Friday, July 18, 2008

Mushrooms al Cartoccio

Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Archana from Archana's Kitchen and this week I'll be taking a closer look at mushrooms.

The first is a King Oyster Mushroom

king pine mushroom©

a distinctive mushroom, it is generally characterised by a tan coloured cap over a tall, bulbous stem. The cap does vary in size, stem thickness bears no influence upon it - indeed you can have a small cap over a thick stem, examples of which can be seen here.

There's virtually no waste with this mushroom as the stem is highly edible. I particularly like to use this mushroom because when cut lengthways you get an extremely elegant mushroom silhouette - ideally, to best show off the shape you would look for dishes in which you could drape the mushroom slice - decorate the top of savoury tart, a pizza even a frittata.

The next mushroom is Shimeji

shimeji©  by Haalo

Shimeji grow in clumps as you can see and to prepare you simply cut them from the hard base.

shimeji© by Haalo

These are highly aromatic and it is advised that you don't eat these raw as the taste can be a little unpleasant.

shimeji© by Haalo

The dish I'm making today has been inspired by one we recently had at a local restaurant called Cafe Latte. It had a much more appealing name of Fungi di Bosco al Cartoccio which translates to forest mushroom cooked in parchment.

The premise is very simple - you lay out a sheet of baking paper, brush it with a little oil and then begin layering slices of mushroom, interspersed with garlic slivers and herbs, a dash of wine, some butter, salt and pepper. Once the parcel is wrapped, it is then baked in the oven - all the flavours remain trapped within the parcel, the butter and mushroom juices amalgamate with the herbs to form the most intoxicating broth. It's served at the table unopened, the diner being treated to a most wonderful treat of the senses.

mushrooms al cartoccio©

Mushrooms "al Cartoccio"
[Makes 2 parcels]

2 king pine mushrooms, sliced lengthways
large handful Shimeji mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
fresh thyme sprigs
salt and freshly ground pepper
lemon-infused olive oil
dash of white wine, optional

Take 2 large pieces of baking paper and set each into a bowl. I find this helps to define the shape of the cartoccio so I can better gauge the placement of the mushrooms.

Brush the base with olive oil - I've used lemon-infused olive oil to get it a little tang as I won't be using wine.

Sprinkle over with a few slivers of garlic and fresh thyme leaves -

fresh thyme© by Haalo

I'm using thyme because it has a great affinity to mushrooms, a wonderful aroma and is quite robust.

Place a few slices of King Oyster, a sprinkle of salt, followed by the Shimeji and a little more thyme and garlic. Add a tiny knob of butter and then repeat the layers. Finish off with the King Oysters, a little more butter, thyme leaves, salt and a good grinding of pepper. I also gave it a quick drizzle of the lemon infused olive oil.

ready for the oven

Bring the ends of the paper together to form a tight parcel, twisting to ensure a good seal. As I don't want the paper to colour for presentation sakes, I then wrap these parcels in aluminium foil. This is extra protection to ensure all the flavours remained trapped in the parcel but it also stops the paper from colouring.

Place the parcels on a baking tray and cook in a preheated 180°C oven for about 30-40 minutes - the time does depend on the size of your parcel and the volume of mushrooms.

cooked cartoccio©

If you were serving this for a dinner party remove it from the aluminium foil and place the unopened parcel on plates - it is now ready to serve.

mushrooms al cartoccio© by haalo

This first peek inside - it's a real pity you can't photograph the aroma. All the flavours of the mushrooms, thyme and garlic have been captured and distilled into the juices that pool at the base of the parcel.

It's essential to serve this with good crusty bread so you don't waste of drop of that goodness.


  1. I am speechless. This must be the most beautiful pictures I have seen in a long time. I wish I could be one of your guests to be treated to a parcel like this.

  2. Wonderful. This is my kind of recipe: easy, delicious, and with as little clean-up as possible! The mushrooms are just lovely.

  3. Your photographs are a-ma-zing. Was this shot in a photo studio or just in your kitchen?

  4. Wow, they are so like sculptures, beautiful :)

  5. Thanks Nina - you are always too kind and I'd happily have your over for dinner!

    Thanks JS - amen to minimising clean up!

    Thanks Annie - I don't have a studio so it's all natural light and taken indoors. As it is long exposures, tripods and timers are essential to eliminate any camera shake.

    Thanks Holler - they do look very beautiful and they all so different.

  6. Such a nice dish! I just bought some of these mushrooms for an Asian mushroom steamboat. Will be trying your recipe next time :)

  7. AnonymousJuly 19, 2008

    Informative mushroom post and lovely pics. Makes my mouth water.

  8. Hi Haalo,
    The mushroom parcel sounds like a terrific dish. I am sure that it was even better than the one you had at Cafe Latte.

    And thanks for your comment - I am glad (relieved) that my cheese post qualified ;-)


  9. p/s: You have amazing photography skills. I can't seem to take good photos of hot food because of the steam.

  10. Thanks Anh!

    Thanks Coffeepot!

    Thanks Nora - your cheese fits the bill and hopefully I've reworded the post so that it isn't confusing. With steam it's important to be in the opposite direction of its flow otherwise it's steamy lens!

  11. AnonymousJuly 21, 2008

    Looks terrific! I haven't actually tried fresh shimeji mushrooms before, but pine mushrooms are great. If you're ever driving through the country, keep an eye out under pine trees because they're easy to spot.

  12. Thanks Tim - I'm a bit nervous about picking mushrooms in the wild, I'm sure I'll pick a poisoned one!

  13. hi haalo,
    those close-up snaps of your mushrooms are sensational!

  14. Thanks Li - the extra magnification from extension rings are affording me a closer view

  15. Sounds just wonderful. I have not seen either of these two types of mushrooms before. I especially love the close-up photos of the thyme!


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