Smoked Mushroom Paprikas and Memories of Childhood
Please do not make fun of my outfit!!!
Mushrooms are often overlooked and home cooking and reduced to either salad or soup ingredient. So very sad, because mushrooms make an excellent main dish. The variety of mushrooms make it possible to highlight them in Asian dishes, such as the shitake (my favorite mushroom), but you can use some of the more mild flavors to spice up old recipes.
Besides being tasty, mushrooms have a high protein and fiber content. They are loaded with vitamin B and D, and full of minerals such as Selenium and Potassium.
When I was a child, my mom used to send me down to my great-aunt’s farm during summer break. This was a real farm, old school. No indoor plumbing, kitchen with wood stoves, early morning rising to feed the animals, and occasionally mushroom foraging in the midday. My great aunt was very knowledgeable in healing herbs of the local forest and meadow. She also had a passion for wild mushroom paprikas. I was always scared as a child of the city that she was going to make a mistake and pick the wrong mushrooms… During summer time in Hungary, there are stations where you can take your mushroom foraging for inspection with a licensed agent who checks that you indeed picked the edible kind. Well, great-auntie would never settle for such “city people schemes” she said she had tradition on her side. And in this case, she was correct. She healed many wounds during WWII without antibiotics when doctors wanted to amputate, she was not school educated, but she sure had knowledge.
Myself being a child of the capital city, I stayed quite suspicious. After a full day of foraging for mushrooms, where I was no help whatsoever since I was too busy getting lost with the flowers of the meadow, we came home to make mushroom paprikas. I was too scared to eat dinner, thinking aunty may have picked the wrong mushrooms. And of course, this being a farm with no special treatments for children who choose not to eat dinner, my auntie sent me to clean the dishes and go to bed hungry. So I did, but my gurgling stomach woke me up, and I decided to visit the bedrooms making sure all people were still breathing. Once I was satisfied that nobody got sick from the mushroom dish, I put on my jacket and went out to the cold room to find the paprikas. Warming it up was quite a challenge. Making a fire in the woodstove and handling heavy cast iron dishes… let’s just say I woke everybody up. My auntie pretended to be mad, but I could tell the sneaky smile behind the angry words, she helped me warm up the dish, made some fresh gnocchi from scratch like it was no effort for the side dish. I still recall her quick hands mixing the dough and cutting it into the boiling water in no time.
I was never able to replicate my great-auntie’s recipe, not only because childhood memories are colored by beauty and love, but also because I don’t think I ever can replicate the variety of wild mushrooms that she gathered on these afternoons. Yes, I should have paid more attention! How many of us regret not paying more attention to our grandparent’s lessons, oh my…. Indeed…
But even so, every now and then, I crave a good mushroom dish. Not that long ago, I discovered naturally smoked paprika. It is sometimes called Spanish Paprika. You can tell from smelling this lovely red powder that it will make any dish pure heaven.
Instead of re-creating the past, I found a way to celebrate the future.
The result was this lovely Smoked Mushroom Paprikas.
½ stick of butter
1 carton of button mushrooms
And a handful of wild mushrooms of any kind, but shitake. Like I said, I love shitake, but it has a potent flavor that does not carry well in paprika. But any other wild mushroom will do, go wild! If you can’t get your hand on a variety of fresh mushrooms, but a package of dried wild mushrooms to soak and use in this dish.
1 onion diced
Salt of soy sauce
½ tsp of smoked paprika
Melt the butter and saute the onions until transparent. If you want to make the dish even tastier then use twice as many onions and cook them until caramelized (about 25 minutes).
Then add the rest of the ingredients (everything but the parsley and arrowroot), cover and cook. The mushrooms will give out quite a bit of water, to thicken the base take the arrowroot, melt in a bit of water and stir into the dish. Cook a little further until it thickens. Throw diced parsley on top.
I served this dish on top of mashed celeriac root, but you can serve it with rice, mash potatoes, gnocchi. I also like a dollop of sour cream on my paprika.
Until next time, do yoga, eat real food, be mindful, work and play hard!
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