Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mushroom Phyllo Parcels

This recipe is a celebration of wild mushrooms– a crispy phyllo pocket bursting with creamy leeks, delicate spinach and a variety of exotic mushrooms from your local market. Serve it as an evening apperitif or with a seasonal salad, as a light lunch.

I’ve only recently discovered the diverse variety of the mushrooms now farmed in South Africa. It seems our South African palate is growing an appreciation for the exotic edible fungi of the Far East. The flavours of Golden Chanterelle, with their fruity aroma of apricot, smokey Shiitake and the nutty, earthy flavours of Porcini mushrooms are so inspiring, I can’t help but conjure up adventurous combinations.

For a simple dish that really allows you to appreciate the unique textures and flavours of our locally grown mushrooms, fry your choice of wild mushrooms in a little butter, with a sprinkle of salt to bring out the delicate flavours. Toss the mushrooms with fresh egg tagliatelle, good quality olive oil and shavings of parmesan cheese for a simple, but delicious spring lunch.
When storing mushrooms don’t keep them in plastic or a sealed bag. Store them uncovered in the fridge with as much airflow around them as possible – a brown paper bag or clean muslin cloth works well.
Before cooking simply wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth to avoid getting their spongy flesh absorbing too much water.
When frying mushrooms, make sure the pan is very hot, don’t add too much olive oil and fry small quantities as a time, to prevent them from getting soggy.
Fresh herbs that compliment mushrooms are parsley, thyme, rosemary and fresh or dry tarragon.

Mushroom, leek and Spinach Phyllo Parcels
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 leeks
300g mushrooms (Portobello and a variety of wild mushrooms)
400g spinach leaves
100-150 ml cream
2 bay leaves
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
25g fresh tarragon/Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
6 sheets of phyllo pastry
100 ml white wine
Olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Slice the leaks lengthways, wash them very well and cut them finely.
Use a damp cloth or piece of kitchen towel to wipe the mushrooms clean, if necessary.
If using regular spinach, wash and remove the stalks.
Pour 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pot on a medium heat; add the onions, garlic, thyme and one bay leaf. Stir briefly, reduce the heat and cover with a lid until the onions are soft and translucent. Place in a large mixing bowl.
Cook the mushrooms in two batches in a large frying pan with not too much oil, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the bowl.
Add 2 tbsp olive oil to the pan and sauté the leeks with a little salt, a bay leaf and a grating of nutmeg. When the leeks are hot, add the white wine. Cook the leeks until they are soft and most of the wine has evaporated. Add the leeks to the mushrooms and the onions.
Wilt the spinach in a hot pan in two batches and add this to the vegetable mix.
Add the chopped tarragon and 100 ml of cream, give it a good mix, and if needed, add the extra 50 ml of cream.
Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the parcels, lay two sheets of phyllo pastry out on a working surface and cut into strips approximately 10 cm wide.
For each strip (parcel), brush the whole bottom layer with melted butter and place the other pastry layer on top. Spoon your filling on the bottom end of the strip. Fold the bottom corner diagonally over to the opposite edge. Then fold the triangularly shaped parcel again to the opposite side, continue to the end of the pastry strip. Brush the parcels with butter and bake for 20 minutes until golden and crispy.
Serve warm.

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