Mushroom custard, hazelnut cream, hazelnut granola and pickled, sautéed and fresh mushrooms

27 December 2017

Mushroom custard, hazelnut cream, hazelnut granola, sautéed, pickled and fresh mushrooms

For one of the celebration days around Christmas, it seemed appropriate to go meat-free. There would be goose, and lamb to follow on subsequent days - but there are plenty of special vegetarian meals you can have at the festive time of the year, so that was what I did for Christmas Eve.

And I went to my favourite veggie dish of the last couple of years, which was one put together by a former Masterchef Australia runner-up Georgia Barnes - mushroom custard, with hazelnut cream, hazelnut granola and pickled, sautéed and fresh mushrooms. It is a stunning combination of intensely meaty mushroom flavours and contrasting textures. An absolute hit. You can see the full recipe here on the Masterchef Australia website.

Before I talk about the meal itself, let me first wax a little lyrical about Masterchef Australia. I’ve just finished watching the UK’s Professional Masterchef - and I remain firmly of the view that nothing the UK show puts out is a patch on the triumphant Australian version. It has personality, likeable and colourful judges, large numbers of episodes that really draw you in to the huge journey the contestants take, and because of the intense nature of the exercise, contestants who you get to know, and who obviously develop close friendships with each other. And all that, with the focus still very much being kept on the food, with so much creative and incredible cooking it boggles the mind.

The UK version is grey and self-conscious in comparison, and still formulaic with the judges saying things like “well, he’ll have to bring his ‘A’ game to this one” followed by an inane reaction shot of the other judge beaming. Indeed, the reaction shots of judges making various faces seems to be the only storytelling device the producers know. It’s not something that features large in the Aussie version, because it has so much else going on you don’t need formulaic set-pieces like that.

So that’s my opinion on that subject. So glad you asked!

This dish is brilliant, and I recommend it. It should take you between 2-3 hours depending how fast you work (I don’t remember how long Georgia had when she first did it - probably significantly less than that!). The trick, it seems to me, is to process the mushroom mix as much as possible and then to push it through a sieve. The mushroom core is meant to be a custard, so it should be light, wobbly and melting in the mouth. Because of the inclusion of some dried ceps - both in the mushroom mix and - in powder form - in the granola scattered over the top - you will get a fantastic mushroom flavour hit - really quite a special intensity from such a light mousse. The granola, made up of chopped up hazelnuts, puffed wild rice, cep powder and one or two other bits, is a really great crunchy addition - and it’s what completes the experience.

And if nothing else, it’s nice to have one truly great meal at Christmas that you don’t then have to eat in sandwiches for the next few days.