Features & Stories

Mushroom magic: a forage through ckbk's fungi recipes

In the 2019 documentary Fantastic Fungi (now streaming on Netflix), mushroom maven Eugenia Bone playfully dubs mycologists (those who study fungi) as “bloated pleasure seekers with a science bent. My kind of people”.

For Fantastic Fungi: The Community Cookbook, a culinary spin-off from the documentary, Bone brought together recipe contributions from an inner-circle of mushroom pleasure seekers and evangelists across the US, all aligned with Bone’s goal that the book should “make mycophiles of those of you who aren’t already.”

To celebrate the book’s debut on ckbk, we chatted with chefs about their top ‘shrooms and unearthed some of our own favorite mushroom recipes, drawn from nearly 9000 on ckbk.

By Ramona Andrews

Chinese mushroom delights

For chef Ken Hom, Chinese mushrooms are an absolute favourite - he told ckbk, “I love Chinese mushrooms for their earthy smoky flavour that is unrivalled, adding a depth and richness to any vegetarian dish”. 

In Ken Hom’s Vegetarian Cookery, he describes his love of Chinese mushrooms (aka shiitake, most often found in dried form) “braised in a rich sauce, smokey in taste, chewy in texture” as a child and that he ate them whenever he could “as any Western youth might eat crisps or roasted peanuts.” Try his recipe for Braised Chinese Mushrooms for a taste of this flavorsome memory.

Michael Hyams and Liz O’Keefe’s The Mushroom Cookbook is a fabulous resource for mycophiles with a guide to edible fungi, as well as recipes for more than 50 delicious dishes. The book’s Chinese Mixed Mushroom Curry celebrates the many different types of cultivated mushrooms in Chinese food (from “eryngii to enoki, shimeji to shiitake”). Hyams and O’Keefe suggest adding the larger mushrooms first and the more delicate ones later on. 

Another valuable resource on ckbk for field collectors is Roger Phillips encylopedic reference book, Mushrooms. It offers guidance on collecting fungi, making spore prints to help identification, drying specimens, and crucially, avoiding potentially deadly poisonous species. His Wild Food is another vital reference for foragers, and includes many recipes for wild mushrooms.


Chinese Mixed Mushroom Curry from The Mushroom Cookbook.


Can mushrooms save the world?

The Fantastic Fungi movie celebrates the myriad advantages of fungi for both humans and nature, not only as food but also for their mysterious and medicinal properties. Mushrooms such as turkey tail and lion’s mane offer remarkable potential in this regard.

Ongoing research explores their capacity to treat various conditions and enhance the efficacy of other medications. Delve even deeper into the subject with this TED Talk in which mycologist Paul Stamets explores 6 ways that mushrooms can save the world. Meanwhile, in the Fantastic Fungi Community Cookbook, Stamets shares his recipe for Teriyaki Chicken-of-the-Woods

Speaking of which, let’s return fully to the culinary realm...

Meaty textures

Polenta di Grano Saraceno con Funghi Trifolati (Buckwheat Polenta with Mushrooms) from A Lombardian Cookbook by Alessandro Pavoni and Roberta Muir.

Australian food writer Roberta Muir agrees with chef Ken Hom that mushrooms, with their “firm texture and umami hit” live up to their reputation as offering “meat for vegetarians’”. She learnt her Asian cooking skills from Sydney-based fusion chef Neil Perry of Rockpool fame. Perry’s Stir-fried Mushrooms with White Asparagus and Coriander is still one of her go-to dishes for a quick-satisfying meal. 

Another of Muir’s favourite ways to prepare mushrooms is funghi trifolati (Italian-style garlic mushrooms). She told ckbk, “When I was in Italy with chef Alessandro Pavoni researching our Lombardian Cookbook we went to a friend’s hunting lodge high up in the mountains and Alessandro’s mum Iolanda prepared polenta taragna (buckwheat polenta) in a big copper cauldron over an open fire – then served it topped with Gorgonzola and funghi trifolati made from local wild mushrooms. In that crisp mountain air, this rib-sticking dish was truly one of the best things I’ve ever tasted!”

