Food – Fabulous flexi-fungi

2010-10-15 12:31

Next week the Soweto Mushroom Festival gets sizzling at eateries throughout the township and, in preparation, chefs – seasoned and fresh – have been showing would-be fungi fundis just how malleable mushrooms can be.

What makes mushrooms a versatile ingredient is that they soak up flavour. Also, all ­fungi have a meaty texture, ­making them a worthy alternative to animal flesh.

In the run-up to the event, five budding young chefs from a range of Gauteng’s cooking schools ­entered the Rising Stars competition.

The brief was to cook with mushrooms in an imaginative way, but not let the mushrooms be upstaged by the other ingredients.

As a judge I was delighted to get a plate full of every entry.

In the end Nodumo Ndovela of Midrand’s Culinary Passions Provider School won with her mushroom and ­madumbe curry.

Not only an imaginative vegetarian dish, but one that is easy to make and you can substitute the madumbes with sweet potato, ­lentils or potatoes.
Second place went to Frederick Mabunda of La Pentola restaurant in Pretoria. His inspired Mushroom Ritz was delicious. An innovative way to deal with starters for ­vegetarians at dinner parties – and meat eaters too.

There are also a range of delicious types ofmushrooms. Porchini are great for risottos, while shitake are familiar with Asian-flavoured dishes, but less ­exotic varieties such as common brown or button ones can easily be dressed up in glad foodie rags.

On the right are a couple of examples courtesy of the Rising Stars chefs.

» The Soweto Mushroom Festival takes place at 10 venues in Soweto from October 29 to 31. The main cook-off is at Maponya Mall on Saturday ­October 30 from 11am. Visit

Mushroom and madumbe curry

»?A punnet of button mushrooms

»?A punnet of brown, oyster or shitake mushrooms

»?250g madumbe, cubed

»?1 large onion, diced

»?2 cloves garlic, crushed

»?1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

»?1 bay leaf

»?2 tablespoon tomato paste

»?2 tablespoon curry powder

»?a pinch of cinnamon

»?a pinch of salt and pepper

»?50ml water or stock

»?Oil for frying

Heat oil in a pan and brown the ­onion. Add the curry powder, ginger, ­garlic and cinnamon.

Add the bay leaf and tomato paste. Add the mushrooms, madumbes and the water.

Season with the salt and pepper. Simmer until the madumbes are soft.
Ndovela served this with fried morogo and cumin bread rolls. Other options are rice, lentils or use it to stuff tomatoes and green peppers and put in the oven (serves 4).

Mushroom Ritz


»?50g butter

»?120g mushrooms, white and brown

»?40g whole almonds

»?5 fresh basil leaves

»?Juice of half a lemon

»?Black pepper

»?1 baby cabbage, shredded

»?1 avocado, peeled and halved

»?2 tablespoons chunky cottage cheese

Heat the butter, black pepper, mushrooms and almonds in a pan.

Fry until the mushrooms colour then add the torn basil leaves and the lemon juice.

To serve, place shredded cabbage on the plate and put the avocado half on top.

Fill the avocado with the mushroom mixture and spoon the chunky cottage cheese over it.

Serve with a wedge of lemon (serves 2).

Five fungi facts
Sprinkle mushrooms with lemon juice to prevent discolouration if you are preparing them ahead of time.

One brown mushroom contains more potassium than a banana and they are also a source of iron.

Store mushrooms unwashed in a brown paper bag or wrapped in a tea towel on the lowest shelf of the fridge.

The Iceman found in the Italian Alps in 1991, who died 5 000 years ago, was carrying dried mushrooms with him.

Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth or brush the dirt off with a pastry brush before eating. Eat the stems too.

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