A visit to the Boutique de la Champignonniere Les Carrieres last week has kept me rather busy in the kitchen. The produce from here is superb so it was impossible to leave without buying a little or accurately, a lot of everything: Champignon de Paris, Shitake and Oyster mushrooms. Mushrooms are the fruiting body of a fleshy fungus and unlike plants, they require no sunlight to grow, their nutrients derived from the plants and matter where they spore which explains some of the differences in quality between these mushrooms and those from a supermarket. The word ‘mushroom’ originates from the French word ‘mousseron’ which during the 1400’s evolved in English to ‘muscheron’ then finally ‘mushroom’ by the mid 1500’s and used as a description for a variety of fleshy fungi. Additionally for fun, ‘mycology’ is the study of fungi (arriving from the Greek word mykēs), the mycologist is the person who studies fungi and whilst a mycophile adores mushrooms, a mycophagist eats whilst a mycophobe is terrified by them!

The following mushroom-based recipes are simple to prepare and provide a comforting antidote to chilly autumnal days…

The Mushroom & Leek tart is prepared with ready-to-roll puff pastry, producing a light, crisp shell to encase a creamy filling that’s balanced by the freshness of leek and meaty bite of mushroom. The recipe calls for a substantial quantity of mushrooms so be sure to choose good quality produce that isn’t watery. Meanwhile, smoky bacon is a perfect foil to peppery mushrooms for a warming main course soup that just needs a large basket of fresh, crusty bread.

Mushroom & Leek Tart
Serves 6

Knob butter, about 25g
1 leek, finely sliced
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
250g tub Mascarpone
2 eggs
50g Parmesan, grated
Good pinch thyme
Sea salt & freshly milled black pepper
250g puff pastry
250g mushrooms, halved & sliced

Melt the butter in a frying pan, gently sauté the leek, shallot and garlic until they are soft but not coloured; remove and cool. Whisk together the Mascarpone, eggs, Parmesan, thyme and seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 200°C

Roll out the puff pastry to a rectangle of about 24cm x 34 cm, place on a baking tray lined with kitchen parchment and crimp the edges a little to hold the filling. Pour in the Mascarpone mixture, spreading to the edges followed by the leeks and finally the mushrooms. Bake in the center of the oven for 35 minutes until the filling has set and the pastry is golden. Serve warm or cold.

Mushroom & Bacon Soup
Serves 8

200g lardons or chopped bacon
1 large onion, chopped
750g mushrooms, any variety chopped
1¼-liter stock, chicken or veal
Sea salt & freshly milled black pepper
200ml cream
Large handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Add the lardons and onion to a very large saucepan placed over a medium heat. Stir occasionally to prevent burning until the onions are soft and no liquid remains; add the mushrooms, stock and a little seasoning. Turn up the heat to bring to a boil, cover with a lid and reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully cooked. Remove from the heat to cool before adding the cream and parsley. With a hand blender or liquidizer, blitz until smooth. Serve piping hot with a garnish of crème fraiche, grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.