“When you find a special ingredient like fresh shiitake mushrooms, you want to make a dish that truly highlights their beauty. This little vegetarian number does just that! Quick brining is a great way of ensuring all the mushrooms are equally well-seasoned before cooking. By roasting them, all the water evaporates and you’re left with perfectly seasoned, intense flavoured mushrooms.” Rachel Khoo, Rachel Khoo's Kitchen Notebook Melbourne
- 50 g salt
- 1.25 litres room temperature water
- 800 g fresh shiitake mushrooms (or a combination including oyster, shiitake and chestnut mushrooms), brushed clean
- 3 brown onions
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 40 g butter
- 100 ml dry white wine
- 400 g frozen chopped spinach
- 1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) crème fraiche or double cream
- salt to taste
- 1 small cauliflower (about 450 g)
- handful dill sprigs, finely chopped
- handful mint leaves, finely chopped
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 100 g grated mature cheddar or Parmesan
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Standing time 10 minutes
Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
Place the salt and water in a large deep roasting pan and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the mushrooms to the brine, then place another roasting tray on top so the mushrooms are fully submerged. Stand for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut two of the onions into quarters and separate the onion layers into petals. Finely chop the remaining onion and set aside.
Drain the mushrooms well, then pat dry on paper towel. Dry the roasting pan, then return the mushrooms to the pan and toss with the olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes, then stir through the onion petals and roast for another 15 minutes or until the mushrooms and onions are golden.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook for 5-6 minutes or until soft. Add the wine and simmer until nearly evaporated. Add the spinach and most of the chilli and stir for 6-7 minutes or until the spinach has defrosted and most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the cream and season to taste, then pour into a large baking dish about 27 x 20 cm.
Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil over high heat. Remove the outer green leaves of the cauliflower (you can use the tender inner leaves for a salad, but the tougher outer leaves are best discarded). Keep the stalk on the cauliflower, then slice the cauliflower from top to bottom into 5 mm-thick ‘steaks’- you will be left with a few cauliflower florets that don’t stay intact, but you will use it all. Carefully drop all the cauliflower bits (minus the tiny crumbs) into the boiling water and simmer for 1 minute, then drain into a colander.
Preheat the grill to high. Reserve a few of the herbs for the garnish, then combine the rest with the lemon juice and stir through the mushrooms. Spread the mushroom mixture over the top of the spinach, then sprinkle over any cauliflower crumbs. Place the blanched cauliflower over the top, then sprinkle with the grated cheese. Grill for 5-10 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly. Sprinkle with the remaining chilli and herbs, then serve immediately.
• It’s important not to keep the mushrooms in the brine for longer than 10 minutes as they are like sponges and will absorb too much water if left any longer.
Photography by Prue Ruscoe. Styling by Lucy Tweed. Food preparation by Leanne Kitchen. Creative concept by Lou Fay.
Jars Cantine side plates from Williams-Sonoma. Flat dish from Bridget Bodenham. Water glasses and carafe from Country Road. Concrete wallpaper from eurowalls. Spoon from IKEA.