Muir is also a fan of the classic combination of mushroom sauce with steak: “one of the easiest and tastiest I know is made by my friend Giovanni Pilu. He calls it a ragù ai funghi misti and uses a mixture of whatever mushrooms he can get his hands on. The steak and mushrooms are marinated together and then, while the cooked steak is resting, the mushrooms are given a quick fry and a generous splodge of butter and are ready to serve alongside.”

St George’s Day and beyond

British chef, restaurateur, and food writer Mark Hix told ckbk, "Being a Dorset lad I’m a huge fan of foraging and finding new spots and keeping the new spots close to my chest”. Hix came across St George’s mushrooms unusually early this year— they normally peak around St George’s Day on 23 April. Reflecting on climate change, he remarks, "With our changing climate I’m never quite sure which variety are going to show up when they are supposed to, so I’m constantly keeping an eye out for the first chanterelles and penny buns [the traditional English name for the mushroom known to the French as ceps to the Italians as porcini]. I try not to get distracted when driving, studying fields for white patches of parasols or puff balls.”

Girolles (a type of chanterelle) inspire Hix’s Broad Bean, Pea, and Girolle Salad, a perfect dish for early summer. In the Fantastic Fungi Community Cookbook, Jane B. Mason describes chanterelles as “the quintessential foraged mushroom” with an apricot-like aroma which inspired her inventive Chanterelle Shortbread recipe.

For a classic French preparation of these mushrooms, see Jane Grigson’s Chanterelle à la Forestière, featured in Roger Phillips’s Wild Food. Phillips also provides suggestions for preparing St George’s Mushrooms, a recipe for Crunchy Puffballs, and a garlicky Chanterelle Sauce. Another light and summery way to prepare mushrooms is the Creamy Mixed Mushroom and Tarragon Soup from The Mushroom Cookbook which “proves mushroom soups aren’t just for autumn”.


ckbk’s recipe collection, 12 Ways with Wild Mushrooms, includes this beautiful Wild Mushroom Salad. Be sure to buy wild mushrooms from a reliable source or, if you're foraging yourself, make sure you positively identify them before cooking – if in doubt seek expert advice!


More Penny Buns

Valentine Warner told ckbk that “to find a penny bun among the grass is to find joy akin to a gold coin in the clay”. Like fellow Southwest England chef Mark Hix, Warner is especially partial to penny buns aka ceps aka porcini and presents a delightful recipe, Ceps and Apples in Puff Pastry, where the mushrooms are enveloped in puff pastry with Cox’s apples, to serve as a side dish for roast beef. ckbk’s Cooking With Porcini collection offers many more options for this exceptionally tasty mushroom.

In The Best Recipes in the World, Mark Bittman describes how though we often associate porcini with Italian or French cuisine, these mushrooms are popular in Poland too. His Polish Mushroom-Barley Soup uses a combination of dried porcini and fresh shiitake. Meanwhile, in The Mushroom Cookbook, Michael Hyams and Liz O’Keefe’s Mushroom Soufflé also uses dried porcini - such a handy pantry staple. 

Exploring further, Eugenia Bone’s Porcini Powder can be infused into butter, or else used as a meat rub, while Alison Gardner (author of The Wild Mushroom Cookbook) incorporates it into a Dried Porcini Onion Dip. This is a lovely aspect of the community book, the interconnectedness and practicality of the recipes. As Bone says in the introduction, “there is an honesty and unpretentiousness about community cookbooks, and the recipes tend to be tried-and-true dishes that people actually make for dinner.”

Bone told us that in many cases, the authors are mushroom hunters too, and “no one knows better how to cook mushrooms than someone who will spend hours tromping in the woods in search of them.”

ckbk Premium Members ckbk have access to the full content of Fantastic Fungi: The Community Cookbook and more than 800 other cookbooks. Take out a 14 day free trial for unlimited access.

Top recipes from Fantastic Fungi: The Community Cookbook

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