a bright idea whose Asian flavours play off the ticklishly thrilling fish sauce and chilli inside the mushroom and bean patties. Even if you’re a fully-fledged member of the beef burger club (we are too!), there’s something here for you.
In this recipe, the chicken needs the stuffing (oh it’s there all right – it’s just hiding from you) more than the stuffing needs the chicken. That’s because most of us have likely had countless roast chickens. But mushroom and miso rice stuffing? Now that’s an all-new kind of show-stealing genius.
Dumplings, pies, popcorn (!) curries and other shroom specials: forage for more fungi fixes here.