Mastering mushrooms this season…

As the temperatures drop, the chefs in the kitchen at Gaia Retreat & Spa are looking at creating some warmer dishes using seasonal garden produce. Autumn and winter are the perfect time of year to use mushrooms (traditionally in season in Autumn). Here, we are lucky enough to have started our own fresh mushroom production program. We are excited to have a small supply of our own home-grown, incredibly fresh, shiitake coming into the kitchen, and with other varietals to follow. This supplements our weekly delivery of fresh organic local mushrooms from Byron Gourmet Mushrooms.

Mushrooms are incredibly versatile to cook but also have a great range of health benefits as an excellent source of selenium and vitamins D and B. They are low in calories, cholesterol free, gluten free, very low in sodium, and known for their plant-based rich umami flavour (a savoury taste characteristic of broths and cooked meats). The perfect meat flavour substitute for any winter comfort meal, mushrooms are also rich in B2, B3, B5, ergothioneine, copper, potassium, and beta glucans. B vitamins are the powerhouse for helping carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism and for the nervous system and brain function.

With winter upon us, mushrooms have beneficial effects in improving immunity, they are anti-inflammatory, support prebiotic gut health…and recent oncological research positively suggests their benefits in suppressing the growth of breast and prostate cancer. They may also mitigate the risk of developing serious health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. So what are you waiting for, let’s get them in the kitchen!

The recipe I want to share is very versatile – be confident serving this for lunches, dinners and even breakfast (perfect topped with a poached egg!) You can add variety with your accompanying components and creative condiments.

This is a beautiful soothing dish full of umami and perfect for cooler weather. Typically at Gaia Retreat & Spa this dish would be served at lunch, with some extra garden produce like daikon, spring onion, mizuna, baby tatsoi and Bok choy for lightness, flavour and fibre.

Looking for something more hearty? Other ingredients to elevate this dish include tofu, shelled edamame beans, sliced nori, toasted sesame seeds and oil. I recommend having a look for furikake, gormazio and togarishi in a Japanese or Asian grocery store to top the dish with – delicious!

Braised Mushrooms with Soba Noodle and Dashi Broth    (4 serves)
Fresh Mushrooms
Any type of mushrooms can be used in this dish – Shiitake, Oyster, King Brown, Field, Swiss brown, Enoki, Wood Ear… the list is endless! Just go for a handful or so per portion. If available and in season, Pine and Slippery Jack are also great. Brush any residual dirt or debris from mushrooms and slice into 5-10 mm thick strips.

1 pack of Soba noodle (allow 50g per portion)
Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour which is very high in protein. At Gaia Retreat & Spa we use Soba made from 100% buckwheat flour, making them gluten free. Brown rice or other types of noodles can also be substituted. Cook noodles or rice in plenty of boiling salted water as per packet instructions (around 5 – 6 minutes for noodles, and 20 – 30 minutes for rice). Strain, and use immediately while still warm.

Dashi is the base Japanese stock used for a huge variety of recipes. The basic version is just dried kelp seaweed (Kombu) and water (20 – 30 grams of dried kelp* per litre of water). It is usually combined with Katsuobushi (dried and shaved Bonito fish) and may contain other ingredients such as dried mushroom and sliced fresh ginger. The ingredients can be combined and left to infuse overnight, chilled, or brought to a bare simmer over low heat in a saucepan or large pot. Once brought up to this temperature it can be strained and used, or the ingredients left in the stock, and steeped for a more concentrated, complex flavour. Strain or remove aromatics before serving. Season the dashi to taste (a tablespoon or so per litre of dashi) with soy sauce or tamari, and mirin. Add the prepared mushrooms to the hot broth, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for a few minutes to cook mushrooms, depending on the type being used. If necessary, bring broth back up to a simmer before serving.

Place noodles into a warm bowl and ladle hot dashi and mushroom broth over. Add or top with any extra ingredients or components mentioned above and serve, or for strong heat, try our lemongrass and chilli sambal. We promise you’ll be coming back for seconds! Enjoy trying this recipe at home, or join in our cooking classes to harvest and cook our mushrooms together! Wishing you all a flavour-filled season,


Head Chef

*Dried kelp is a wild, naturally occurring ingredient and usage amounts will vary. Please follow the instructions on packet.