King oyster mushrooms (also known as eryngii or trumpet royale) are all about the thick, meaty stems. Sliced and fried in oil and butter, they turn golden and become crisp but remain soft within. The ricotta and cream is like a homemade curd and its cooling creaminess lifts the earthy mushroom flavour. Both of those elements work really well with a liberal dusting of za’atar, a heady spice mix made from dried wild herbs, sesame and salt, which is becoming ubiquitous for good reason, and is now available in many supermarkets.
If it’s the right time of year and you have the cash, try this with fresh ceps. Frankly, good old chestnut mushrooms enjoy being matched with curd and za’atar too. The dish is well suited to spatchcocked and chargrilled quail or guinea fowl, lamb chops, or as one of those sides from which a full mezze-style meal could be assembled, not least the ‘Alongside’ recipes.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 500 g king oyster mushrooms, ceps or good chestnut mushrooms
- 4 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- 50 g butter
- ½ lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons za’atar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 160 g ricotta
- 80 ml double cream
- Mix the ricotta and cream together to make the curd and keep in the fridge until needed.
- Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth to remove any dirt. If using king oysters or ceps, slice them lengthways into 5 mm-thick slices – aim for 4–5 from each mushroom. If using chestnut mushrooms, slice them in half from top to bottom.
- Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan that fits all the mushrooms in one layer (or be prepared to cook in batches) over a high heat. Wait 45 seconds for the oil to heat up, then add the mushrooms and cook them for 45 seconds. Turn them over and sprinkle with salt and cook for 30–45 seconds longer, or until they begin to turn opaque; moisture and oil will begin to be released back into the pan and the mushrooms will start frying. Add the butter to the pan and turn the mushrooms once or twice more as they turn golden brown in the frothing butter. When the mushrooms are a good colour and just starting to crisp, turn the heat off, grind over a little black pepper and squeeze the lemon juice over the top.
- Spoon the curd onto a serving plate or bowl and liberally sprinkle with half the za’atar. Top with the mushrooms, drizzle with a little more rapeseed oil or any juices left in the pan, then sprinkle with the remaining za’atar.