Christchurch 2020 chef of the year Simon Levy has previously worked for Gordon Ramsay and Pierre Koffman in the UK. (File photo).
It’s shroom season.
The fungi months have returned as autumn dons the season of the mushroom, and top Christchurch chef Simon Levy has offered his creative cooking ideas to utilise one of his favourite kinds of food.
March and April are considered mushroom season in New Zealand, but the weather is key in shaping times when the food is ready for harvest.
The most common kinds of mushroom found across the country are white button, but many growers in Canterbury and around the country have a vast variety.
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Levy, head chef of Christchurch restaurants Inati and Hali and reigning Christchurch chef of the year, uses mushroom in more ways than the average food lover may know.
In his time as a chef he has created pickled, roasted and brined mushrooms, and served complex dishes such as mushroom wellington, mushroom cereal and, of all things, a mushroom cocktail.
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“It’s my favourite time of year cook,” he said.
Levy noted how strong local mushroom growers were in Canterbury and New Zealand, and said Kiwis were lucky to be able to go for a short drive to find quality mushrooms.
He peels mushrooms and uses their skin as garnish, dehydrates them to alter the texture, blends them for powder and seasoning, makes them into risotto, and even uses them for his stock.
He said their earthy, velvet qualities can easily replace meat in a dish, and he believes mushrooms are one of the most versatile foods around.
Matthew Williams’ work slowed when lockdown hit so he had more time to chase his mushroom-growing hobby. Now, it’s his full-time business.
The award-winning chef was given a mystery box and asked to create a dish from a key ingredient at Ōtautahi Grow Festival in Hagley Park two weeks ago.
That ingredient was mushroom, and Levy chose to champion the fungi with his unique mushroom cereal. The dish will soon go on the menu at his restaurant Inati in central Christchurch.
The cereal has many layers of different varieties of mushroom, finished off with a hard mushroom garnish topping. Levy is also a “huge fan” of truffles in winter and often goes overboard with them, he said.
“It’s actually hard not to use it too much,” he said.
Going through the ways he has cooked mushroom in the past, Levy recalled making tempura mushrooms with a crispy batter, using them simply in a toasted sandwich with cheese and onion, and his love for oyster mushrooms in any dish. He has even created mushroom seaweed.
He said the fungi…