When Paul Metcalf saw how popular exotic mushrooms were throughout France, Italy, Poland and Japan, he couldn’t understand why the UK didn’t offer more gourmet varieties. So he decided to remedy the situation himself, by setting up Natural Wight Mushrooms in Godshill, and becoming the Island’s very own ‘Mushroom Farmer’.
Four years on, his exciting range of exotic mushrooms flourish in the moderate climate of the Isle of Wight, and Paul now supplies restaurants across The Island and Hampshire with his fabulous fungi. Punnets of fresh mushroom medleys, containing up to five different varieties, can be bought at Brownriggs Farm Shop in Godshill, and in selected farm shops and Hampshire Farmers’ Markets. From savoury, smoky Shiitake, and delicate grey, yellow and pink Oyster mushrooms, to seasonal specials such as White Elm and Wine Caps, there’s a gourmet mushroom to suit every taste and every meal.
For breakfast, Paul likes to serve sautéed Oysters and Shiitake “on sourdough toast, with a soft poached egg on the top, so the yolk runs over the mushrooms when cut.” And for a great side dish, Paul suggests using a mix of coloured Oyster mushrooms and Shiitake, baked “in a tinfoil tent, with a little butter and crushed garlic for twenty minutes. They’re lovely as all the mushroom juices, butter and garlic make a delicious sauce”. Or slice Shiitakes, and stir fry with shredded cabbage, chopped ginger and soy sauce. When James Martin met up with The Mushroom Farmer for his BBC2 series Home Comforts, he used a mix of oyster and shiitake mushrooms to make his teriyaki-flavoured mushroom risotto.
Paul also dries mushrooms, to intensify their meaty, umami-rich flavour, and sells the mixed dried mushrooms in beautifully packaged glass jars. They make gorgeous gourmet gifts, as well as being a handy store-cupboard ingredient – simply re-hydrate in a little water to add instant flavour to omelettes, risottos, soups and stews. You can also use the soaking water for a meaty-flavoured vegetable stock or broth.
Words supplied by Ana Pocock