This is a lovely little salad that was created for one of Berta’s sagra dinners. It uses three different types of mushrooms (pickled pine mushroom, cloud ear fungus and shiitake) giving you various flavours, but the thing I love most about it is all the exciting textures. The dandelion leaf adds an extra bitter tinge and there is a nice hint of chilli, both of which are things that thrill me.
Pickled pine mushrooms
- 175 ml cider vinegar
- 75 ml water
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tsp table salt
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 100 g pine mushrooms, saffron milk cups, cut across into 1 cm slices
- 20 ml cider vinegar
- pinch of river salt
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 50 ml strained chilli oil
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 100 g shiitake mushrooms, sliced across into 5 mm slices
- vegetable oil, for shallow frying
- 2 small Lebanese cucumbers, peeled, cut down the middle and de-seeded, sliced on a slight angle into 1 cm slices
- 100 g cloud ear fungus, gently torn into small pieces
- 50 g dandelion leaves, stems picked
- river salt and black pepper
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.
Pickle resting time 1 hour
Firstly, you will need to pickle your mushrooms, as you want to give them enough time to have a little mingle in the pickling liquid and also to cool down. This step can be done up to a week ahead and kept in the fridge; just make sure you allow them enough time to return to room temperature.
Place all the pickling ingredients, except for the mushrooms, into a pan, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for a couple of minutes. Take it off the heat and leave it to cool for about 5 minutes before pouring it over your sliced pine mushrooms, which are ready and waiting in a container. Make sure you use something to weigh them down, so the mushrooms are submerged in the liquid.
To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt, before adding the chilli oil and a little bit of lemon juice. You want to have quite an oily dressing that still retains a nice balance of acid. Set aside.
In a shallow pan, heat your oil until it reaches about 160°C, you should see the oil beginning to shimmer a little. Add in the shiitake mushrooms and gently swirl them about, frying until you can no longer see the moisture bubbles around them and they start to look a little dark. Scoop them out and leave them to drain on a paper towel.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cucumber and your three types of mushrooms. When you add the pickled ones, be sure to give them a shake and a squeeze, so you're not adding too much pickle liquid to your salad – although a little of the liquid is essential. Season with salt and a little pepper before adding the dressing and giving it a good mix.
Once you're satisfied with the flavour, add the dandelion and give another gentle mix before serving on a nice-looking platter.
• There are a couple of different types of cloud ear fungus, also known as wood ear. The one I like most is the fluffy, delicate version that's soft, with a texture reminiscent of seaweed. There is another one, which is thicker and more leathery – this is perfectly acceptable to use, just make sure you slice it finely instead of having torn pieces.
Photographs by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson.