Although the first seasonal mushrooms are pushing up through the soil in the field next door I’m thinking dried mushrooms after enjoying some of the best fungi dishes ever — some with a mixture of fresh and dried mushrooms for awesome flavour.

Most dried porcini mushrooms originate from Italy where they are considered a gourmet treat. Their intense nutty flavour is popular in soups, sauces, meat dishes and on pizzas. Fresh porcini are sometimes found in New Zealand pine forests where they share a symbiotic relationship with the tree roots. 

Dried shiitake mushrooms also have powerful flavour and have been a mainstay of Asian cooking for centuries. 

Both dried varieties are readily available from Asian grocery stores, delis and most supermarkets. Soak them in hot water for about 30 minutes before use. Squeeze dry and chop — and use the flavoursome soaking water in the same recipe if possible.

Fresh shiitake mushrooms are also available in supermarkets. Their dark brown, meaty caps can withstand long cooking in casseroles or stews. Add a couple to any dish of common mushrooms and note the flavour difference.  

Occasionally fresh enoki mushrooms make it to the market. Popular in Japanese cooking, enoki have minute caps and long whitish stems. Sauté gently for about 1 minute and float in clear soups. Or garnish meats and seafood; or use raw in salads. 


Fresh shiitake add oomph to this dish.

300g mixed fresh mushrooms eg: Portobello, white button, fresh shiitake, brown
3 tablespoons olive oil
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary leaves
125g orecchiette or similar
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup each: ricotta cheese, grated mozzarella
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 220°C on fan-bake. 

Cut the mushrooms into 1cm-thick slices Place in a roasting pan and toss together with the oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. Roast for about 10 minutes — stirring once or twice — until golden and a little crisp around the edges.

Meanwhile, cook the orecchiette according to the packet instructions until al dente. Drain and cool a little

In a large bowl combine the cream, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic and parmesan. Mix well then add the mushrooms and pasta. Pour into a 25cm x 16 cm baking dish. Cook on fan-bake for 15 minutes until hot and browned on top. Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side.


With dried mushrooms in the pantry, there’s always an exotic meal available. Scrumptious!

1/2 cup dried porcini
1 cup hot water
300g linguine
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 each: shallots, garlic cloves, diced
2 cups cream
few small sprigs thyme, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste

Soak the porcini in the hot water for 30 minutes to soften. Strain, reserving the liquid. Squeeze the porcini dry, then finely chop.

Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan on medium. Add the shallots and cook, stirring until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds then add the mushrooms and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the reserved mushroom liquid and simmer until almost evaporated. Add the cream, thyme and seasonings. Simmer until thickened. 

Drain the linguine and add to the mushrooms, tossing well to coat. Serve in bowls.

Great garnished with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese. Serves 4.


Mushrooms: 1/2 cup (10g) dried shiitake mushrooms
3/4 cup hot water
50g butter
1 clove garlic, diced
250g fresh assorted mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon each: soy sauce, cream, olive oil
Polenta:1 cup each: milk, water
1/2 cup instant polenta
3 tablespoons each: butter, grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the shiitake in the boiling water for 30 minutes, until soft. Drain and reserve the liquid. Squeeze the shiitake dry. Finely chop.

Melt half the butter in a non-stick frying pan. Add the garlic, then add the fresh mushrooms, shiitake, rosemary and mushroom liquid. Boil until reduced by half. Whisk in the remaining butter then the soy sauce, cream and olive oil

Simultaneously, prepare the polenta. Bring the milk and water to boiling point in a saucepan or a bowl in the microwave. Slowly pour in the polenta, stirring continuously. Simmer, stirring for about 5 minutes, until thick. Add the butter, cheese and seasonings. Mix well.

Serve the mushrooms on the polenta. Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter.


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