Mushrooms or khombi as they are called in Urdu grow all over the world. They have been eaten by people since prehistoric times and there are many varieties. Some are rare in some parts of the world but grow abundantly in others, but a lot of people are wary of picking wild mushrooms because they could easily be confused with the poisonous type of fungi commonly called toadstools in English. The two most widely eaten types are the morel mushrooms, of which the genus Morochello esculenta (Gucchi in Urdu) is perhaps the best known and most highly sought-after, and the common mushroom, Agarius bisporus. Because of urbanization and deforestation some mushrooms are now rare in Pakistan but 56 edible varieties grow here, including the two already mentioned. They grow in the province of Balochistan, Punjab, Sindh, Azad Kashmir and the Swat Valley and the Murree Hills.
   Mushrooms have a long history of usage in Chinese traditional medicine and are renowned for providing longevity and good health. They have a high protein content and are the only non-animal food that contains vitamin D. This is good for decreasing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and colorectal cancer. The skin of a mushroom cap also contains vitamin B12 which is more commonly found in beef liver and fish. They contain the B complex vitamins (niacin, thiamin and riboflavin etc) and are an excellent source of dietary fibre. They also contain all the essential amino acids and are rich in the minerals iron, copper, zinc, calcium and potassium as well as containing folic acid and pantothenic acid (B5). The Chinese believe that they make good expectorants and are good for anaemia. They help to lower the cholesterol in the blood and so reduce blood pressure. They have a higher protein content than dates, potatoes and carrots and are a possible source of anti-cancer agents. In fact their protein value is double that of asparagus and cabbage, 4 times that of carrots and tomatoes and 6 times that of oranges.
 Mushrooms used to called mushrumps and they certainly had a bad press. The favourites of the Royal court in the 16th century were known as mushrumps because they sprang up overnight from a bed of excrement. (In autumn in rural Wales people hunt for mushrooms in fields where horses graze.) In his play “Edward II” Christopher Marlowe (the Elizabethan dramatist who was a contemporary of Shakespeare’s) describes the king’s favourite as a “night-gown mushrump” and Shakespeare refers to them in Prospero’s speech in “The Tempest” in Act 4 scene 2
    Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
    Ye demi-puppets….
              …   and you whose pastime
    Is to make midnight-mushrumps that rejoice
    To hear the solemn Curfew.”
 (This is the speech in which Prospero “abjures” his “rough Magicke”.)
   In Jacobean times Thomas Middleton also refers to mushrumps in his now almost forgotten play, “Hengist, King of Kent”:- “thou mushrump, that shott up in one night with lyeing with thy Mistress.”
    Mushrooms grew in the dark and so were thought to be evil, although people still enjoyed eating them if they could find edible ones.
   Mushrooms are good fried in butter or olive oil and used in pasta sauces or white sauces with chicken. They can be used in vegetable dishes or with any meat. They can be stuffed and grilled and are a very versatile addition to almost any savoury dish.

 4 sirloin or rump steaks
300 gr mushrooms, washed and thinly sliced
1 large onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, torn
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig rosemary
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
½ wine glass of Madeira (brandy will do)
small pot of double cream or thick natural yoghurt

Crush the black peppercorns and rub them into the steak. Leave them to stand for at least ½ an hour.
Meanwhile fry the onion, garlic and in the butter and oil. When the onion is about to turn brown add the mushrooms and stir well until they change colour.
Grill the steaks (the length of time will depend on how you like them).
Add the rest of the ingredients except the cream or yoghurt. Stir well and add salt to taste. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in the cream and mix well. Simmer for a few minutes.
Pour over the steaks and serve.
This has taste and is a Treat.

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