On Monday in the Spanish city of Valladoid, chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana received the XVI Premio Amanita award for his mycology work (mushrooms and fungi). The award is the most prestigious in its field with previous recipients including Joan Roca of El Cellar de Can Roca.
Bottura, who is widely known for blending earthy flavours and art on his plates, was honoured to accept the award saying, “Mushrooms and truffles are laced into so many of my plates. A recipe like Camouflage: a hare in the woods (see image below) is all about the dehydrated earthy flavours of mushrooms and truffles, and how they relate to nature and animals in the wild. The mystery of mychology is fascinating to me. I am still finding new ways to work with these products.”
Other plates of Bottura’s which use mushrooms and truffles include:
A thousand layers of leaves
“How often do we walk through a landscape forgetting what is beneath our feet? A handful of leaves brings the poetry of the everyday to the plate. If we grab a handful of earth from beneath our feet, we find the most spectacular ingredients. Layers of candied leaves are laced with a variety of seasonal ingredients: mushrooms, white truffles, black truffles, chestnuts, chocolate, vin brulé and pumpkin to capture the autumn flavours.”
A potato who wants to become a truffle
“I had two ideas going on here. One is a constant struggle to push the limits between savoury and sweet. The other is an attempt to take a very humble ingredient like a potato and give it the value, recognition and importance of a truffle. I don’t use any particularly avant-garde techniques in this dish, just classic manipulation of the ingredients. A potato baked in its skin, the pulp is removed and used to make a souffle which is cooked inside the skin a second time and then served with creme anglais and fresh white truffles.
Truffles and potatoes go perfectly together. They are both mineral flavours that work off each other. Sweetness added to both of them enhances the flavour of the earth and allows for the palate to experience the truffle flavour in an unexpected way.
This dessert is sweet but also earthy. It is not a very beautiful or decorative but it works both visually and conceptually because it communicates humility and simplicity. Like the Italian art movement Arte Povera that reclaimed simple objects to communicate complex ideas, we are trying to reduce an idea to a few simple gestures that create an emotional impact.”