I love autumn and all produce and dishes it comes with. Autumn comes with some of the most exciting treats such as pumpkins, mushrooms, turnips and root vegetables, quinces and stews and soups!
This little vegetarian dish is perfect for autumn and winter as it makes use of some of my favorite autumn ingredients. For this dish, pumpkin (or squash) is roasted until it’s edges turn into caramelized perfection after which it’s whipped into a creamy, silky-soft consistency. The pumpkin puree is then topped with some luxurious seared king oyster mushrooms, some earthy and nutty popped barley for texture and some bright green chive oil for some grassy freshness. This dish really tastes as if you fell face-first into autumn…but, you know, in a good way.
The king oyster mushroom, or king trumpet mushroom is the largest variety of oyster mushroom that is most known for its ‘meaty’ texture and umami flavor. Unlike many other mushrooms – oyster mushrooms in particular – king oyster’s large stem is not tough and woody and takes on a deliciously soft and chewy texture once cooked, which makes it a perfect meat and seafood replacement. Indeed, who hasn’t yet come across one of those dishes featuring ‘vegan scallops’ or ‘vegan mushroom steaks’ made from king oyster mushroom’s round white stem?
Unfortunately, while these mushrooms are very delicious, they also quite pricey… which is why, for this dish, I’ve kept them as plain and pure as possible, only mildly flavored with some salt, pepper and butter (and the slightest hint of garlic), so that you can really savor this luxurious mushroom’s flavour in its most pure form.
As for the popped barley… this is a totally new area for me. I mean, I love me some popcorn as a snack, but have only recently found out you can pop many different types of grains. They may not all pop up as much as corn does, but, wow, are they full of that nutty, toasted flavour! In this dish in particular they add a very welcome chewy texture and a toastiness that fits so perfectly with these autumnal flavours.
Tip: want to turn this dish into a full meal? Boil about 120g (for 4 people) of beluga lentils for 20-25 minutes and top the pumpkin puree with a nice scoop of lentils to give it some more substance (see photograph below).
King Oyster Mushroom with Pumpkin Puree, Chive Oil and Popped Barley
- For the chive oil:
- 150ml vegetable oil
- Bunch of chives (about 25g) + a few extra sprigs for decorating
- 1.5 kg pumpkin (or butternut squash)
- 80ml whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons barley (2 tablespoons)
- 4 large king oyster mushrooms ( of about 80 – 100g each)
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 50g butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Make chive oil (this step can be done a day ahead of using):
- Set a very fine mesh sieve over a heatproof bowl.
- Puree chives and oil in a food processor until well blended.
- Pour chive mixture in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 4 - 5 minutes.
- Remove oil from heat and strain through the prepared sieve. Leave to cool.
- Cook the pumpkin:
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- Peel and cut the pumpkin into pieces. Divide over a baking tray and place in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until soft.
- Whilst your pumpkin is in the oven, pop the barley:
- Place a saucepan over high heat.
- When the pan is sufficiently hot (test with some drops of water: they should sizzle upon hitting the pan) add the barley.
- Shake the pan from time to time until the (soft) popping dies out. Barley doesn’t quite pop like popcorn, but you should be able to hear a popping sound and the barley should slightly pop open and turn soft and chewy. Set aside until ready to use.
- Make pumpkin puree:
- Place warm, cooked pumpkin in a high-rimmed bowl (or blender) and add the whipping cream. Blend with an immersion (or regular) blender until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with some aluminum foil to keep hot while you cook the mushroom.
- Cooking the mushrooms:
- Slice the King oyster mushrooms in half lengthwise and score cut-side in a diamond pattern. Sprinkle some salt on both sides of the mushrooms.
- Melt butter with the smashed garlic in a skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add mushrooms to the skillet (cut-side down first) and bake until golden brown on both sides. Drizzle over some of the butter whilst cooking.
- To serve:
- divide the pumpkin puree over plates. Place two pieces of cooked mushrooms on top of the puree on each plate. Drizzle over some of the chive oil and sprinkle on some popped barley. Serve warm.